City Hangout – 7pm in Khan Market

7 pm In Khan Market

Life in Delhi’s Upper East Side.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Outside a skin clinic: a freshly-Botoxed (Rs 8,000 per session) woman stepping out in Jimmy Choo evening heels (Rs 50,000). Outside a foreign magazine stall: a young man in a faded blue Ed Hardy T-shirt (Rs 12,000) asking for the latest New Yorker (Rs 450). Outside Faqir Chand bookstore: a pot-bellied guy, his spindly hairy legs slanting out of his red Puma shorts (Rs 1,200), talking into his iPhone (Rs 22,000).

Outside Khan Market’s main gate: rows of Volkswagens (Rs 40 lakh), BMWs (Rs 60 lakh) and Pajeros (Rs 30 lakh) honking for parking – the only free thing here.

People in Khan Market are living the dream. Everyone is happy, handsome and rich. Inflation is just a headline in the International Herald Tribune (Rs 30). Boys are gelled, brawny and tattooed with shirt buttons open to reveal waxed chests. Girls are pretty, polished and pedigreed with waistlines properly disguised.

It seems as though every child looks naturally rich – as if they slipped out of momma’s womb with platinum credit cards in their fist.

Phew, too many goras here. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… here, there, there, there, there too… 25, 26, 27… all looking first-world. All looking as if they are diplomats from West European countries. All looking very carefree.

Suddenly, a ripple in the crowd. Who is it? Whoisit? Whoissit? Rumours swimming from Good Earth to Chonas in the front lane, and from Big Chill to Khan Chacha ke Kebab in the middle lane. Sonia Gandhi? Nah. Priyanka Gandhi? Nah. It’s the Prime Minister’s wife!

Heads craning towards a bubble of Black Cat commandos. Nah, it’s not PM’s wife. It’s the former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir. With an air of polite reserve, Mr VIP walks into Dayal Opticals.

The greatness fades from view. People shake their heads as if emerging from a deep slumber. A silver-haired lady in a white ikat sari picks up her scattered handloom-garment dignity and carries on clutching a brown Fabindia paper bag – a style statement in itself.

Inside Bahri Booksellers: a middle-aged gentleman is asking for How to please your wife? Kapil Sibal, Chandni Chowk MP, is sitting on a low stool and saying, “This book, that book and that book, too.” A not-so-selling author is complaining to the shop assistant, “Why my book is not on the window display?”

A gori flipping through Raghu Rai’s coffee table book on Taj Mahal (Rs 3,000). She places the book back on the shelf and exits. Past the magazine stall, past the doggie shop, past Blanco, past the kebab corner, up the stairs, past Anokhi and into Market Café. More goras inside. One reading The Economist (Rs 150). The other working on his Apple notebook (Rs 50,000). No empty table.

She comes out, walks to the other side, enters Full Circle bookshop, and climbs up to Café Turtle. The pasta of the day is Ohsiciliai, served with a rich arrabiata sauce. Just Rs 295 plus vat. More than two-thirds of the Indian population lives on less than Rs 20 a day.

Too many rich folks, too little space

7 pm In Khan Market

Khan Market ki gori

7 pm In Khan Market

Barcoded people

7 pm In Khan Market

People Like Them

7 pm In Khan Market

In Cafe Turtle

7 pm In Khan Market

What’s poverty?

7 pm In Khan Market

Million dollar smile

McDonald Beggars