City Hangout – Tilak Nagar Central Market, West Delhi
Two hours in the West.
[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]
Tilak Nagar Central Market (Wednesday closed) in West Delhi can be regarded as the chicken curry for the desi soul. Congested and cosy — it has the small-town comfort — where shops sell Sikh turbans, tailors stitch denims and mothers shop bridal suits for their daughters. The market has no FabIndia, no McDonald’s and no multiplexes. It retains the feel of a neighbourhood bazaar. The Delhi Walla shows you things to do there in two hours.
Opposite Gate 1 of Tilak Nagar Metro station, Jolly Book Depot, circa 1959, has a collection of Hindi authors such as Krishna Sobti. The shop stacks translations of English novels (I spotted Koi Achha Sa Ladka, the Hindi translation of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy). The bookstore was started by a Partition refugee, who was a timber merchant in what is now Pakistan; it has a dimly-lit interior. Hop in to find Chetan Bhagat novels, Nita Mehta recipe booklets, O’Henry’s short stories, Hindi crime magazines and school-level Maths guidebooks arranged in rows. Try chatting with Harminder Singh Jolly, the owner. He may offer chai.
Where 47, New Market Time 9.30 am to 8.30 pm Phone 9818881559
Tilak Nagar’s streets may not seem very cycle-friendly. Nevertheless, the three-level Gandhi Cycle showroom is an iconic landmark. Established in 1948 by a Partition refugee, the showroom has perambulators (Rs 1,490-10,000) kids’ bicycles (Rs 1,000-15,000), adult bicycles (Rs 2,500-30,000), exercise bicycles (Rs 3,100-12,000) and also treadmills (Rs 16,000 and above). The store’s glass walls look to the busy flyover.
Where Shop no. 40, near Gate 1, Tilak Nagar Metro Station Time 10 am to 9 pm
Anthropologists wanting to study a Punjabi wedding ceremony must stop by the Malik Jewellery. The shop has artificial bracelets, kangans and necklaces — for brides. Ask for the dulhan set — a jewellery hamper for a bride. It consists of chooda, mathapatti, hathphool, paasa, jhoomer and kamarband. The price of a dulhan set ranges from Rs 3,000 to Rs 20,000. They are also available on rent (from Rs 500 to Rs 2000 a day, depending on the value of the set). I liked the gem-encrusted little gods available for Rs 150 each.
Where Shop no. 9, 5/61 Time 10.30am to 9 pm Phone 45587556
Walk the bazaar streets. Most showrooms sell wedding clothes; a few have as many mannequins as there are customers. Outside one shop, six mannequins, wearing nighties, held a placard directing customers inside for ‘bras and panties’. A few sandal stores warn, “No guarantee of Chinese items.” The pavements are lined with stalls selling lacy lingerie (Rs 25) and wedding turbans (Rs 75), lipsticks (Rs 10), nail paints (Rs 15), salwar suits (Rs 150), slacks (Rs 100) and wigs (about Rs 300).
For more than 10 years Jeet Kumar Chawla has been making frames at an alley in Tilak Nagar. “It’s a very artistic job,” he says, while drawing straight lines on a blank sheet. “My aim is always to enhance the picture that has to be framed.” Surrounded by portraits of Sikh gurus and Swiss Alps, Chawla claims to frame a picture in flat ten minutes. Depending on the work, the price ranges from Rs 100 to Rs 4,000.
Where 17/1 A, Central Market Time 10.30 am to 8 pm Phone 9811521565
It’s a 2-in-1 shop. Between 9.30 am and 11.30 am, it’s a free acupressure clinic, run by Dr Inderpal Singh. From 11.30 am to 8.30 pm, it transforms into Galaxy Store that specialises in ‘Fancy, Designer, Embroidery, Ladies Suits, Fancy Kurtis & Tights’. Situated in Metro Bazaar, which was established in 2005 to rehabilitate shops that were displaced during the Metro rail construction, the store has suits ranging from Rs 75 to Rs 6,600.
Where Shop No. 57, Metro Bazaar, Main Market Phone 9250164366
For a quick lunch, head to Bhape di Hatti on Gurudwara Road. It serves Tilak Nagar’s best chhole bhathure. The eatery is gallery-like, long and narrow, where shoppers block the entrance while waiting for tables to be cleared. At Rs 20 a plate, the bhathures may scare off those trying to keep fit. The ghee does not go off the fingers till the next day.
Where Next to the Titan Showroom Time 8 am to 10 pm
End your excursion at Gurudwara Sri Guru Singh Sabha. In the prayer hall the floor is covered with white sheets. The granthi sits fanning the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book, with jothsaheb. At the entrance, the billboard of a nearby ‘Turban Academy’ describes a place “Where A Team Of Dedicated, Trained And Motivated Young Sikh Trainers Will Ensure Every Sikh Who Walks In Goes Back With A Very Proud Feeling Of Being A Sikh Who Looks Smart And Handsome With A Beautiful Turban That Suits His Personality.”