And off to the market …
Yesterday was all about the market. Captain Clarke and I arose at a reasonable hour, enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and discussed our plans for the day. Having really not ventured away from bacon and baked beans for breakfast much all week, Captain Clarke was persuaded by our very attentive waiter that he should try something different. Since I have eaten whatever Indian fair has been on offer all week, I escaped this attention. Captain Clarke was persuaded by the water to try Guava fruit for the first time. Utkarsh, our waiter, suggested to Captain Clarke that the Guava fruit is best served seasoned with a little salt and pepper. From the look on Captain Clarke’s face as he desperately tried to swallow the Guava fruit, this is a view that he does not share! As Utkarsh walked away, a little disappointed that his guest appeared not to be quite so keen on Guava fruit as he was, Captain Clarke described the flavour to me … “disgusting”! I don’t think he’ll be persuaded to try anything new again in a hurry!
We decided that it would be quite good to see a little more of Delhi and thought a trip to a market might be quite fun. I did a little research to see if I could find a market less frequented by tourists that might have something to see. Sarojini Nagar market is in South Delhi and my research suggested that it is not heavily frequented by tourists but is very popular with local people who visit it to buy clothes, materials along with the usual fruit and vegetables. The clothes are, apparently, well known brands that are made in India and are generally garments with a minor flaw in them or lines that have been discontinued and the brand is looking to dispose of existing stock. Clothes are sold at a fraction of their retail value and, in the event one makes a purchase, bargaining is essential.
Having now gained my experience in negotiation and achieved incredible discounts elsewhere, Sarojini Nagar seemed like the perfect place for me to demonstrate my skills! Captain Clarke and I walked off to, the now familiar, IFFCO Chowk station. We have learned a little more about IFFCO Chowk and what it means. A number of stations on the Delhi Metro were funded by local businesses after whom a station was named. Chowk in Hindi means ‘place’ and IFFCO is the India Farmers Fertiliser Cooperative and is a multi-state cooperative manufacturing fertiliser. It started in 1967 with 57 member cooperatives and today is the biggest co-op in the world by turnover on GDP per capita with around 35,000 member cooperatives reaching over 50 million Indian farmers. We boarded our Metro and off we went towards Delhi.
We changed lines at INA station from the Yellow Line to the Pink Line and went just one stop to Sarojini Nagar station. You quite literally walk out of the station directly into the market. It was certainly true that it is not frequented by tourists – we were the only western faces in the market and were virtually on show! It is also true that there are hundreds and hundreds of stalls selling clothing, shoes and other garments (such as sarees and the inevitable pashminas etc.). The rather noticeable reality though was that there were very few clothes and or other items for men. We walked all around the market though, taking in the atmosphere and the sights and sounds and thoroughly enjoyed it!
Adjacent to Sarojini Nagar market is another market called the Babu market. Babu is a term of respect meaning ‘boss’ or ‘father’. When looking on line for advice on travel to India it isn’t uncommon to find a reference to keeping the Babu happy – this is because it is a term often used to describe bureaucrats and officials and in India there are a lot of those! The British taught bureaucracy well! Babu Market is much smaller than Sarojini Nagar and is mainly tailors and other garment makers who sit in tiny booths making suits, shirts and other clothes. We did not make any purchases of tailor made clothing on this occasion but it was interesting to note that you could order a suit and collect it in 2 hours!
Returning to Sarojini Nagar we did eventually pass a men’s shirt shop where we went in and saw some rather nice shirts that were affordably priced at 500 rupees each. I was wondering what size I would need when a very helpful shop assistant walked up and looked at the medium I was holding and very politely said, “I don’t think that’s the size for you Sir, I would try the large”! You’d think he’d just cracked the funniest one liner in history judging by the look on Captain Clarke’s face!!! Flaming cheek! They were good though – although fixed price (as some items are), so no negotiation was required for me to buy three shirts.
By the time we had had this excitement it was time to get a metro back to INA station and then back on the Yellow Line to MG Road where we were due to pickup the glasses we procured earlier in the week. With great excitement we returned to ‘Dayal Opticals’ where the 54 assistants (it seems that way in a tiny, tiny shop!) were all waiting for us ready to reveal the marvel of our purchases. We were sat down, given water (almost everywhere we have been for anything more than a few minutes we have been offered water, chai or coffee!) and the glasses were produced with a flourish. All prescriptions have been manufactured perfectly and so, in only a few minutes, Captain Clarke and I left the shop with two bags of new glasses!
We walked back to our hotel and, on the way, passed ‘Central Brand New’. This is a slightly more upmarket department store, one of four in Delhi we discovered. It is much less like an Indian shop (if that makes sense) and more like a western department store with rows of shelves and hanging clothing all laid out in a way to get maximum value out of each display. We had a brief look in there and found that some of the items were very cheap indeed so, inevitably, we left with a couple more shirts and some underpants that are £20 plus a pair in England but were just £1.50 there! By the time we got back to our hotel it was almost time for the Executive Lounge to open with it’s free drinks and snacks. We waited in our room for a while before going up at about 7pm and finding it absolutely packed! Our friendly waiter Utkarsh was there, along with Mohit and our lovely waitress called Roh who is from Kolkata.
We were very quickly found a table (after all we are regulars!) and were offered drinks immediately. Having been presented with my early evening Black Dog, Captain Clarke had decided to have a gin based Negroni which he said was very good indeed. We waited a short while before going up to look at the food on offer. We had chicken kebabs, potato and mint patties, vegetable curry and a range of side dishes to go with it. There is no way on earth people can go on to have a meal elsewhere after all that surely? The range of food on offer in the Executive Lounge has been incredible all week with a fabulous range of Indian dishes but also always with Western foods too for those who don’t want to enjoy the Indian food (whoever they are, they’re mad!).
So, our last evening passed with some fabulous dishes of food (I even had a dessert which I almost never do!) and some genuinely nice drinks too. We finished in the Executive Lounge and went on down to the Mix Bar which is where we have been almost every night we have been here and had a drink in there whilst we said goodbye to the staff who have also been there every night. It will be a sad thing to leave Delhi and India behind later today, but leave we must. We have work to do and a great big hairy monster to collect tomorrow!