The Gullies of Sarojini
As I walked through the gullies (the best part about which is the face that they are exclusively pedestrian zones) of Sarojini Nagar (SN) market, the only thing which was in my mind was the fact that I wanted to write a blog post about a place I discovered in Delhi. And then it suddenly struck me, that SN market would be the ideal place for this post.
Even though I must’ve come to this place umpteen times, there is always something here, which one is yet to discover. So that’s how it came to my mind. Partly, because I had discovered a place, which is yet to be discovered entirely.
My journey into SN market started with a fight with the auto-wala who was all set to fleece me by charging an extra five rupees, merely because we were four of us, my school friends and I. But of course, Delhi-girls know survival skills like no other. We fought our hearts out and came from Chanakyapuri to SN market in a meagre twenty rupees.
The heat was scorching, but on this day nothing could come between us and our conquest over great apparel. We came with the motive of ‘shop till we drop’ and ‘shop till we drop’ we did.
We started our shopping binge from the interior gullies, popularly known as the fashion street. And true to its name, it did have some of the most fashionable clothes at the most reasonable prices.
The first shop we entered was so crowded, that we were unwittingly coming in contact with six other people, and a trillion types of microscopic bacteria, present in six different types of sweat.
We came out of that shop, with the fear of dying in a stampede. After all we don’t want to die so young.
The next shop we went to was comparatively less crowded, and we actually see beyond the topmost shelves. And there it was. The purple off-shoulder top I fell in love with, when I saw a similar version on a Versace advertisement.
I went close to it and touched the fabric. As I ran my hands along the fabric, it felt as though I was touching a feather. The colour suited me perfectly and the material was light enough for the summer heat. In a flash I blurted out the golden word to the sales man, “Kitna?” After haggling for a good seven and a half minutes the poor, harassed sales man was ready to give me a two hundred rupees worth top for a hundred and fifty. At once I stripped my wallet off a hundred and fifty rupees, feeling a sense of accomplishment for getting what I wanted in half the price.
We then walked further encountering a hoard of men trying to sell us, a bunch of four 18 year old girls, men’s’ leather belts, plastic table cloths, an old fashioned men’s sports shades, big aunty-ji vegetable bags and so on.
Aah… but finally there was one street seller, who actually caught our eye. Tray full of trinkets was what he had. Oh! How we jumped at the thought of getting the swanky shiny bauble in a mere twenty rupees.
We walked about the gullies looking at the array of colours all around and the amalgam of diversities blended together! The different colours were due to a broader view of the umpteen clothes, bags, belts, shoes, slippers, jewellery, toys, vegetables, stationary, books, paintings, and electronics. You name it, and it’s available at SN market. The present at SN market come from the most diverse backgrounds and belong to completely different walks of life.
At a particular shop, for instance, we saw a societal blend of all kinds of people. At just one point of time it had us (students trying to chase the latest trend), middle-age women trying their best to bargain, middle-aged women trying to prevent their daughters from buying a skimpy top, men trying really hard to be involved in their wife’s or girlfriend’s shopping, and so on.
The Outer market
As we walked ahead in the gully we heard the sales men yelling at ear-piercing pitches in sounds that made us wonder which part of the body they came from. The sound was a combination of, “sau ka do… sau ka do… sau ka do”; about a month old bollywood film song; “phipty… phipty… phipty…”; “madam aiye ladies’ suit, kurti, tops…”; and so on. Imagine what a chaos all this together would create!
Our tedious walk left us parched and starving. As we walked we encountered our life saver, ‘the banta-wala’, banta unbeatably being the best refresher during a hot summer afternoon. The banta felt like a cold water swimming pool in the middle of a desert. Every drop of the sweet lemon nectar trickled down our throat as though it were tickling the insides.
After that little refreshment, we regained our senses and as we walked down the gully, and our olfactory nerves were tantalised by the peculiar smell of SN market. Our assumption for the smell was that it was a blend of wet mud; newly woven cotton fabric; somewhere around the corner, it also smelled like a seldom cleaned public washroom; burning incense; wood polish and acrylic paint, near the furniture shops; leather polish near the bag shops; and so many more smells which we failed to decipher.
After we were done with a satisfactory amount of shopping, producing a bucket-full of sweat, we finally decided to go back.
While we were on our way out of the gullies we saw shopkeeper’s gathering their commodities and running around. Apparently, this phase is a weekly routine at the market and lasts for a maximum half hour. It happens when what is popularly known as the ‘committee’ comes to confiscate goods of those who are selling on encroached spaces. Some of life’s best lessons are learnt in daily situations like these. After the ‘committee’ goes the market immediately stabilises, teaching us that we must overlook hurdles in order to succeed.
We marvelled at how quickly everything came back to normal before we even found an auto. We gathered our shopping and approached an auto wala. We asked him to take us to Chanakyapuri and to our pleasant surprise he said, “bees rupaiya madam.”
As we sat in the auto, I thought to myself, what an experience it was, to buy clothes just by looking at the size, without trying them on; to get anything and everything in place; to harass a shopkeeper to reduce those five rupees; to feel a sense of accomplishment when we got what we wanted in half the price; and so on and so forth.
Initially, one might just condemn SN market for the unclean roads and the vendors and shopkeepers screaming out loud, adding to the increasing noise pollution levels in the city. But this market grows on you. There’s something about this place that absorbs you into it and which makes you part of the crowd but still sets you apart from it.
Crockeries on a Sarojini Street