The planned suburbanization of India is a compelling story that rarely gets ink in the mainstream press. But it’s happening, and at breakneck speed. As the likes of Bangalore, Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad buckle under the weight of mammoth rural migration, new towns are being commissioned and built from scratch. It’s sprawl in the strictest sense but, admittedly, an indispensable and very necessary kind of sprawl.
You need only look at a before and after image of India’s National Capital Region to get a sense of the monumental change. The original concentric plan of the old city has birthed a constellation of satellite suburbs and towns over the last half century. Over that time, Delhi’s population has exploded from 2 million to 22 million.
One demographic offshoot of all this growth? A surging middle class. And where there’s a surging middle class, there’s a surge in consumer spending. Shopping, with apologies to cricket, has always been India’s quasi national pastime. And while it strains credulity to say so, today it’s a borderline bloodsport.
In the new suburbs of Delhi, tourists can find the best of both worlds: flea markets and bazaars that call to mind the traditional, as well as sleek, contemporary malls that call to mind Dubai, Singapore or Anaheim.
It’s true – the National Capital Region is chockablock with UNESCO sites and museums. But even anti-consumerists must yield to the ritual of shopping. It’s as cultural an act as touring the Red Fort. Accommodation in Ghaziabad, a kind of suburban retail nirvana home to new malls and markets, awaits. But beyond that, here’s where to shop in Delhi.
Sarojini Nagar Market is where fashionistas in the know prowl for couture at schmatta prices. Restock your wardrobe at bargain-basement prices.
Chandi Chowk, Old Delhi’s merchant district, is a cultural and consumer two in one. Peddlers hawk bangles, shawls and saris and expect even greenhorns to haggle with verve. As you get lost in the crowds and heady atmosphere, beware of pickpockets.
The National Crafts Museum holds more than 20,000 exhibits under one roof. All well and good but in essence just a primer for a souvenir shop that is a model for others to follow.
The Janpath and Tibetan Market, close to Connaught Place in central Delhi, is a hive of activity and hard-to-find goods and textiles from the other side of the Himalayas. Quality standards are high and you tend to get what you pay for but negotiate nonetheless (when in Delhi et cetera …).
Lajpat Nagar Central Market is one of the oldest in the country. For traditional handicrafts, textiles, jewellery and kitchenware, you can do a lot worse.
In Delhi, State Government Emporiums specialise in typical products from specific regions, often at very reasonable prices. Leather goods, carpets, sandalwood, copper pots, brasswork, textiles – you name it, state-run stores carry it.
Sunder Nagar lures wealthy shoppers in with rare art and antiques. The market sits in a tony precinct close to the zoo and Connaught Place. A good place to take afternoon tea and stock of one’s purchases.
Article posted with consideration from our sponsor: When Jarred went to India he had gained valuable insight into how to get around and best make use of your time while over there. He is now trying to assist people gain the similar insight before they go over there to ensure they make the most of their time.