Delhi is changing! Rapidly! In the context of the urban landscape, every facade, once looked upon as the next big thing, grimaces in the face of the subsequently next big thing. Every theme park is obscured by the next bigger and better theme park, every mall dwarfed by the next! However, a few structures stand the test of time. They stand apart for their nostalgic appeal to the old, their retro appeal for the new, and for their wholesome offering to all walks of life.
Connaught Place or CP, is the quintessential cynosure of Delhi both from the perspective of location as well as its uniqueness of design and character. Whoever you are, whatever it is you are looking for, and whatever money you are willing to pay for it, CP has something to offer you. Be it different varieties of food, apparel, entertainment, or handicrafts, CP has something to offer to every palette. It is a place that both my partner and I have frequented since our childhood—individually, with different people, and with each other—and the charm just grows. Here are a few glimpses of special stops at CP, which continue to add color to its plumage.
South Indian Street Food
This is possibly the safest destination for getting the cheapest South Indian food that is hygienic as well as delicious with a distinct signature taste. And it is usually surrounded by a big crowd and big cars, who repeatedly come to this place to taste its food with a flavor of its unique setting. There is no place to sit and eat, so either you stand, or perch yourself on your bike, or sit inside your car… and you gobble… and then you gobble some more!
Street Shopping — The Flea Market with a Buzz
Whether you are an international traveler looking for some esoteric prints, fabric, incense, showpieces, or footwear, or whether you are the frugal Indian shopaholic aspiring to strike a steal deal over a bag or attire, the flea market boasts of the best design ripoffs at an astoundingly decent quality! Either way this place will showcase stuff that is bound to make heads turn. It is a cornucopia of diverse visual delights.
Quick Tip: The rule of thumb is to offer half the price asked for, grab the deal if the shopkeeper agrees or pretend to walk away nonchalantly as he calls you back for a final price. If that does not happen, and you really want that thing bad, try hiking the rate by 10% over your original offer. If he still does not relent, walk off towards the next shop that offers something similar and repeat the modus operandi.
Small Bookstore, Large Collection
Having the size and quite the design of a revolving door, this outlet boasts of an eclectic collection that some of the biggest bookstores in the neighborhood may be unable to compete with!! What’s more, the owner actually knows each book by name and does not have to sift through a section to know if that book is in stock.
Cold Coffee, Dumplings, and Other Snacks on the Move
While shopping through this flea market if you start feeling hungry, then just walk by the adjacent building that towers at the center of this market and treat yourself to the best takeaway cold coffee at a steal of a price with multiple flavors to boot. The sandwiches and the
dumplings momos (because that’s what they’re called in Delhi) are a safe bet too. Oh, and at the turn of this building sidewalk is a fruit seller who sells stuff that’s “Nice on Girls”! (Whatever that means!)
I think a lot of designer wear is just hype, but then sometimes it is just worth the price. Why? Because no other place in Delhi offers anything similar at whatever price! Boasting of soft worn cotton garments in bohemian designs, this store is a favorite of the Urban Hippies and we often end up buying more than our international traveler friends we point out this shop to.
Roadside Tattoo Talent
If you like to throw caution to the wind and are always game for a tattoo after a couple of drinks, you could indulge your maverick ways by getting inked at 500 rupees per square inch at the roadside tattoo market! They do change needles and some of their designs are actually pretty neat! And if you don’t really wanna risk it with needles, opt for the traditional Indian mehndi. It is a slightly messy, but innocuous coat, which when washed off after a couple of hours, leaves a surprisingly elegant design that will remain faithfully yours for almost a week!
At that price, it does not even pain!
Nomadic Culture Showcase — Indian Gypsy Art
This subway was once a haven for junkies who could get wasted right under the noses of cops, but now has turned into an avenue for lovers of rustic offerings. With quite a few inviting offerings at very competitive prices, it could be a gift paradise for those who want a taste of ethnic India at throwaway prices.
Filter Coffee Under a Banyan Tree
If you want to enjoy a cup of possibly one of the finest available filter coffee in an open courtyard, with bureaucratic oldies, journalists, or larger groups of families (basically the first meeting for an arranged marriage between the prospective groom’s and the bride’s family among much awkwardness), you will find the setting of this quiet place quite amusing and endearing! And if your date loves coffee, this is NOT a place to miss. You could try the delectable vegetable cutlets too, though you need to have a very Indian taste to savor that.
At the corner of a block, next to a clandestinely located bookstore with tantalizing covers of the Kama Sutra featuring Caucasian models, is a store that sells the best silverware in Delhi. Why? Because (a) stuff bought from there 10 years ago has survived everyday wear; (b) their designs are simple, but as classy as it gets; and (c) the owner is an old, honest man who doesn’t believe in overcharging.
Most westerners do not like paan, but we insist you try the chocolate paan that this guy serves with a generous dose of Hershey’s and a hint of mint! The other paans are good too, but are you that adventurous?
Used Books Collection
This inconspicuous bookstore that is quite often missed between a movie theater, a kebab joint street, and a pub has an unbelievable collection of second hand books. You will love it if you love the smell of old books and the thrill of a bargain discovery!
Wall Art at a FabMart
Oh, and if you are on the lookout for fabric of all kinds, you can’t miss this wholesale market simply because of its outstanding facade! Maybe you won’t find what you are looking for, but dem wall paintings are daaaaammmn faaiiine! 🙂
At every corner of CP, you will find something worth noticing, be it wares being sold, a performer doing his thing, or simply a street snack waiting to be tasted!
There is a lot more than this to CP, and we shall keep sharing more as we keep hip tripping through the innermost lanes of this paradise that will never be lost! Amen to that!