Missing Shopping List

IMG-20131026-00003Everybody asks what I’m going to miss most about India. My reply? “I need to leave India to find out. Check back in in about six months!” I’m pretty sure that I’ll see my friends again, so I’m reluctant to say that I’ll miss them. I’m also fairly confident that I’ll satisfy my food fixes by going to far flung holes in the wall in Forest Hills Queens, Juba City California, Edison New Jersey or Houston Texas. (I have to admit, though, I’d never tried South Indian food ’til I came here and I suspect that I will miss masala dosas terribly.) My best guess on the saudades front is that I will miss the shopping.

I’d hate to sound like a predatory buyer, but now I understand why merchants were sailing across the seas, battling ocean monsters and scurvy, to get here. Rock bottom prices baby! Not that there aren’t draw backs. The finishing isn’t usually all that great on the lower priced items and the higher priced items are priced too high for the value of clean edges. Yet and still, it all works out about right in the end. And I should know – I’m at the end.

I never reveal my shopping secrets, but since I’m leaving Delhi soon I’m feeling philanthropic. Find here a list of vendors and stores I recommend. I think their prices are fair for what they’re offering – not so low that you wonder if slaves are doing the work and not so high that you wonder if everything is made of gold leaf. No matter if you live in Delhi or if you plan to tour, I think you’ll be satisfied with your purchases and your pockets.

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Naveen and his guys came over after work on a weekday to show me books and books and upholstery fabric. I have to admit that I didn’t love  most of the patterns, but also said that I was welcome to get my own fabric and his staff would handle to labor of re-upholstering. Did Ms. Instant Gratification go fabric hunting? Of course not! I went with one of his crushed velvet black fabric and had my victorian chairs restored to their fabtastic glory for just about $50 – including the fabric.  It was well worth the spend and I think anyone using his services will find professionalism and customer satisfaction to be on high!

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Here’s the ole Delhi bait & switch! The shop is both a cell phone repair shop AND a framing shop. Since I don’t have a personal cell phone I haven’t needed to use their “Cell Net” services, but I have gotten the vast majority of my certificates and art work framed there. Since this isn’t their primary business, don’t expect to find the most innovative of framing options.  But if you want a simple, solid colored frame – no matter the size of glass – I think you’ll find their prices and turn around time to be really good. And while there are other framers I’ve tried in Sarojini Nagar market, for example, that are competitively priced – Hauz Khas market is a much nicer market. There’s not as much hustle and haggle, so I prefer Guptas. As a secondary option, I’d suggest the framer in Vasant Vihar’s C Block market. I’ve gotten really great work from them too and the man who runs that shop also gives deep discounts for repeat customers.

f1 10Yes lord, I love my jewels. It’s hard to come to Delhi and walk away without bling. I was a humble costume jewelry connoiseur before Delhi did me in. My loyalties have always been to Mr. Mogha in Le Meridien hotel. Every expat knows Mr. Mogha and his sons. And while I have cheated on Mr. Mogha while traveling to other cities, in Delhi I believe his designs, variety, and prices are the best – by far. Almost every piece of gold jewelry I’ve bought in India has come from them and I have yet to complain! Not to mention, these guys are not the hard sell types. They won’t talk you into anything and they won’t pressure you to buy. They know their stuff and they can actually explain to you what you’re getting and why it’s priced as such. Oh and they always give coffee or chai with every visit. I’m going to miss these guys a lot!

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Raj is to Mumbai what Mr. Mogha is to Delhi. He was recommended to me when I went to stay with colleagues in Mumbai for two weeks. I wasn’t disappointed. Frankly, I find Mumbai’s styles to be much more modern and innovative than Delhi’s. Delhi tends to be more Mughal style and diamond heavy. Mumbai designers play with gems and textures much more. That’s what I loved about Raj’s collection. Last time I went in we scored a gold plated corral encrusted 2 inch thick bangle and my diamond engagement ring!  I’ve got my mind’s eye on a silver and uncut sapphire necklace that’s been haunting my dreams – maybe I should have got it while I was in town. But, he ships! Phew, that could have been bad.

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Shobha ben is actually on her way to my house right now. I’m not kidding! I met her and her son at the famous crafts market – Dilli Haat – and I frequented their stall so much that she asked if I’d let her bring things to my house to show friends. Of course, that made perfect sense since it would save me the taxi rides to and fro. She’s got tapestries and table runners made of old saris, but my favorites are the hand stitched blankets. I plan to buy a million – or maybe just four – before I leave. And since she’s willing to come to me, there’s no reason to let her leave without lightening her load.

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If there’s one thing Delhi’s got a lot of it’s tea shops. So, far be it for me to try to convince you to switch loyalties. But, if you haven’t yet found a tea home for yourself, I would suggest the Asia Tea House in Sunder Nagar market. I’ve really enjoyed their varieties and their packaging! They’ll pack any tea in a decorative box – hand painted or Rani covered – within just minutes. The teas range from black to white and everything in between. They even have organically grown varieties! Oh and they’ve also got cute accessories, like an elephant topped tea spoon. Yup, I’ve been in that place one too many times. Can you tell?

Now that I’ve dished all my dirt, I’m going to get ready to make my last round at these places. Shopping (and eating) is an age old Indian pastime. I will surely miss all the adventures I’ve had in discovering my faves and picking up some goodies along the way.
You never know, maybe the allure will bring me back for more.

You never know.

Daily Delhi

There are times when people ask me what it’s like to live in Delhi and I have nothing to say except, ‘You’d have to be here to see it.’ Sometimes it’s simply indescribable. And other times, well, I’m just speechless. So, I got into the habit of taking Blackberry pics to share what a typical day in the life is like in this town.  Enjoy the images and see if you can help me come up with the vocabulary to describe my daily Delhi.

Hindu Temple

Hindu Temple in Khirki Extension

Anais Nin

Billboard at Three Windows at Khoj

Graffiti

Graffiti in Saket Area

Sari Design Studio

Sari Design Studio in Shahpur Jat

Neighborhood Girl

Neighborhood Girl

Shahpur Jat Lady of the House

Shahpur Jat Lady of the House

Tailor Supply Store

Tailor Supply Store

What's left of a Haveli

What’s left of a Haveli

Vegetable Market

Vegetable Market

Tihar Jail Store

Tihar Jail Store

South Indian Dinner

South Indian Dinner

Spice Jet

Spice Jet

Rastrapati Bhavan

Rastrapati Bhavan

Goat in a Rickshaw

Goat in a Rickshaw

Hummingbird

Hummingbird in Smokehouse Deli in Khan Market

Flower Stand

Flower Stand

Aloo Tokri Chaat

Aloo Tokri Chaat

Chana Bhatura

Chana Bhatura

Baraat

Baraat – Bridegroom’s Wedding Procession

This paper ain’t writing itself…

Dear family & friends,

Unfortunately, this paper ‘sho ain’t writin’ itself!

So, to keep you entertained while I try to write it, please listen to my new favorite Afro-pop song. I heard this one while on my recent trip to Mozambique

When you’re done, take the time to browse the new photos from my August 2013 trips to Maputo, Mozambique and Lucknow, India.

Before you go, check out the latest titles of books about India that I’ve been reading from GoodReads (see the widget on the right side tool bar). Some titles are too recent, too old, or too obscure to have a photo or listing, so click here to read the reviews for Manoj & Babli: A Hate Story, Curry in the Crown and Warrior in a Pink Sari.

Yes, it has been a busy month.

I will tell you all about it once I get this academic monkey off my back.

With love,

Aging Capricorn