Saturday, July 19, 2008

City Pulse - 7pm in Khan Market

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7 pm In Khan Market

Life in Delhi's Upper East Side.

[Text and pictures by Mayank Austen Soofi]

Outside a skin clinic: a freshly-Botoxed (Rs 8,000 per session) woman stepping out in Jimmy Choo evening heels (Rs 50,000). Outside a foreign magazine stall: a young man in a faded blue Ed Hardy T-shirt (Rs 12,000) asking for the latest New Yorker (Rs 450). Outside Faqir Chand bookstore: a pot-bellied guy, his spindly hairy legs slanting out of his red Puma shorts (Rs 1,200), talking into his iPhone (Rs 22,000).

Outside Khan Market's main gate: rows of Volkswagens (Rs 40 lakh), BMWs (Rs 60 lakh) and Pajeros (Rs 30 lakh) honking for parking – the only free thing here.

People in Khan Market are living the dream. Everyone is happy, handsome and rich. Inflation is just a headline in the International Herald Tribune (Rs 30). Boys are gelled, brawny and tattooed with shirt buttons open to reveal waxed chests. Girls are pretty, polished and pedigreed with waistlines properly disguised.

It seems as though every child looks naturally rich – as if they slipped out of momma's womb with platinum credit cards in their fist.

Phew, too many goras here. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5… here, there, there, there, there too… 25, 26, 27… all looking first-world. All looking as if they are diplomats from West European countries. All looking very carefree.

Suddenly, a ripple in the crowd. Who is it? Whoisit? Whoissit? Rumours swimming from Good Earth to Chonas in the front lane, and from Big Chill to Khan Chacha ke Kebab in the middle lane. Sonia Gandhi? Nah. Priyanka Gandhi? Nah. It's the Prime Minister's wife!

Heads craning towards a bubble of Black Cat commandos. Nah, it's not PM's wife. It's the former chief minister of Jammu & Kashmir. With an air of polite reserve, Mr VIP walks into Dayal Opticals.

The greatness fades from view. People shake their heads as if emerging from a deep slumber. A silver-haired lady in a white ikat sari picks up her scattered handloom-garment dignity and carries on clutching a brown Fabindia paper bag – a style statement in itself.

Inside Bahri Booksellers: a middle-aged gentleman is asking for How to please your wife? Kapil Sibal, Chandni Chowk MP, is sitting on a low stool and saying, "This book, that book and that book, too." A not-so-selling author is complaining to the shop assistant, "Why my book is not on the window display?"

A gori flipping through Raghu Rai's coffee table book on Taj Mahal (Rs 3,000). She places the book back on the shelf and exits. Past the magazine stall, past the doggie shop, past Blanco, past the kebab corner, up the stairs, past Anokhi and into Market Café. More goras inside. One reading The Economist (Rs 150). The other working on his Apple notebook (Rs 50,000). No empty table.

She comes out, walks to the other side, enters Full Circle bookshop, and climbs up to Café Turtle. The pasta of the day is Ohsiciliai, served with a rich arrabiata sauce. Just Rs 295 plus vat. More than two-thirds of the Indian population lives on less than Rs 20 a day.

Too many rich folks, too little space

7 pm In Khan Market

Khan Market ki gori

7 pm In Khan Market

Barcoded people

7 pm In Khan Market

People Like Them

7 pm In Khan Market

In Cafe Turtle

7 pm In Khan Market

What's poverty?

7 pm In Khan Market

Million dollar smile

McDonald Beggars


Anonymous said...

Dear Mayan,hopefully u can take a photo of fruit seller in Delhi. The seller who sit in the middle and surrounded by many type of fruits.I could not recall the street name but i still remember the street a speciallize in selling bags and cloths.

Zainal Talib (Malaysia)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, so? You make Khan Market sound like it's the best place to be. Alas! with the sealing mania a couple of years ago, it's gone awfully sordid and common. Except the scale, one cannot distinguish it from Lajpat Nagar or Greater Kailash these days.
It's true though, that it was once a calm, comfortable place to shop in. One could find exotic grocery articles and such like for a price. Now it's all a juggernaut of imitation crystal and imitation cuisine. What can one say? Satisfies the Punjabis, perhaps?
PS - Hasn't everyone noticed that toy shop on the full circle side that has an uber-tacky Superman costume hanging outside? Why don't they realise NOBODY is ever going to buy it??

Anonymous said...

Question: Did you hire that "gori" so you could take her pictures?

Anonymous said...

hey zainal, i guess you're talking about Janpath !

Anonymous said...

I wonder, if I could afford all this would I be doing the same things? I'm not sure if that is my idea of success....

At the same time, I do feel a little, whats the word, inadequate(?) every time I am in khan market. Is it just a complex in me? Is it something in 'them'? Who exactly is them? Is it sour grapes? Do I lack that intangible entity - 'class'? Is it my west delhi upbringing? shall I forever be identified as 'middle class'? is that something to be ashamed of?

Aah, let me just get out of here. I want my old bench in across the street from Town Hall :)


Brilliant article Mayank sahb. Aapne to HT City ko bhi padhne layak bana diya hai :)

Anonymous said...

I am sorry but somehow, your article on khan market seems a little too biased! So what, if people want to wear Puma shorts? So what, if people want to talk into their iphone, for what ever it is worth? Why is there so much complainging?

Mr. Mayank, let me tell you that these people here do have problems. Obviously, they dont get to face poverty, or some may not even know the meaning of the word. But problems do exist in both parts of the world.

Just because one person can afford a piece of expensive clothing, doesn't make that person a piece of instant finger pointing.

And, to reply to Garam Beni, if you feel inadequate by just being in Khan Market, please just take my advice. Stop visiting the place!

Anirudh 'Lallan' Choudhry said...

oh so liked it

Anonymous said...

let's just be happy with all that we have, and not be ashamed by things that dont matter!

Anonymous said...

This is so personal, for I do Sunday Brunch at Khan Market, nay, at Market Cafe itself!
Tell me another place where they have that standard of service coupled with ingestible food in Delhi, and I'd be happy to move. But I'm convinced there is none. But Khan Market feels like the pits, indeed, it is! One has all these beggars clinging to one there, and the politicians and their bodyguards, and these idiotic penniless white people who somehow seem to have finally realised they'll be respected anywhere in India anyhow. And, to top it all, the market plays host to the most utterly mis-spelled eatery in town! I mean, just crepes if you can't really get the French right, for Sod's sake!

Anonymous said...

Mayank, loved the post. I was in Delhi for 2 months and Khan market you described is exactly that way.

Enjoyed your article. You rock Mayank! You're young and beautiful, keep Delhi proud.

Shruti D. said...

I haven't been to Khan Market in a over a year and I've probably visited the place only four or five odd times, ever. Despite that, I feel like something is off about this article. On the one hand, sure, the blatant displays of wealth can be off-putting, but on the other hand, if someone is sitting in a cafe working on her laptop, so... how does that become an ostentatious display? How does talking on one's cell phone (iPhone or not -- and the iPhone, by the way, is now about Rs 9000 not Rs 22000) become a sign of pretension and a display of wealth? And simply because someone may not dress in the pseudo-activist garb of FabIndia kurtas and Janpath jholas does not automatically imply that one is socially unaware and simply content in one's comfortable cocoon of privilege (as the photograph captioned "what poverty?" appears to imply). I read the Economist and the New Yorker, I work on my MacBook while sitting in cafes (granted, I neither read those magazines nor work in cafes while in Delhi), I don't do the whole khadi kurta look -- so that makes me one of the pompous nouveau riche folks you seem to be sneering at, right? Wrong.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comment Applepiecrust has made. These are silly insinuations and need valid reasoning.

Soofi, why are you so bitter? If you are so concerned about the poor folks, DO SOMETHING practical rather then bitch nons-top about what you see. It's a story line for you but WHAT ARE YOU DOING ABOUT IT? So what if ppl are sitting at a cafe and working on their laptop?? I am at Khan almost everyday working on my reports. So, I am now considered the warring agent of poor vs rich? Pls stop this complaining and tag yourself IT to do something constructive. You seem fond of Ms Arundhati Roy, she has DONE something meaningful, you just seem to be trailing her and make yourself look so scholarly. Its see thru Soofi. Since God of Small Things happens to be your book, what have you learned from the chapters? What has it inspired in you to do? NOTHING BUT COMPLAIN ABOUT WHAT DAMAGE RICH PEOPLE KEEP DOING !

Anonymous said...

I felt like you wanted to be bitter, but I think your writing showed an admirable attempt at fairness.

You didn't write whether all that money spent on products is good or not, you just presented the costs quite matter-of-factly.

You pretty much let people interpret it how they wanted.

Though the last pic of the little girl was rubbing it in quite a bit.

And I notice none of the Khan crowd seem to be smiling.

Was I meant to notice that on purpose?


zeevie said...

hahahahahahahahaha oyyyye sooofi miyan,but tht place is mast yaar like U.maza aataa hai ghoom kerND CCd mein bhi apna hi rang hai yaar.although m not rich but kabhi kabhi KHAN MARKET bhi ....................DIl ke armaan hahahah but there is 1 thing ki most persons r like plastic expressions nt like old delhi....wahaan ke log muskrate bhi hain yaar,heeheheheh