This confusing circular shopping district was named after George V’s uncle, the Duke of Connaught, and fashioned after the Palladian colonnades of Bath. Greying, whitewashed, colonnaded streets radiate out from the central circle of Rajiv Chowk, with blocks G to N in the outer circle and A to F in the inner circle. Today they mainly harbour brash, largely interchangeable but popular bars, and international chain stores, plus a few good hotels and restaurants. Touts are rampant.
KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
Anil wasn’t interested in making a foray into Old Delhi, too crowded, too dirty, too everything. However, he was willing to go to Connaught Place, an area in New Delhi which was built by the British and though a little seedy, is still a place to visit while in the capital. I was keen to go, because the shops along one of the radiating streets, Janpath, is where I’ve always gone to find the white embroidered kurtas in sizes to fit foreigners.
I also like to take visitors to the Cottage Emporium nearby, because it has a wide selection of artworks, handicrafts and furniture from around India, and is a great place to buy gifts if one doesn’t have the time to tour outside of Delhi. It used to be quite an undertaking to travel from Anil’s brother’s home into the centre of the city, either by autorickshaw or private taxi. However, a modern metro has been constructed and station that is nearest to Ajay’s apartment is one end of the line that runs first to the international airport and then on to the city centre.
I suggested the six of us travel on the metro, get off at the station nearest to Connaught Place and take it from there. My only mission was to visit the kurta shop and then we see whatever else the McColls wanted to see. As we approached the outer ring of Connaught Place, we were approached by a young man asking if he could help direct us anywhere. We told him we wanted to purchase a SIM card for a mobile phone, and he pointed out a tourist office sign a side road just off the circle.
We followed him there and though it wasn’t an official telecom office, they were able to sell us the SIM card and set up the account while we waited, and waited and waited. I was beginning to get a little suspicious, that we might be taken for a ride, but it turns out they had very poor internet access at the shop and the line to the telecom kept getting dropped. I knew we hadn’t given them any money as yet, or presented a credit card, so at the most, it would have just been a waste of time, if they didn’t get the account set up.
We all got a little annoyed with the length of time it was taking, but just as we were about to walk away, they managed to complete the set up, and Donna now had a local phone number that she could use for Uber and getting on the internet instead of having to rely on WiFi, or being out off the net when we were moving around.
By the time this all wrapped up, we were tired and cranky, so we decided to go to a South Indian restaurant we’d passed earlier, and have lunch. Once our bellies were full, we’d completely run out of steam and decided to head home. I’d just have to come back another day to get my shopping done.
A few days after the birthday and wedding celebrations were over, and nothing was on the cards for the afternoon, I decided I needed to go into the city to get the kurtas I wanted. I knew from my many trips to India that I was pretty much out of luck finding ones that fit me anywhere else. Anil wasn’t feeling well that day, the pollution was really getting to him and causing symptoms very much like the allergies I’ve suffered for years.
However, the others were willing to come along with me, so this time we were a gang of five. We were becoming old hands at using the metro, and Duncan was getting adept at buying the tickets for us all, going and coming. We disembarked at the same metro station and made our way to the Cottage Emporium on the street called Janpath.
We spent some time there allowing the McColls to have a good look around. Duncan spotted a beautiful painting of a peacock, something he had in mind for a souvenir to take home. It was lovely, but we suggested that he wait till we returned to Delhi after our travels around Gujarat and Rajasthan, because he might find something he liked better. Chances were the painting would still be at the Cottage Emporium and he could return to purchase it, if he didn’t find anything else.
The line of little shops on Janpath was only a short distance away and I was keeping my fingers crossed that I could find the shop where I’d purchased my kurtas before. I passed a couple of shops selling printed kurtas, but they didn’t have the white ones with white embroidery on the bodice. A few shops further on, and bingo! I recognized it immediately. Donna was quite taken with the kurtas and surprised me by selecting a couple for herself, while I went all out and bought three.
We poked around a few other shops along the street, and I pointed out things that I’d purchased over the years, things that I’d already given away to others when we retired fourteen years ago and got rid of everything but memorabilia. It was great fun window shopping, but no one else was into making any purchases. We were getting hungry, but we were unfamiliar with restaurants in the area other than the one we’d where we’d had South Indian food on our previous visit.
We decided to take the metro back to the end of the line and have our lunch in the large food court in the Pacific Mall attached to the station. We’d eaten there before one evening and it was great because there was a great deal of choice of regional foods of India, as well as foods like Chinese food, pizza, French fries, etc. Everyone could order what suited them best without having to be limited to a specific cuisine.
We said goodbye at the station; Adia and Geoff walked back to Tanuj’s place and we dialed up an Uber to take us to our AirBnB in the opposite direction. I still couldn’t believe how much easier it was to get around Delhi now that there was a metro system and Uber taxis we could call and pay for using our phone.
When we got back to our apartment, we found Anil rested, but quite excited. He’d taken photos of a peacock that had ventured onto the large terrace just outside the living room. The bird probably thought no one was around, after the hubbub that the four of us usually made during our several days at the apartment. We’d had a successful shopping trip and Anil was happy to have been left alone (well almost alone, except for the critter). It had been a good day.
We had plans to visit the incredible Akshardham Temple the following day, so we stayed in the apartment that morning and had lunch there before taking an Uber and meeting Adia and Geoff at the Pacific Mall. Metro station for the one-and-a-half-hour trip diagonally across Delhi to where the temple was situated.