A Week in Delhi: Day 2

Monday haat, Ajmal Khan Road, Karol Bagh

Okay, folks, we’re back in business! The Commonwealth Games are over, the weather’s getting cooler, and the street vendors are returning to the city in droves. This means that the outdoor Monday markets or haats – which take advantage of the shuttered storefronts – are back in full swing, including the mother of all Monday markets: Karol Bagh.

If you are a Delhi-walla, or a very close reader of Lonely Planet India, you may be thinking: is Karol Bagh really off the tourist track? After all, the good ol’ LP identifies Karol Bagh as a prominent shopping area, describing it as a “middle-class market [that] sells competitively-priced consumer goods, from kidswear to kitchenware.” But it says that the market is open Tuesday through Sunday; it is pointing backpackers to the stores whose doors are most definitely shut on Mondays. So I maintain, accusations of hair-splitting be damned, that the Karol Bagh Monday market is indeed worthy of inclusion in this series.

When I first got off the Metro and started strolling down Ajmal Khan road, where the Monday market is centered, my first thought was, “Is this it? Is the haat really back?” It wasn’t packed, as I imagined it would be; really, it just seemed like a glorified version of my neighborhood Monday market, with its cheap plastic goods and clothes. But then I kept on walking – and walking, and walking – and I realized how enormous the market was, and what a wide variety of products were on offer. There were sandals:Jewelry:Shoes:Purses:(Slightly creepy) stuffed animals:Hats:Sari material:And white shirts, as modeled by their vendor. (I should add that this man posed for the picture, and approved of his stern expression when I showed him the shot.)Not pictured: suitcases, pirated DVDs and CDs, perfume, kurtas, winter coats, and much, much more.

And in additional to the roadside stalls, there were many roving salesmen, who would sidle up to me furtively, and say, in a mock-whisper, “Sunglasses? You want sunglasses?” When I said no, they would say, even more secretively, “Pen drive?” I never ascertained the reason for the salesmen’s hushed tones, but I suspect it may have something to do with the products’ not-entirely-white-market status.

How to get there: The market is just outside the Karol Bagh metro station; follow signs for Ajmal Khan road. If you’re technologically inclined, take a look at this map.

When to go: Monday (of course), pretty much all day.

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