The best thing about life, is, having friends who share equal enthusiasm for the arts, culture, food, travel and fashion! Having said that, I buggered the living daylight out of this English postgraduate and a Bong sister to write for my blog and look at how she rumbled…
I am torn, quite frankly. Torn between wanting to keep this exquisitely not-so-quaint-anymore little hub all to myself; and between telling everyone that I know, as interested in fashion, food, paraphernalia and the general craze of wanting to do something a Sunday afternoon, of this discovery that I made last week. For revelation would entail losing the right to call it my own…but considering this place has been around a while, it probably is a futile dream anyway! This territorial delight that I refer to, is the Shahpur Jat Village, tucked away almost as though to hide itself, beyond the busy harrumphing main roads of south Delhi. Just a bus stop away from its more illustrious cousin, HauzKhas Village, my current favourite hotspot has infact been often called “the poor man’s HauzKhas Village”, a title its owners vociferously try to live down. I found out as much on my most recent ( andinfact my first!) trip to its romantic bylanes last Sunday, when I accompanied my boyfriend of one of his news assignments. He was covering the Open House for The Hindu and I was happily, in a furiously busy looking ethnic skirt, tagging along—not the greatest idea as I soon found out, the skirt I mean—for we trailed along gullies, often muddy, that you wonder at existing beyond the ChandniChowk area of the city.
It didn’t take us too long to find the place, however pre-disposed ShahpurJat may seem to be to tucking itself away. Just ask the auto rickshaw walla to take the sloping narrow road adjacent to the road that leads to the Asiad Village and chances are that you shall find yourself pop at the threshold of a Slice of Italy. This Slice of Italy infact is the only thing “conventional” about ShahpurJat Village, as we were soon to discover. Bravely navigating loose tendrils of an extremely stubborn skirt, I hopped and skipped up the place I had never been. It was beautiful. Coloured in streamers and balloons, every shop on both sides of us seemed to scream out to us in gaiety. They truly were embodying the spirit of the Open House, that meant to showcase to the general public of Delhi what it had to offer and how much of it Delhi had already missed! We began at Bookwise, this quaint shop in wood paneling that the moment you walk in, seems to open out into a wondrous new universe, stretching out to shelves and shelves of—wait for it—not merely books, but so so much more. There were paper lanterns and coffee mugs and quirkily designed home accessories; even cartoon-faced paperweights(!), and free little bottles of water and cups of hot coffee offered to anyone that walks in. Kartikeya and I had walked bang into the middle of the story-telling session that was the highlight of the day. Little kids piping in outbursts and responses to the story-teller’s questions thrown at them while they sprawled on the mats. When he was done interviewing Arti Walia, the co-owner of Bookwise, we were immediately guided by her to Anandini’s Tea Boutique—a phenomenon I found surprising. In a vastly competitive shopping world, where store owners mumble directions to neighbouring stores, people at ShahpurJat seemed more than eager to help us out! If the wonder at such friendliness weren’t enough, Anandini herself was a bundle of brimming warmth and bubbliness. Ushering us in with a million-watt smile, she talked voraciously about her tea-loving origins. On a little table were lined three different kinds of chocolate—all dark—and sprawled next to them judicious instructions as which type of tea one should eat those chocolates with. Not only did I LOVE the concept of tea with chocolate, something I’d never heard of before, I was also glad she allowed us a sampling—when we finally had a delectable lavender infusion tea with chilli pine nut chocolate!
Of course the shopaholic in me could not stay rooted in one spot and needed to explore the rest of this labyrinthine maze that was Shahpur Jat. Rows after rows of boutiques with dolled up mannequins, in dresses, scarves, stacked high on sky-high stilettos, ankle straps, colours, ombre, magenta, lavender, pink—screamed at me ever so insistently. I followed the call (as I had to) all the way to Olivia Dar and Kardo. Olivia Dar, this happy-looking Parisian, with free-flowing curls and in a fitted white ganjee, told us of how she had stationed herself in India ten years ago and had never felt like leaving. I had in the meantime already shot off a couple of fashion questions at her that had Kartikeya slightly stupefied, but mostly relieved. How were these clothes a hybrid of French couture and Indian detailing, as her brochure explained? By way of explanation, she simply pointed to rows of collars—those famous collars that Olivia Dar is especially known for. French detachable collars that she has grown up with seeing her beloved grandmother and mother don, and that she has now introduced to India through Indian colour schemes and beads and techniques, often glittery gold sequins that the Indian penchant for bling frequently craves. She had thought of it all—and before I could even begin to browse, she had (again, amazingly good-naturedly) directed us to her neighbour, Rikki Kher, who owns Kardo. Kardo, a line of only men’s clothing, looked beautiful when we entered, as all the lines and lines of pastel, blue, white shirts seemed to catch the light and reflect a thousand smithereens of the highest quality fashion. He insisted their motto was to be traditionalist, to get down to basics, to use the finest tailoring, hide their seams( a detail I marveled at), yet made sure we understood he wasn’t conservative in following new trends either.
We were almost done. The only thing that was left to be done was—you guessed it—satiate two tremendously hungry stomachs! Of course we visited all the bigger ones which were in a line—Potbelly restaurant, Café R.E.D, Les Parisienne—but finally decided on a little almost out-of-the-way café called K.T’s, given my penchant for the cozy and private. After having dug into two of the most sumptuous juicy burgers we’d had in a while( a mutton Gunda burger and a Chicken one) we were pleasantly indolent. The afternoon’s labour had given us liberty to just browse and laze now. And in the little time we remained there now, I happily did so. Of course I hadn’t come armed with enough resources to shop—I’d had no idea of what delights this place offered—but now I knew.
I was highly reluctant to leave, but leave we did—only with the promise I made to myself, almost squealing and pirouetting on my long-skirted toes—that we’d be back very soon. Perhaps next week. Perhaps sooner. With a vengeance to shop.
Shahpur Jat is a must-visit. You will be all kinds and shades of happy. And if you are anything like me, you will be purring with satisfaction, with two strings of scarves and strappy heels slung around your shoulders. Sigh, there I said it.
Picture courtesy: Kartikeya Ramanathan