Bartering like a boss

I had a much-needed wonderful night’s sleep, which always renews my optimism and confidence. I mainly market-hopped around the city via metro and tuk-tuk. Before the market mayhem, I caught a tuk-tuk to India Gate to quickly catch a glimpse and be on my way. Instead, I was immediately called out by a tout offering to photograph me in front of it and print the photos I liked for 100 rupees per photo. In the name of good fun, I played the stereotypical tourist and got on board for the photoshoot. He had a nice camera and took a number of shots from different angles in different poses.

He then brought me over to a shaded spot under a tree, where the rest of his gang of touts were lurking, to look at the photos and choose (of course complimenting me on each and every one so that I would buy more). I ended up with three of them and also wanted digital copies, so they sent them to me (for an extra fee, of course). I have a feeling that nothing is free on the streets of Delhi, or if it is, there is intention behind it, i.e., if someone gives you directions, it feels loaded with the expectation of a tip. The touts are quite relentless, and adopting tunnel vision and preferably dark sunglasses is the best way to navigate the hoards of tuk-tuk drivers and touts awaiting you outside the metro station stops and stationed on every street corner.

I was in full-on barter mode. I am no pro, but I always end up talking merchants down at least a small fraction. The disadvantage as a tourist is that it’s difficult to know the true value of what you’re buying, but merchants notoriously high-ball everything for foreigners by a fair margin, so it’s a safe bet you’re overpaying even if you manage to bargain them down a bit.

Khan Market was first on the list, which is definitely more on the upscale side in terms of shopping—not Gucci-level upscale, but you can find Adidas and Starbucks sandwiched in with traditional Indian jewelry and fabric shops, convenience stores geared towards westerners, and home decor shops; fancy patisseries and bakeries; and trendy-looking restaurants and cafes offering western cuisine. It was nice to stroll around and browse for a while, but nothing really captivated me at this market. I then went to Dilli Haat in South Delhi, which charged an entrance fee and seemed to cater mainly to tourists, but quite a few Indians were also strolling around. This market was not busy or crowded, which sounds like good timing, but then you can’t hide from the vendors, who each try to sweet talk you over to their stall as you stroll past, even if you pass them several times without expressing interest. The market itself is quite artsy with good-quality handiworks, and there is a series of small outdoor restaurants with cuisines from all over India. I visited the Nagaland (located on the border with Myanmar) vendor, which, along with their traditional food, also served Thai-style curry (a good curry trumps all other menu options for me). I chose the yellow curry, which seemed to have a slightly different spice blend than normal, but it was absolutely amazing. Good food = good mood.

I also had my tarot cards read here, which I am a sucker for (along with palm reading) when travelling. The fortune teller, fully decked out in turban and robes, asked me to pick five cards. He also read my face. He basically told me I acted a bit like a dude (I’m guessing he formed this conclusion by my wearing a baseball cap, which I have not seen any Indian women wearing). He also told me I was in good health aside from my eyes (he likely saw the outline of my contact lenses). Otherwise, he predictably told me I have good fortune for the future. Not very insightful, but more fuel for the good mood.

The final market I visited, although not for long, was Ladjpat Nagar Market (Central Market), which is mainly filled with discounted clothing and shoes. It was very busy with locals—no tourists in sight. I was getting tired at this point and didn’t explore it fully, but it was a nice detour on my way back to the guesthouse (Defence Colony is in walking distance from this market).

All in all, I feel like I’ve started to get the hang of Delhi. I’m looking forward to having an extra day when I return at the end of my trip. By then I will have settled into India and may have a different perspective of the city.