Saturday, March 12, 2011

Shopping In Shankar Market

Shankar Market is an old, well laid out, consumer friendly market that lies sprawled in the heart of Delhi.  This market specializes in textiles and everything revolving around clothes. The shops are arranged numerically in contiguous little blocks and are identified by their numbers rather than their names.  They are run by the owners themselves along with a motley group of salesmen. Everyone knows everyone else and everyone expresses their opinions in a frank but polite manner.  This makes shopping there a completely different experience from visiting the more modern stores.

Indeed, I  have almost stopped buying ready made clothes from retail stores because apart from the fact that tailored clothes last longer, it's just so much fun selecting materials, mixing and matching, choosing the accessories (dupattas in matching or contrasting shades, all kinds of buttons, threads for embroidery - there's a need and a shop for all such things).  The shopkeepers here can be extremely persuasive and it is interesting to see them in action, especially the older ones who remain unmatched in courtesy and skill.

Then, laden with all my shopping, I stop at the tailor's- an elderly, slightly built, cheerful man who has evidently come from across the border (during partition).  He still writes in Urdu though he speaks a kind of Hindi-Punjabi as do many such people.  He always likes to have a little chat, asking me about my husband, my in laws, what I do, Yoga tips for insomnia and so on.  The topics are varied and he listens, head tilted a little, eyes bright and shrewd, looking like a small bird.  He is an adept women's tailor and I have heard his clients having the most amazing conversations with him about changes in their anatomy while he just stands there, nods understandingly and scribbles little notes in his measurement pad.

Women's outfits are deceptively simple, they often require quite a lot of work before they are ready to be worn.  The appropriate salwars and dupattas have to be selected for every kameez or kurta.  Each saree has to have its edges hemmed, a slender strip of cloth (a 'fall') to be attached behind the bottom end of the saree to ensure that it falls properly and then there's the inevitable question of getting the blouses.  Blouses, ideally, must match at least one of the colours of the saree and must fit perfectly - they can be tight, but they must never be loose!  I, of course, often appear in loose fitting blouses (incurring the wrath of my relatives) as I'm too lazy to get the measurements changed each time my dimensions change.  There is also the critical question of how revealing or screening the blouses should be and each woman (and her tailor) have different views on this!

With all these essential (and difficult) decisions to be taken, who can question the need for markets such as Shankar Market?  It is here that every query can (and will) be answered by a multitude of well wishers - should I buy this material or the other, more expensive one?  Can't I get a closer match?  Will this shrink or run?  And, of course, the most crucial of all - do you think this suits me?!

(A picture from a recent family wedding showing the change in styles over two generations.) http://museindia.typepad.jp/.a/6a01287573b46a970c014e5f5c68a0970c-popup



5 comments:

Mohita said...

hi! I just chanced upon ur blog while googling Shankar Market...n really enjoyed reading your travelogues of Cambodia and Goa! very interesting indeed!

Sujata Varadarajan said...

Thank you

gini said...

Sujata, your blog was interesting. Thank you for your out put. Could you please give me the name and address of this tailor at Shankar market?

Hope to get a response from you.
gini

Iris said...

Hi. I chanced upon your blog while searching for tailoring options at Shankar market. I love to get my clothes tailored and have been doing so in Jaipur and Bombay. But I am new to Delhi and would be very grateful for some good recommendations. Could you please share the contact/shop name of your tailor?

Iris said...

Hi. I chanced upon your blog while searching for tailoring options at Shankar market. I love to get my clothes tailored and have been doing so in Jaipur and Bombay. But I am new to Delhi and would be very grateful for some good recommendations. Could you please share the contact/shop name of your tailor?

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