Fast forward to what is now Old Delhi and the place retains that old world feel. I love the magic, energy, hustle and bustle of the real working market – there’s no show put on for tourists here. Millions go about their business amongst a tangle of electricity cables, chai wallahs, cycle rickshaws, mopeds, porters and of course the odd cow.
As our rickshaw weaved expertly through the assorted traffic, we passed tiny shops proudly stuffed full of Indian crafts – saris, spices, sliver, stainless steel, wedding utilities and fabric galore. Left over from the old days, this old walled city is divided into product related bazaars – Kinari Bazaar (Wedding Market), Nai Sarat (Books and Stationary market), Dariba Kalan (Jewellery Market), Katra Neel (cloth market) and my favourite Khari Baoli Asia’s biggest spice market, perched at the end of Chandi Chowk.
The road which forms the spice market area is lined with narrow shops full of spices, tea, stainless steel cookware, nuts, dried fruits and rice available to buy in smaller quantities. Alongside these ingredients an eclectic mix of things are also for sale - pure almond oil used by Indian ladies as a moisturiser, natural loofa to scrub the city’s grime away, kitsch cloth bags to carry your shopping home, and gigantic terracotta pumice stones to smooth flip flopped feet.
Further along, chilli merchants sat alongside native dried mushroom sellers as sacks continued to be moved from storage along the narrow balcony to transport carts down stairs. The sight was incredible, some of the ingredients unrecognizable, and the smell got right in your eyes and up your nose.
Exhausted by the heat and thrum of the city, we were in need of refreshment so headed to the stainless steel merchant, as shopping in the Indian fashion guarantees a drink and a seat in the shade of the shop. I had a list of essential Indian equipment to buy, so as we rest our weary legs, my purse took a beating instead. Paneer press, double lidded masala tin, milk urn, karahai (similar to a wok), pestle and mortar, tiffin, and nimboo juicer... Before leaving I had to nip out to buy 2 canvas bags (decorated with kitsch Indian advertising) to have some chance of carrying all our goodies back home.
As the day heated up, and pedestrian traffic expanded, loaded with spices, stainless steel and all manner of strange ingredients, we joined the masses heading back to the metro and its air conditioning. Possibly my best day in India yet, I vowed a return to Khari Baoli Spice Market, if only to drink in the sights and smells all over again.