Dilli Haat

Dan and I bought single day Metro cards and aimed to see as much of Delhi as we could in one day.  After a light breakfast in the Hyatt’s lounge (Mum ate purri for breakfast; I ate pancakes) we all piled into an Uber and headed a few kilometres East, to Dilli Haat, an open-air market.

We arrived early, the markets didn’t open until 11:00.  A group of French students posed at the market entrance for a group photo, an athletic young man raced over to join the group shot at the last second, throwing his backpack to the ground and slinging his arms around two of the girls.  The dog sleeping under the tree to their left lifted its head, then went back to sleep.  The sun was bright as the morning’s thick fog had begun to clear (when we woke it was like our visit to the Grand Canyon: white and < 50 m visibility) but it was cool enough to wear our puffy down jackets.

We began cautious, not showing too much interest in any stalls but mostly ignored by sellers who were still setting up.  “Madam! Shawl? Pashmina?” a few hopeful sellers reached out their brightly coloured cloth towards Mum and Dipu.  I don’t like the focus so stared directly ahead and kept walking away.  Dan went to the toilet, after a brief dither.  I was a bit terse, “If you think you might want to go, just go, stop thinking about it!” Mum, Dipu and I kept walking.  Other tourists began to trickle in.

Daniel saw a scarf that he thought would make a good present, so we stopped.  The seller and his neighbour pushed grimy plastic stools towards Mum and Aunty Dipu.  “Sit!” they invited.  I stood. The seller suggested the scarfs were usually 1000 rupees, but because Aunty was Indian he would give them to us for 500.  Or something like that.  Numbers were quoted and, like the tidal volume of a snoring man suddenly inflated, then deflated.  Eventually a rough number was an agreed reasonable price and Dan and Mum began to consider if they just wanted one scarf.

Twenty minutes later we had accumulated a small pile of scarves.   Daniel had decided that several scarves were needed, and Mum had unsurprisingly liked everything she laid eyes on.  Two scarves had caught me eye, fabric woven from two dominant colours – they were iridescent in weave with each colour dominant on the reverse side from the other.  Of course, they were more expensive, as were Mum’s choices of “hand stitched” (but extremely regular stitches, perhaps hand pushed through a sewing machine) pieces.

The bartering ceased to be out loud, and quietly became visual, on a calculator shown to Aunty Dipu, who did her best to protest in surprise and disappointment with mild offence.  It was pointless; we’d made such a fuss over the ones we’d really liked that the seller knew we’d be buying them.  Mum pulled a post-it from her pocket and referred to it, in consultation with Daniel.  I later realised it was a small chart of Rupee-Australian-dollar conversions.  I’d already explained the 50:1 ratio meant you just chop two zeros off the end and double the remainder.

We reached an amicable compromise where everybody felt satisfied.  I was smug in having not actually bought anything (I don’t need a scarf) but secretly happy I’d picked two out anyway.  Aunty Dipu had loved the whole experience.  The seller was pleased with his first sale of the day.  Daniel had a small bag full of scarves and Mum was a pig in mud.

Daniel and I left Mum and Aunty Dipu at the market, to go sight seeing.  They stayed for four hours.



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