We took the metro. From Noida to Rajeev Chowk in Connaught Place, and then to Chandni Chowk, the famed amazing market that was maybe as old as the city itself. We changed the metro at one station. The number of people crowding into the state-of-the-art metro turned it into a most inconvenient way of travelling. But it was fun. The rush of people was such that when getting out, if we hadn’t pushed and shoved like mad, we would have got left behind. Getting on to the connecting metro was equally difficult. We managed to reach our destination station – Chandni Chowk.
We got off and walked a while and got onto a cycle rickshaw. On enquiring from fruit-wallahs (fruit-sellers selling from hand carts) and random people, we were told that our destination was the ‘Gharhi’ (watch) market. Through roads that were permanently crawling, we reached the market. The journey was most interesting with people, shops and transportation from what seemed like a different era. We walked into the dingy ‘Gharhi’ market, and looked into a few shops. It wasn’t what we were looking for. We got back on the rickshaw and headed towards Sadar Bazaar. En route we saw shops that dated back to 1940s and even earlier. Everything here was packed into unimaginably small spaces, be it buildings, cars, shops, roads, electric wires, billboards or people. There were people and more people and more people and still more people. We saw a haveli (old colonial kind of house) with several floors that was most intriguing. We tried to imagine who lived there now, and who must have lived there a hundred years back.
Enjoying the bustling marketplace from our cycle rickshaw, we entered a road that was incredibly choked with traffic (all of Chandni Chowk is incredibly choked with traffic, but this was something else altogether). All around us, there were a million cycle rickshaws, scooters, bikes, cars, mini trucks, vans, hand carts, bullock carts, cycles, jeeps, auto rickshaws, pedestrians and cows. As we inched ahead, suddenly our rickshaw went into turbo mode and shot ahead. A motorbike behind us got impatient and started to push us ahead. The rickshaw wallah was barely managing to avoid hitting pedestrians in front. He kept hitting the backs of other rickshaws very hard, but it didn’t evince any reaction. Hitting the rickshaw in front to stop your own rickshaw was a necessity and the norm.
We reached Sadar Bazaar and came to a section where rickshaws were not allowed. We alighted. Suddenly there was a commotion and we saw a policeman mercilessly whacking a man with a stick. The man was rolling on the road and whining, he looked like a wasted drug addict. I asked someone what had happened but the man only shrugged and walked away. We walked ahead and after much asking and enquiring discovered the ‘Gubbarey Wala Gali’ (the balloon alley).
It was very narrow, if you stopped at any of the teeny meeny shops on either side of the alley, it actually caused a traffic jam of the people walking along the alley. We were weaving in and out of the shops in that alley and several connecting alleys for about an hour, and we found everything we wanted, at one third the price. The bargain was great, but the whole experience was far greater.
When we reached the metro station to get onto the train, we discovered that we had been pick pocketed. Cool. We lost about 1500 rupees. We reached home, happy, sad (at losing the money) and filled with a sense of awe for this awesome amazing market called ‘Chandni Chowk’ (Silver Crossing).