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The winner takes the food

The case for Sarojini Nagar

Sarojini Nagar has style — yes I agree the style of off-loaded SS2018 clothes from Europe, but that’s a mere detail. Contrary to its heritage-loaded name, Sarojini or SN, is the fashion centre in the capital. Unlike the chura-buying, old people’s market, Lajpat Nagar, it is where pizzazz meets affordability. You could be a model or a college kid, a budget traveller from Europe or a Ms. Universe aspirant from Bhatinda, or even a bored housewife looking for a makeover, the trendy lanes will never disappoint you.

Walking through the umpteen identical lanes, loaded with the latest trends from Paris and New York fashion weeks, you will find everything here – curtains for your bachelor pad, a ‘designer’ dress for your best friend, junk jewellery for your sister, a leather jacket for your significant other, décor items for your NRI aunt. The prices make you feel like a millionaire; the options make your heart sing. The crowd is young, unlike the blingy salwar-kameez-clad aunties running amok at Lajpat Nagar.

Retail prices are for novices. Sarojini gets you hands-on practice at the world’s toughest skill: negotiating. To get the best bargains, divide the quoted price by two and then reduce some more – the exercise will also improve your maths! Something that the bawling-baby-infested Lajpat Nagar with its ‘fixed price’ shops will never teach.

Agreed the place is crowded and often resembles a Durga Puja Pandal in Kolkata, or the Kumbh mela in Prayagraj, but it has its benefits: spotting a supermodel at a thrift stall, recognizing a designer sans her make-up is a thrill no other place can give you. What makes it the best place to shop in the Capital, however, is its quintessential bohemian vibe and stellar bargains – and in Delhi, nothing is more important than that.

Anubhuti Krishna is a late entrant to Delhi’s shopping scene, but learnt quickly that style comes cheap in the city

The case for Lajpat Nagar

In the war of style and substance, it is substance that has the last laugh. When students become parents and fashionistas get married, where do they all rush? To Lajpat Nagar of course. The trusted place for generations, this reliable South Delhi market has seen its share of nemeses — all of which have come and gone without making so much as a dent in its utility or popularity.

While you may be able to find fakes, rip-offs, even second-hand garments in the congested lanes of Sarojini Nagar, at Lajpat Nagar you only find genuine stuff – and proudly Indian too. Hundr of shops that line the neatly-laid-out squares make the place the planned-shopper’s paradise. Sections dedicated to different items help you tick them off your to-do list; fixed prices save you the hassle of bargaining. A shirt you buy here will fit you even after a wash and not shrink to your son’s size like that from Sarojini will; the sweater will be proudly made in Ludhiana, and not a pre-used one brought in from rich countries imported from the West in containers.

Designed for families, the market has everything that you may ever need: a sari for your mother, a blazer for your father, toys for your toddler, essentials for your infant, electronics, kitchen equipment, home furnishing, jewellery, watches, shoes, bags, grocery, hardware… the list is endless.

Sure, the place has elderly ladies trying to find value for their money, mothers balancing their children and shopping bags, and girls buying their bridal churas and kundan jewellery, but there are the branded showrooms, multi brand outlets, and departmental stores that stand tall. Wedding gowns are sold next to bridal lehangas, and dresses are stocked next to salwar suits. The place is for everyone and not just punks or wannabes.

What sets the market truly apart is the food. Iconic institutions like Golden Fiesta, legendary stalls like Dolma Aunty’s, delectable snacks like Ram Laddoo, and contemporary offerings like Chinese makes it a food haven too. And in Delhi, food wins all wars – even the one of the best marketplace.

Debashish Kar introduced Anubhuti to the markets of Delhi, only to find that she has picked wrong; he is trying to undo the damage

Where we pit iconic Delhi things against each other