I have lived in New Delhi for the last three years. It is a remarkable and huge city. Its sheer size, its traffic and endless noise can be pretty imposing. It is also a hugely diverse city. In terms of its people from different background, religions, from the very poor that live under viaducts to the obscenely rich who live in incredible mansions. Some stunning architecture, some very old, some very new. One place which still embodies (part of) Indian city life, is the area in and around Chandni Chowk. It is one of the oldest markets in Delhi going back to Mughal emperor Shah Jahan. Some of Delhi’s best known landmarks are part of it, such as the Red Fort and the famous Jama Masjid mosque.
But it is mostly known for its endless markets and bazaars. You can find anything in this amazing maze of busy streets and endless little lanes. I find the best time to visit is at night. This place is hopping and buzzing with all sort of people out on the streets, selling, buying, cooking, chatting, going about their lives. And that includes those for whom the streets is also their home. They will make themselves comfortable on top of the middle divider of a busy road and sleep away whilst traffic roars by. I am a 6’6’’ tall Dutch guy so I tend to stick out of bit, literally, in any Indian crowd. Some time ago, we had a visit from our corporate Headquarters in Europe. So I took my European colleagues to see Chandni Chowk. I asked several of my Indian colleagues to come along and accompany us. Amazingly, none of them had been to Chandni Chowk either! They do their shopping in big modern (western) malls. Perhaps understandable, but also maybe a little bit sad.
Chandni Chowk street life does illustrate how a large part of the urban Indian population still leads their life. Very much out in the streets. I enjoy walking around. I have never been bothered by anybody. There are very few if any European tourist about. Most Indian enjoy posing and are happy to show off their produce to you. As anywhere in India, you should not be concerned about having some private space, because it is wall to wall people. The noise from the crowd and the traffic is unbelievable. Some amazing smells as you make your way across the spice market. You will have Autoriksha's pushing their way through the crowd horn blaring out loud. It is all part of the scenery.
There is some amazing architecture in this area, but most of it is a pretty poor state of repair. At some point in time this Chandni Chowk will seize to exist in its current format. Hopefully that will also mean a better, less harsh life for those who live and work out on the streets. Whereas overall that might be a good thing a nation also tends to loose a bit of its heritage and identity as it progresses through time. All for the better I’m sure, but I’m still glad I get to see and experience the current Chandni Chowk. Which is absolutely fascinating.