Saturday, June 18, 2011

Return to Dilli Haat

One of Lindsay's favorite market haunts during our first assignment has been relegated to the place we take our visitors. Since my sister and brother-in-law are in town, it made sense as an introduction to Indian bargaining at Dilli Haat. It's definitely not the cheapest market but the twenty rupee entry fee (which I could swear used to be ten) keeps the beggars from approaching shoppers so that the only harassment received is the playful touts that double as pashmina stall keepers.

This isn't a post about what Dilli Haat is; for that, I'd suggest you check out this well-written and informative post on one of my favorite Delhi blogs, Delhibound. This post is three short stories from yesterday's return (since we tend to only go back these days when we have visitors in town).

An Honest Man
Most of Dilli Haat's charm eminates from the ability to interact and bargain with the stall keepers. My sister and Lindsay had found some sort of elephant purse that they just "had" to have. The price started at something like Rs. 450 per purse. Lindsay, who's a huge fan of going for the volume discount (though I'm still suspect that it's actually that effective), offered Rs. 600 for two. The stall keeper's response, "What? At that price I have to give my wife 500 and I only get 100." He came around. Primarily because 600 still allowed for considerable margin; however, you have to appreciate his effort.

Sunil is Back
In 2004-2005, we went to Dilli Haat most weekends we were in Dehli. We were young, impressionable, and it seemed like the "real" India, which it may have been when you live at the Taj Palace. Since we were there so often, we came to know some of the regular vendors. Our favorite, Sunil, ran an art stall primarily with Rajisthani-inspired pieces. I have no idea the quality of his goods, but he was fun to talk to so we tended to purchase from him when looking for basic gifts for people from home. Yesterday, Lindsay was lead from one stall (where she had purchased a fair amount of hand-painted paper mache stuff) to the art stall, who was a good friend of the paper mache guy. The paper mache guy tried to introduce Lindsay; however, the art guy immediately interrupted and said, "She is a very old customers." It was Sunil. Lindsay, seemed surprised that he remembered her and even posted that on Facebook. Our friend Mohammed, who was part of our 2004-2005 crew immediately responded, "Of course he remembered you, you put his kids through engineering school."
Lindsay and Sunil; just like old times.
Regardless, it's always good to see a familiar face.

My Sister Can't Bargain
Perhaps I take the whole bargaining thing for granted. Lindsay bought prescription sunglasses last week and without a thought, I immediately started to haggle. Why? Because anything is possible. I tend to forget that's not the way it necessarily works in my homeland. My sister, who is in India for the first time, served a great reminder of this. I also learned that she's a horrendous bargainer. First she pulled the "counteroffer with a higher bid than the opening price" routine that I've only seen used once before. By my wife. Which also doubles as the first story I still anyone about bargaining as the obvious number one "what not to do."
This look doesn't inspire bargaining confidence
Seeing this, I kept her away from the stall keepers most of the rest of the day. That is, until it was time for her to buy a piece of art right before leaving. I figured it was just a part of being in India that anyone needs to experience. The stall keeper was doing everything he could to confuse her (i.e., prices with and without frames, prices for different sizes, etc.) even though she was pretty locked in a specific item. Even so, as soon as she made it clear what she was wanted, she asked "How much?" (usually a pretty good first step). He provided his response. She froze. Like a deer in headlights. She turned back to the rest of us, still frozen otherwise. A couple seconds passed. I felt like a manager on the mound, making a call to the bullpen and said, "Lindsay, why don't you go take care of this." Of course, little did I know that "Lindsay taking care of it" included her buying a piece for us, you know, because strategy involves the volume discount.


  1. John, this is HYSTERICAL!!!!

    "What? At that price I have to give my wife 500 and I only get 100."

    And the bit about your sister .... and the bargaining ...

    Just CLASSIC. You now have "the post" about Dilli Haat, my friend!

    (and you're right about the price hike ... when we moved here it was Rs 15) ... I need to start writing "at the time of publishing, entrance fees are ____")

  2. Ah, memories! We visited Dilli Haat last January and loved it; while not the most accurate portrayal of India, it's a beautiful place to find beautiful things. And of course have fun bargaining. ;)

  3. Lovely pictures. Thanks for sharing. Dilli Haat is a must do if you are on a vacation in the capital. Under the open sky, numerous little kiosks sell jewellery, paintings, fabrics, saris, pottery, furniture, and of course food from across the country. Check out Dilli Haat timings, entry fee and many more.