There is a connection A and I have with Chandni Chowk. There is a chapter dedicated to this place in our love story and it is a place we remember with great fondness. So before I begin to chronicle my shopping saga in Chandni Chowk, I had to give over a post just to the significance it holds in the history of our relationship.
All through university, there had never been a week where I had full attendance. I was always away 1 or 2 days out of the 5. A and I would be off on full-day dates, and on the days we actually did go to college, we would meet up in the evenings. (I really only studied at exam time, but then that’s what every student does in Delhi, so I never felt very guilty about that).
However, each July brought with it the new academic year. It brought fresh books, new paper and pretty pens. I would tidy up all my closets, buy a new wardrobe, and prepare myself in general for another year of college. One significant part of this was Our Annual Trip to Chandni Chowk.
I insisted on getting my books from Nayi Sadak. Though any bookshop could have sourced the books for me, there was some fun in going to get them myself. It was the only time in the entire year we would go to Chandni Chowk, and so after the first time, it just became a tradition.
We would head out on a weekday (of course it makes total sense to bunk college to buy course books!). And we would leave early in the day in A’s car. The July weather would be hot, and we would be at Chandni Chowk by about 11ish in the morning. We would park in the underground parking lot of Sheesh Ganj, and then we’d first go to the gurudwara to pray. A favourite memory of ours is the sight of my tiny sandals neatly tucked away inside A’s shoes – that’s how we would leave them at the shoe counter. We’d sit in the quiet cool of the gurudwara enjoying the atmosphere, enjoying the kadha Prasad. And then finally go out into the hot, noisy market.
I was always very scared of the crowds, and wary of everyone around us. But I was always well guarded with A around. He always held me in a possessive manner – almost an embrace, as we’d walk to Nayi Sadak. Once there, we’d head to the shop from where we always bought books. I loved that little shop – it smelled of new paper and ink. I’d hand over my list of books, and they would be bound and wrapped up for me. While the books would be packed (which could take some time), we’d just walk around, explore a couple of surrounding ‘gallis’, be amazed at the pure ‘old-Delhiness’ of the place, point out silly things to one another, get something light to eat like a ‘chaat’, and then go back for the bundle.
We’d head back to the gurudwara and dump the books in the car. Then head out to the Haldiram’s close by and have a delicious lunch. Sometimes, we’d stop at the McD’s for an ice cream (I know- Chandni Chowk, and still eating fast food… that’s because it would be sooooo hot by lunchtime – any place that had an a.c was a blessing!)
By the time we’d have had our fill of Old Delhi, it would be around 3 PM, and we’d head back to get the car and then drive back home. A would drop me off just outside my home, and that would be the end of our annual ‘Old Delhi’ day. Not much sightseeing done, but for us mall rats, just venturing out there was a brave step :p
For us, Chandni Chowk became a tradition, something we enjoyed, and something we clung to. I must have visited Chandni Chowk about 4 times during the 4 years of University – and yet I managed to visit Chandni Chowk just about 10 times in the span of 1.5 months for the wedding. By the end of it, I was not scared of the crowds or the heat, or anything else.
I was safe in A’s embrace after all – then and now, and forever more.