By Barbara Kingstone…Shopping Maven.

As local Indian rush to the newest glitzy glass and steel malls that are shooting up in Delhi, most tourists are still intrigued with the great ‘markets’available.

When you think of markets in India, one immediately thinks the multi small, some times smelly stalls, pushy vendors , not terribly clean and filled with ’stuff’that you really don’t want or need.

Maybe here and there there are some ‘come hither’clothing,fashion jewelry, leatherwear or objects that attract .

Here are my three very special markets where one sits in lovely gardens, where there are modern shops, fine places to eat and all high quality Indian- made everything. Delhi is one of my favourite shopping stops. Of course these low rise malls also have American brands but when in India, buy Indian.

There are terrific craftspeople and their fabrics are so special as is their workmanship. And these days, ensembles for women are more Westernized in their designs and easily worn and unique when you get home. It’s taken years for many young designers to realize that where you live,you really can’t wear a sari unless you’re Indian. Saris, thought most of the time are stunning, on Westerners they look like left overs from Halloween. So now the fabulous silks and cottons are so ‘wow’that you can wear the sophisticated ensembles anywhere.,

In Delhi..here are my favourites.

The very first time I went to Delhi, probably about 15 years ago, an Indian friend came one evening to meet with me. I was staying at government owned and run hotel that now I realize wasn’t even 2 star then. It was a pleasure to get out of my room in this out of the centre of the city hotel.

I was glad to get away from that somewhat rancid accommodation. Happily my friend suggested a walk to a former race track. It was evening and I couldn’t wait for the next day so that I could explore Santushti, and the wonderful looking merchandise close up in each window. And yes, I did shop, discovered boutiques that I would return to on various subsequent trips. I never had to depend on other venues to go to but did visit a few overwhelming malls…which I really disliked since they were too large, too crowded, not enough shops to interest me so it was back to the Santushti.

The village styled shops in Santushti are settled into the still stunning garden and are ‘tres’chic, free standing boutiques, all showing a variety of great merchandise, a pleasure to visit.

Enclosed by a gate and gatekeeper, each boutique has a specialty from house ware, to gowns, sweater, jewellery, leather wear and great accessories for the home and office. With their well -placed stone pathway, you could get from one shop to another. And it was and still is difficult to leave without several shopping bags.

In fact, over the years I thought this shopping oasis only got better. However, on my most recent trip,(2014), all had become quite different in Santushti. Shops have moved away while those that did stay, moved to smaller or other vacant spaces.

Perhaps 2014, may not have been their best year or with the blossoming of in city alls, this now sees a bit too far out of the way with traffic juggernauts every few miles. I was in for major disappointment. Many of my favorite shops like Christine’s with their own designed printed silk blouses and matching shawls, had shut down or moved elsewhere . But MonPri (see Jewelry segment), a store for lovely gem stone jewelry seemed sad that this bling boutique seems lonely. Ogaan which I have always trusted to have the best designs that suited my lifestyle, happily is still there and crowded. And I was so pleased to have purchased a Western styled,understated,muted colored, print dress since an unexpected wedding invitation arrived while I was in Darjeeling and I had the perfect, not too fussy dress for this mountain city marriage…no painted elephants or three day spectacle (that I would like to see one day while in India) but this was a simple,lovely reception.

Whether the many closures were due rent hikes or competition from the giant malls, it is somewhat of a ghost town except for a few boutiques still opened and seemed to be doing well. Could be that Santushti being off the beaten path where you had to have a driver, taxi or tuk tuk, (there is parking especially for shoppers) was just too much effort with the huge traffic problems?. It is an endearing area that when the car is needed, the gatekeeper calls. These days the wait is much shorter with fewer cars. Pity, I loved that beautiful, landscaped shopping ‘village’. but they still have lovely shops including Nur for house hold accessories and even great shawls, Basil & Thyme Restaurant, happily is still there and a place to have a great cup of coffee and consider what to buy.

My new favourite ‘market’is, Hauz Khas Village. It’s an area with dedicated designer shops, and within moments I spied Ole. Boutique They have a designer, Samant Chauhan, who can compete with most European and American designers.. Many of the outfits have intricate

embroidery and hand beading. perfect, not overdone or sparkling, being but exquisitely simple. However for anyone looking for a truly amazing wedding gown, the is the place where you find slightly over-the-top, unique, beautifully designed, stand out gowns. That said there are less fussy gowns. In fact, I had a black masterpiece by Chauhan,made into a shorter cocktail dress and what compliments I get when I wear it. It was worth the cost of the trip to Delhi. Alterations are as good as they can be. My grudge is that among the sales staff there are a few pushy women, too pushy for my liking. who make promises that there’s enough material in the seams so that letting out to fit your body is no problem. It was, as I found out. But the smart proprietor made sure that I was happy at the end of the spree.

Upstairs is Ole’s Cafe, which is not a unusual for stores to have their eponymous cafe. A door away is another favourite shop,, mentioned above Ogaan but much larger than the shop in Santushti , and they too have a small upstair cafe.,called, you guessed it, Ogaan. The two floor store in Hauz Khas, has more variety and so many adaptable westernized styling you’ll want everything. And their fabric selection is outstanding.

Walk around Hauz Khas and quickly, you’ll discover fun. youthful designer shops. And then trying to figure out which of the many restaurants to choose was no problem. A recommendation by the concierge at the ITC Maurya Hotel suggested Raaz,which was perfect with their delicious food (somewhat pricey but worth every bite),very modern design interior and a fine chef.

I adore Hauz Khas for it’s glamor, and seeing fun loving twenty somethings on the streets.One needs only a lot of time to seek out the boutiques that suit your lifestyle, and they are there.My daughter , with whom I was traveling and I, returned the next day to explore the many shops missed since we arrived late in the day. Lunch break was also a recommendation from a chic sales woman at Ogaan…a filled to capacity, casual, small meal at Naivedyam., beyond wonderful for all the right reasons, ambience, trendy crowd, great Indian lunch. and a great price point. Afterwards we discovered ONE HK for accessories, another is Nan KI and then an oasis at Farha Kan for fashion jewellery And last but certainly not least was a favourite for both my daughter and myself. .Lola’s World. Original, clothing, some for men, many for women and even sheets and coverlets and smart accessories.

Finally, Khan Market is another terrific village and larger than Hauz Khas Village. One place that I’ll remember is ,The Good Earth Restaurant. but it isn’t just for eating. First floor has porcelain and wonderfully designed dishes, glass and metal house accessories that are hard to just walk by. On the second floor, there was a future bride trying on several saris in fabrics that were so outstanding that I stood gawking and wondering which I would choose. Awe, was my final reaction. The third floor is where the popular restaurant is located. Our Delhi friends love it.,so we met them there. The menu is Mediterranean. When in India, eat Indian, when in Rome do as the Romans do and eat pasta. Here I was eating, or should I say, sulking, that I was having Italian in Delhi. But it is a well known diner and reservations are needed. And the food was very good.

This market with all it’s little alley and small lanes lines with shops, is like finding the golden needle in the haystack. However, the public areas could do with some updating as the pavement and walkways are cracked, the poles have wires hanging from them But overlook that and you’ll have a great shopping experience. Amrapali, has exquisite and exquisitely pricey fine jewelry on the second floor. I dislike bargaining in a swish place like this, so I didn’t bother. But a sure thing is that locals get a better price since the prices given me were standard American retail …far too expensive to come to Delhi and spend this much no matter how much you adore the piece

Go to their other store on the street level facing the parking and here you will find terrifically priced, up to the minute, trendy fashion jewelry. Obviously a favorite with some of the smartly dressed women in the city since it was filled with fashionable consumers.

Above all, Khan is a great place to see locals, shop, eat, walk, discover and finally at the end of the day,make you feel that you have seen some of the best presentations of all things grand and wonderful and also make you feel almost like a regular.