Imagine a hippie wonderland full of dreamcatchers, kashmere shawls studded with intriguing patterns, jazzy junk jewellery, bohemian bags and the Bob Marley paraphernalia. Imagine a big fat wedding of an old-Delhi boy and a fiery hippie lass from the 1970’s—that’s what Paharganj feels like.
On a rather chilly, sunless December afternoon, my friend and I set off to explore this queer little territory towards the north of Delhi’s heart. A pot of cultural vibrance, people and colours owing its character fusion to its propinquity to the New Delhi Railway Station.
This 2km stretch with several narrow, labyrinthine lanes and bylanes like the veins of a heart reminded me of Macleod Ganj, for some strange reason. Amidst the fast movement of the city, this place takes a step back to pause and basks in the slow pace lifestyle.We got a glimpse of beautiful people of varying ethnicities with their backpacks and eclectic ensemble at every step we took on this road cluttered with travellers, vehicles and stray animals. There were a trail of charming little shops offering colourful clothes, leather bags and jackets, boots to die for, musical instruments, smoking accessories and pottery goods at astonishingly low prices on both sides of the boulevard. We also spotted oodles of cafes, motels and bars.
The smell of pure leather and the love for shoes propelled me to a store — comparatively bigger than the others — that belonged to a man with a whimsical demeanor. His passion for shoes and his salesman skills were pouring out of his eyes. He made me try three of his masterpieces and demanded that I take a walk in them and give an honest feedback. They were, by far, the most comfortable shoes I had ever worn. He went on to tell us how some of the famous stars have been in his shoes and how he makes shoes for famous people like Priyanka Gandhi and Aditi Roa Hydari. I bought a beautiful pair of dirty green leather chappals for Rs 100. Incredible Paharganj indeed!
We crossed a thella carrying a mountain of buddha busted as we advanced into one of the bylanes out of sheer curiosity. And there it was—The Brown Bread Bakery—an old school cafe lined by cane chairs, organic food items, a boutique full of quirky clothes, a leather shop and rooms on rent upstairs. The highlight of this place was their breakfast buffet comprising of pancakes, sausages, bacon, toast and cereal for just Rs 300. We couldn’t have a bite of it because they only have it till 12 in the noon. One of the many reasons I’d go back to Paharganj is that breakfast. And the brownie.
While I was going gaga over all those graphic bangles and sundry earrings, my friend couldn’t get enough of all the cheap yet gorgeous curtains and cushions. We also stumbled upon a tiny store brimming with diverse instruments, some which we had never seen before. We bought a flute to fulfill the hobbyist in my friend.
Contrary to popular belief, we didn’t find anything shady or dangerous about this place. Infact we loved it because (a) it beats any mall in terms of prices, desirability and variety and (b) it’s got an ethereal vibe and history. Once known for its psychedelic rave scene and jam sessions in 60‘s and 70‘s, it was a haven for experimentation, alternative sexualities, religion and music among other influences that are the reason for its rich culture today.
Nearest Metro Station: RK Ashram Marg