The last place I expected to be shopping (and actually buying things) was in Delhi. However, if you know where to go, you might be shocked that the malls in Delhi have almost everything you can buy from your home country, but significantly cheaper!
Getting there wasn’t easy. In my last India post I mentioned how tour guides love to take you to their “special” places to shop, regardless of whether you actually asked for it or not. And so it was somewhat of a struggle in getting our driver Kumar to agree to take us to what must have been one of the biggest shopping complexes in Delhi.
So this is how it went down.
After driving around Delhi all day, we were sick of the heat (even in a slightly faulty air conditioned car) and just wanted to relax. Kumar’s biggest mistake was that he drove us past this megamall , which is really a cluster of giant shopping malls. One of them was called Select City Walk. Next to that was MGF Metropolitan. Beside that, DLF Place. Each one was bigger than the one before it. All of them are along the same strip, which I believe is Press Enclave Marg in Saket. If you can’t find it then ask to go to the Sheraton New Delhi or Hard Rock Cafe or Hilton Garden Inn because it’s around about there.
Anyway, we told Kumar that we wanted to shop (and by that we meant proper shopping, not souvenir shopping. We said we wanted to buy branded goods. There was no mistaking our intention. Kumar said he knew “just the place”.
After a long drive he pointed to what looked like a cross between a tiny court house and dilapidated brothel on the other side of the road and said that it was the shopping palace he wanted to take us to. One look at the place and our alarm bells were ringing. It looked nothing like the mall we drove past earlier in the day.
We cringed and said no thanks, we want to go to a proper mall to shop for casual clothes, shoes, stuff like that. Kumar then said we should go back to where his office was (a local shopping strip), the exact place where he told us was too dusty because of the Commonwealth Games renovations and was full of hustlers trying to rip you off. There’s lots of branded stuff there, he insisted.
No thanks, we said again. Just take us back to that mall we saw earlier.
Oh THAT mall. That mall is too far. It’s out of the city (even though we only drove past it again 20 minutes ago). We should go back to somewhere near the city centre, near our hotel (because we had dinner reservations at 7pm). There’s lots of nice shopping places near our hotel that sell traditional Indian clothes, scarves and jewellery.
No, we don’t want traditional Indian goods. And it’s only 2:30pm. Take us to the mall!
As you wish, Kumar said with a fake smile.
When we saw the mall again after some of the slowest driving I’ve ever witnessed, we knew for sure we had made the right decision. This was what we were taking about!
The thing with Indian shopping malls (actually, hotels and offices too — pretty much any enclosed building) is that they have metal detectors that you have to walk through. I wouldn’t mind it so much had it been a real attempt to ensure the safety of the patrons, but it was nothing more than just keeping up appearances. You are almost always guaranteed to set the thing off, and then some security guard will pat you up and down. There is a separate one for the ladies, but if there is no female security guard for the body search then they just let you through anyway.
The inside of the mall was a different world. It really was. Outside, it was 45 degrees plus. Dust filled the air, cars, buses and tuk tuks zig zagged the roads, people slept on the streets and poverty raged right before your eyes. Inside, it is icy cool. Everything is clean and tidy. Everybody is well-dressed in fashionable outfits and all smiles. The contrast is remarkable and frightening.
But if you can put your guilt aside, these malls are truly a shopping heaven. All the shops and brands you look for back home are there. Look, I’m a bit embarrassed because I don’t know/remember a lot of them, but I’m sure I’ve seen them around! I’m certain I saw brands like Mango, Mothercare, The Body Shop, Tommy Hilfiger, Crocs, Levi’s, Nike, Rebook, Swarovski and Zara (for full list click here). And that’s just one of the malls.
The best part about it all is that the prices (or at least the prices I encountered) are dirt cheap compared to those in Western countries. Say a pair of Pepe Jeans might cost around $200 back home, but in India it would cost me around $60-$80 for the same pair (or what I think is the same pair…). I’m not making this up.
And so it became a redemptive exercise of trying to buy as much cheap stuff as possible to make up for all the years of getting ripped off in Australia and the UK.
Unfortunately, time rushed by us like a flowing tap and before we knew it we had already been there for more than two hours. And we had only seen two of the many malls there.
Tricked by Kumar’s statement that we needed some time to get back to the hotel and then to the restaurant (which I will detail in our next post), we headed back to the car a little after 5pm.
Darn it. I wish we had more time. A full day there and I wouldn’t have to buy anything back home for the rest of the year!