“ Jawahar Vyapar Bhawan / Janpath / New Delhi / 110001 / Tel: 23725035(Direct), 3321909, 3320894,3320439 / Fax : 91-11-3328354 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org „
There are many great reasons to visit India's capital city Delhi - fantastic monuments, great architecture of Moghal and Empire style, outstanding restaurants and some great museums. Those undoubtedly would be the reasons to go - but one of the key benefits you'll find when you get there is great shopping.
Shopping in India is much more than a simple transaction. There's little of our western shopping - the type where you look around, pick up what you like, take it to the check out and leave the shop. That's all far too boring. In India you have to prepare for a major production and lots of game playing.
Step one - the challenge of getting INTO a shop without someone trying to take you in - any sense that you've been brought in and the prices immediately rise by 30% for the commission the shop-keeper will have to pay your tour-guide/driver/friendly chap on the street who wants to show you his 'uncle's shop'.
Step two - the challenge of browsing. If like me you like to pick things up, nose around, have a chat to your companions about whether the cushions will go with your sofa, then forget it. The aim in India is to give the impression that you really aren't at all interested. Shopping is war and you must not let the enemy see a chink in your armour. Even if the shopkeeper doesn't appear to speak English he will understand body language.
Step three - the challenge of negotiating a price. This could be an entire review in its own right so just a few key points. Don't get carried away, do drink the tea or coffee that's offered, and don't be too 'British'. There is no room for fear of offending the shop keepers. Locals have this down to an art - they'll hunt for every fault and blemish, tell the shopkeeper that their aunty told them he's a crook, claim they can get twice as good for half the money in the shop down the road and so on. Travelling with a Bengali friend on our last trip to India taught us a whole load of new tricks and ruses. And my final tip - never, never ever start a discussion about prices on something you don't actually want to buy - it's not polite and it's just not done.
Now if all of that sounds like far too much trouble, there is an easier way. I love the haggling and game playing but I know it doesn't suit everyone - and so do the proprietors of the Central Cottage Industries Emporium - the CCIE or as they like to call themselves 'The Cottage'. I always try to visit the CCIE whenever I go to Delhi.
The CCIE is a fantastic place to start and finish a holiday in Northern India. Let me explain. If you are new to India go along to the CCIE and get an idea of the quality of product and typical prices. Then armed with this sort of info, you can go off to the little shops and street hawkers and have a fair idea of the prices you want to beat and the product quality to aim for. Then, at the end of you trip, go back and buy all the stuff you fell in love with on your first visit and couldn't find after.
The store is laid out over 8 levels. It has a fantastic range of products - from carvings and curios, through pictures, household (look out for the block printed cotton bedspreads), furniture and rugs, clothes, leather goods, jewellery, books and stationery and so much more. Bank on spending an afternoon here and don't book anything for afterwards - it will take you longer than you think.
I lose the will to shop once my arms start to get tired - I'm likely to give up, put everthing back on the shelves and run for it. But this isn't a problem. The CCIE run an excellent system for your purchases. As you go round the shop you pick up the things you like, take them to the nearest counter and they give you a receipt. When you have finished, you take all the receipts to the basement and pay for all the items together. Credit cards are accepted. Then you go to the collection point and everything is waiting for you. So you don't have to struggle round the shop trying to carry everything.
You can even get a cheap coffee and sandwich or pizza at the cafeteria on the way round - or leave your husband there when he loses the will to live after you have tried to decide between a thousand very similar shawls or tried to engage him in a discussion about cushion covers.
The CCIE is a government establishment and the prices are all fixed and fair and a lot of money goes back to the communities that make the products in order to support the maintenance of traditional crafts. You can get things cheaper elsewhere especially if you are a real hard-nosed negotiator - but you can also get really ripped off too. At the CCIE you know the prices - you don't have to go through 3 cups of tea and an hour of negotiation to buy something and you don't have to buy something you were never really interested in but somehow got caught up in the moment and couldn't get out of. The blouse you buy won't be the cheapest but it also won't fall apart the first time you wash it.
There are assistants to help but they are very low key; sometimes you'll have to go and hunt for help. There won't be anybody nagging or hovvering over your shoulders and obody is getting commission on what you pay. This is one of the few shops in India where you can just wander around and browse.
Watch out when trying to get to the CCIE by taxi or rickshaw. The innocent sounding questions 'First time in India?' is best answered with a 'no, I've been here loads of times' and an air of knowing exactly where you are going (to avoid ending up somewhere completely different). Some of my friends have asked for the CCIE and been taken to other shops by unscrupulous drivers who wanted commission.
CCIE is easy to find. If you look at a map of Connaught Place, take Janpath - the road south at 6 o'clock on the circle - and walk about 2 blocks south.
Mumbai also has a cottage industries that's quite good and is a few minutes walk from the Gate of India. The one in Chennai is not of a great standard.
Note - I have no idea where dooyoo got the photo for this category but it certainly isn't the CCIE.
Delhi has it all when it comes to a weekend shopping trip. Highly recommended is the Central Cottage Industries Emporium at Janpath in the STC Building complex for the choicest handicrafts from all states under one roof. It is a rambling six-storey emporium run by the Indian government where you have a wide range of options to buy anything from a 12ft ornamental elephant god to a packet of Darjeeling tea. With a wide range of arts and crafts on display you can choose from gems and jewellery, clothing and textiles, pottery and silverware, cane and bamboo craft, handmade paper, pickles, and so much more.