Thursday, May 5, 2011

Photo Essay: Delhi's mobile markets

Most greens have a sense that overconsumption is killing us. Mines and factories spew poison into the air and water, as do the trucks and ships required to move goods all over the world. And of course the energy required to make and move all the stuff we buy is doing more than pollute our environment--it's changing our climate.

But people still need to buy things, though we probably need to learn to do with a lot less in the long run. And as long as we need to buy things, we will need markets in which to buy them. Though many people tell us the future of consumption is in mammoth malls like the one below, I'm not convinced.

There are many problems with giant malls.  I won't go into them all here, because I already did that in a guest post over at Bhagwad's Expressions sometime back. But this much, I will say: malls--and large retail establishments in general--require a huge investment in capital to build, and they typically require consumers to travel long distances. 

Contrast that with Delhi's many mobile--or moving-- markets. Moving markets shift from place to place, often occupying places on the margins of this great city, and bringing them to life once or twice a week.  

On most days, the road that runs along side the Chirag Dilli nallah is a friendly, but fairly bleak stretch. But on Thursday and Friday evenings, it is transformed into a bustling market. 

A few weeks back, I went looking for a hammer.  I picked one up from the iron workers who used to live by the Chirag Dilli flyover--they've had to shift several times in the last few years, but are still managing to make ends meet.  Then I took a walk down the lane and snapped a few photos. . 

You can get all kinds of things for the kitchen: food, utensils, etc. But there are also bangles and clothes...

Lots and lots of clothes.

There is plenty of traffic on the road, though it slows down later in the evening. But almost all of the consumers are coming on foot from Chirag Dilli, Sheikh Sarai, or Malviya Nagar.  

Most of the goods are delivered to the market by tempos. Given the amount of customers you see at these markets, it's a safe bet that it's more efficient to deliver the goods to a population that shops on foot than it is to drive the shopping population all over the city. It makes life easier, too, for the vast majority of Delhi's residents who do not own a car.

On the way home, Mrs. Batti and I picked up a few plates of tasty chow mein for the kids. It may have been a bit on the salty side, but there were not complaints on the home front that Thursday. Definitely, cheap and best! 

Of course, there are 'moving markets' all over Delhi. But if you want to sample this one, you can find some version of it in the following places:

Chirag Dilli Nallah: Thursday/Friday
East of Kailash:  Saturday
Saket Mall:  Monday (I've never been to this one, but it's supposed to be big. Still, it would be an interesting contrast).
Sheikh Sarai (near Bhagat Singh College: Wednesday)
Gouvindpuri: Wednesday

There's another great market that appears in the Shahpur Jat/ Panchsheel Park area on Thursdays/Fridays.

For more ideas how low tech is often greener than high tech, check out our low tech green page.


  1. And Sukhdev Vihar Fridays, Naraina Vihar Tuesdays, Ajmal Khan Road, Mondays, and the great Kabaari Bazaar near Daryaganj on Sundays... don't know if its still there but it used to be a great place to pick up curios and books.

    That chowmein looks lethal but I love markets of this kind! Best part is the names...Mangal, Budh etc & the workers who throng these colorful haats.

    Next, a piece on carts/redhiwallahs please...they are the ultimate mobile markets no?

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  3. Looks dirty, crowded and unsanitary. I never liked India much, I am not sure if I ever want to visit Delhi or any Indian city at all. Only if trying to stay into rich and beautiful regions of it. Thank you for posting, anyway.

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