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Shop and sham



SHOPPING IN THE RAIN: A scene at the Janpath Market in New Delhi. Photo: S. Subramanium.

`NA APKA, na mera', the age-old truce line of the fashion lane of Janpath, blooming with summer collection of the anonymous designers is still intact. Known for presenting the latest designer statements at dirt-cheap rates, the lane is the ultimate test of bargainers. "I can tell at how many steps away from the shop, the shopkeeper will start reducing the prices," says Shalini Baweja, a veteran in the trade at the age of 23. But for a majority, the passage is still a poser "because some times the prices are slashed by one-third within minutes, so there is always an apprehension whether you have struck the right deal or not as after all he is here to make profit," feels a discontented Ritu Singh with a bagful of clothes.

This season bandhini tops with tie and dye printing and glasswork surrounded by little ghungroos completing the Rajasthani charm are catching the fancy of the regulars. "The demand is so much that we have to call our unit in Jaipur every day," says Lalit Kumar of Patel Enterprises. Holy symbols on short kurtas and kurtis are still intact with prints giving way to laminated stickers this time. "Diagonal and straight strips are still in demand, however, this season cut is a bit different and laces have been added around the hemline and neckline," comments Hemant Bhasin adding for more hip there are stretchable straight pants made of lycra and non-stretchable parallel trousers in flex cotton.

Beckoning the young crowd are long crinkled and flared skirts and jeans with side slits and front slits and for those who want to be singled out in the crowd, wrap around skirts with some eye-catching motifs. Hop on to Gujarat Emporium full of ethnic stuff where suddenly the price crosses the four-figure mark and you will find a salesperson trying to lure an English couple in their language. Street smart, the couple tells the lady that they will survey the whole market and then decide. Try to engage her in conversation, she switches to vernacular the moment the foreign couple disappears. "I don't know more than yes and no, " she says with a miffed look.

For accessories, Janpath wants to take you on the queer lane of history with "Amrapali" like jewellery made of white metal and belts made of jute projected as cotton and nylon. Eyes are also being looked after for Rs.250 with "400 per cent ultraviolet resistant glasses made of polyvinyl carbonate" which happens to be just next to "Rayban which is per cent resistant to harmful rays." After lessons in percentages, move on to brands. "You name the brand and we will put that," says Lalit. From GAP to Tommy Hilfilger to Tamarind, brand equity takes a tumbling here. "The company sells the surplus labels in the waste market and from there they make their way to Janpath," explains Lalit. Though they don't have time to discuss their trade, most shopkeepers smirk that people come only for window-shopping here - again a reality of the lane of labels - a way to bargain, a road to deceit, a no-guarantee zone.

ANUJ KUMAR

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