Nobody is denying the slow, subtle charm of Aurobindo Market. Its neighbourly vibes, where everyone seems to know everyone, are soothing. There is a certain old-fashioned politeness in the ambiance of its two family-run bookstores, its fruit sellers, and in its many tailors scattered in the market’s corridors. At the homey dairy (since 1974), the display board cutely misspells its speciality, paneer, as ‘panner.’ The market’s dogs rarely bark.
But more charming than all of these things are the little spaces that intersperse throughout the south Delhi market, like little islands composing their own archipelago. These are places sans any commerce—they have nothing to do with shops and consumers. Most are grassy spaces. Some consist of benches alone. Parts of the market’s corridors actually stay so quiet that walking through them fills one with utmost peace. The market has many trees too, and gazing upon their dense greens is meditative. (Tailor Izhar Ansari, see photo, points to the tree in front of him, saying that while he doesn’t know its name, the tree gives a khushboo after sundown).
And then there are the market’s birds. It is perhaps one of the few bazaars in Delhi where you actually hear the birds chatter—they must be in other markets too, Connaught Place, for instance, has hundreds of pigeons, but you never hear them. Here in the quietness though, their twittering is easily audible.
One of the market’s most calming areas is a large west-side plaza partly laid out into a series of lawns. In the sunny afternoon you can see shop assistants sitting cross-legged on the grass, busy with their home-made meals. In the evening, the market’s park, boasting swings and slides, echoes with the cries of children (these echoes sound distant, as if coming from far away). This evening in the park, a woman in long gown is sitting on the bottom of a slide. A middle-aged man, dressed in formals, is swinging gently on a jhoola, in deep thought. In the corner, a girl in denim pants is sprawled on a bench; she is looking at her mobile screen, her face beaming with soft smile. A bansuri tune is wafting from a distance—a flute seller may be walking about in one of the market’s corridors. To cut it short, everything seems perfect.