Wednesday 12 August 2015

Furniture Market, Amar Colony, New Delhi

Many Delhiites have never heard of Amar Colony. It has no famous sightseeing places or famous uptown or downtown markets. 

Amar Colony Antiques Market, New Delhi

But ask anyone in Delhi who is interested in antiques, particularly furniture and he/she will direct you to the Flea Market /Antiquarian tucked away in a by-lane of Amar Colony behind the prestigious women’s college Lady Sri Ram, near Moolchand Flyover. Not a single shop is a permanent or legal structure. Yet it has been a ‘permanent’ feature since Partition of India, when millions of Punjabi refugees fled to the capital in the hope of starting a new life. Some of the enterprising Sikhs (I am told it is a single family) started the business of selling antique furniture. Last time I was there, a bureaucrat had passed orders for shutting down the market and vacating public land. Phone calls were being made frantically. However bureaucrats come and go. The market has withstood the test of time. 

One of the second generation proprietors at Amar Colony Furniture Market  

Interesting is the profile of the owners and also those who frequent this market! Sikhs, so fair that they could pass for Afghans, own these shops and they also live nearby in Amar Colony. A few of them attend to the customers wearing the traditional Sikh attire of blue robe and yellow belt. On Guru Purab (holy days for the Sikh community) the market is shut down and all owners, young and old, participate in the religious procession. The carpenters are mostly from Bihar and UP. Behind the market they make new furniture mostly with Victorian, South Indian, Kashmiri, British Shimla and Rajasthani designs. New wood, new workers, old design! The visitors are mostly the educated, slightly crazy /alternate kind of people and of course foreigners with taste and an eye for tradition and a good bargain. One has to sift through old and new artefacts. There are wooden almirahs, doors, mirrors, benches, chairs, side tables, chests, dressing tables, jharokhas, stools, wall clocks, Buddhas, masks etc. precariously perched over one another. You need to have that instinct: This is what I want!!! With time the flow of antiques to the market has decreased and new furniture is taking over. But these are not bad either. Old tiles are added to new furniture. It is the blend of the Old and the New that is interesting. 

My collection from Amar Colony Market!

I have several pieces of furniture from the market and I am happy with them. No plywood, no plastic, they are made of real wood! Some items do look kitch, but like I said, you have to sift patiently through this dusty world to find a gem of a vintage item. You may be disappointed also. After all you come with high expectations. All said and done, a surreal place in modernity, it has a charm of its own in the age of malls and online-shopping.

Optimum use of space in one of the shops in Amar Colony

After browsing through the 15 odd shops, one feels hungry. Nearby is the bazaar catering to the taste buds of the young college crowd. While your furniture is being polished, you can order steamed momos at the Tibetan restaurant or Tandoori momos at the road-side kiosks!


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