Shopping in wonderland!
By Chaitali Aggarwal
All photos by the author/copyright: RIM Inc.
I could best imagine how Alice would have felt as she stepped into the amazing Wonderland back in the 19th century! It was, for me, a visual and ideal shopping dreamland view as I entered the Santushti Shopping Arcade on a sizzling summer afternoon recently. Seated inside such posh and serene area and a green haven opposite Delhi's high security zone of Chanakyapuri facing the Prime Minister’s residence was completely comforting to my mind.
A welcome change from the multitude of malls and commercialized markets that dot Delhi’s landscape, Santushti Shopping Complex is a treat for the eyes, the mind and the soul of shopping diehard. Translated into English, Santushti means Satisfaction, and the experience of visiting the arcade is truly satisfying.
Located in the diplomatic enclave of Chanakya Puri, it’s an upscale exclusive market that is run by the Air Force Wives Association. A cluster of around 30 terracotta-roofed pavilions landscape the sprawling lush green lawns.
As I started to walk around, I was startled by the arcade’s beauty, resplendent in the spectacular greenery and the striking flower decorations. The natural splendor of the place is evident in the fact that peacocks flock the lawns in the evenings.
The pavilions are housed with a variety of boutiques and shops offering quality designer clothes, both Indian and Western, antique furniture and showpieces, trendy home furnishings, fancy leather goods, jewelry, art galleries, and more. The premium pricing of the goods is not a deterrent to the visitors, which includes a lot of expatriate crowd, but an indication of the quality that is on offer. A large number of foreigners and what seemed to me wives of diplomats could be seen casually strolling around the market and filling their shopping baskets.
My day began with a visit to SAN-CHA A Tea Boutique, where I was served with fresh lime and sugar ice tea. The variety and the flavors of tea they had were indeed mind-boggling. The tea was well priced. The collection included iced tea, black green tea, white green tea, jasmine tea…and the list goes on. As I went on to try a few varieties of tea, I was amazed at the flavors.
Progressing further, I entered a shop, interestingly called ‘Indian Story’. An unusual collection of fancy bags, clutches and laptop bags that were printed with fusion and colorful old movies posters attracted me. Slightly on the higher side, in terms of pricing, but worth every paisa when it came to looks and quality!
On exploring the market more, I spotted a large collection of traditional jewelry and handicrafts. ENSEMBLE, with its collection of designer wears Indian and western outfits from Tarun Tahiliani, Rohit, Rahul, Pankaj and Nidhi among others, appealed to my senses. A wonderful place to get all the major designer apparel labels under one roof!
Works of famous artists and sculptors is another attraction of the arcade. Art Indus had an exhibition going on which showcased artists like Maren Das, Chittaprosad Bhattacharya and Somnath More. ‘Picturesque’ not just had paintings and sculptures but also had art consultants to guide you and dealt in framing as well. Their paintings ranged from Rs.5000 to Rs.5, 00,000, to suit a variety of pockets.
‘Tack’ that specialized in leather goods had an amazing collection of collection of bags, pouches, clutches, wine holders, wallets, belts etc. I could not resist picking up a bag that I knew was just the right accessory for my casual wear.
The arcade has a plethora of other designer stores such as Noor Jehan, Ravna Gill, Tulsi by Neeru Kumar, housing expensive jewelry, scarves, home furnishings, Indian handloom products, bright cushions, jewelry etc.
A store that stood out as one of its kind was ‘KASTROS’, a cigar lounge. This 14-year-old store is the only shop in India to have a multi-brand cigar collection. From the aromatic hand rolled Cubin, to Dominique Republic and more, the cigars here cost around Rs.4000 for one stick, which cigar lovers feel is worth every penny of every puff.
After a leisurely walk around the complex it was time for lunch. ‘Basil and Thyme’ is a continental restaurant and the only eating-place in Santushti Shopping Arcade. The first thing that struck me as I entered was the simple and casual decor of the restaurant and the large number of diplomats and foreigners enjoying their food. The menu was not vast but had a wonderful variety of soups, salads, sandwiches, quiches, pastas etc. A special menu of the day brought in a freshness to the offering every day.
A complimentary basket of French breads with butter - warm, soft and very tasty. The insides of the restaurant were tastefully simple, with soft instrumental music in the background. I ordered their roasted chicken and a glass of ginger fizz and was completely blown away by the amazing flavors and scrumptious taste of the chicken. The ginger Fizz was refreshing and perfect for a hot summer day. The taste of the food indeed hooked me and will have me going back for more. A little overpriced, but their quick service and amazing preparations of the food more than made up for it.
All in all, this market is a hidden gem - a fact that actually adds to the exclusivity and charm of it. The breath of fresh air and greenery as you step into Santushti will make you keep coming back even if it makes you loosen your purse strings a little. The charm of this place lies in its beauty and the concept of having stores in little pavilions, which is a truly welcome novelty.