Window Shoppinghttps://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/destination-of-the-week/window-shopping-street-mumbai-khau-gali-delhi-janpath-pune-demonetisation-4383067/

Window Shopping

TALK visits popular flea markets and street food kiosks to see how they are faring at a time when cash is low.

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Empty streets in Janpath.

Khau Galli, Nariman Point, Mumbai

The vibrant khau gallis, strategically located near the city’s railway stations and office hubs, have been witnessing a lull over the last 10 days. Sachin’s ZBC in Khau Galli in Nariman Point is popular for its chaat items, khichdis, roti-sabzi and dosas, priced mostly under Rs 100. Over the last few days, however, the business has suffered. “Our sales are down by 50 per cent, as people are choosing to purchase from restaurants that allow customers to pay by card. They don’t have any cash to spend on street food,” says owner Sachin Shetty, who has been running the food centre for 20 years. “Until the situation gets better, we are allowing our regular customers to purchase on credit,” he adds.

Sachin’s ZBC’s loss, however, is Babban Khate’s gain. The samosa and bhajiya-pav seller down the same lane has been doing brisk business because of its lower-priced snacks. “Our vada-pav costs Rs 10 and samosa-pav comes at Rs 15. People prefer two of those over a dosa costing Rs 50,” says Khate, who did face a drop in business the first few days but is back to regular sales now.

While food is among the essential commodities, street vendors selling items such as clothes, imitation jewellery and mobile phone accessories are not as lucky. Kausar Khan, who sells mobile accessories, says he is witnessing the worst time for business since he opened his shop in Nariman Point five years ago. “If people don’t have money to eat, who will bother to buy a set of headphones or a mobile cover, even if they come cheap? Earlier, I would make up to Rs 4,000 a day. Now, I go back with less than Rs 1,000.”

Janpath, Delhi

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For a market that is usually so packed on weekdays that shoulders collide, Janpath was eerily deserted on Wednesday afternoon. While the shops were open, salesmen sat outside waiting for customers to show up. “Business has gone down by 80 per cent since demonetisation began. I have sold two pieces since morning. Usually by 3.30 pm, I would have done business worth Rs 10,000,” says Afresh, who works at Trimurti Handicrafts in Janpath.

On a dull afternoon, the empty pavement is occupied by shopkeepers, huddled together, drinking chai, discussing the long queues outside banks. For Pawan, who walks around the market with a hanger selling jewellery, his daily earnings have hit an all-time low. “I used to earn Rs 600 a day, now it’s Rs 200. People buy something worth Rs 100 and hand me a Rs 2,000 note. Where do I get the change from?” he asks.

At Deepaul’s — the famous cold coffee joint in Janpath — Ashwani Kathpalia, the owner, is swiping people’s debit cards for as low as Rs 30. “Apart from the locals, whoever visits Delhi always visits CP and Janpath. But everyone doesn’t use cards. We have reduced our coffee and food production by 50 per cent since demonetisation,” he says.

A few metres away, on the pavement sit Gujarati women who sell embroidered bags, bedsheets and cushion covers, urging people to use their Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. “We are telling people not to throw away their money; instead buy from us. We can use that money and put it in our accounts,” says Radha.

Old Delhi

The mutton korma with chunks of meat redolent in spices sits in a huge deghchi at the Jawahar Hotel and Mughal Darbar. The current owner of the 100-year-old enterprise, Mohammad Bilal, sits with a ladle, waiting to serve customers, who are nowhere in the vicinity.

In an almost empty bazaar, Matia Mahal, the famous food street across Jama Masjid, where business has always been done through cash, there’s a lull as waiters and bawarchis wait patiently. Except a few tourists, there are no takers for the food that usually has people queuing up to just get a whiff of it.

“Business has reduced by 60-70 per cent because of demonetisation. People need milk and medicines for children and not mutton korma and seekh kebab. The current situation has brought much gloom for people like us, who don’t have black money,” says Bilal, who has instructed his bawarchi to now only prepare half deghchis of everything instead of the two big ones that he would everyday. Right next to it, Karim’s, one of the oldest shops in the area, is also facing similar problems. “Our business is down in every part of the city. No one wants to eat our food at a time when necessities are more important,” says Mohammad Javed, who mans the cash counter at the restaurant. He adds that in the wake of the current crisis, Karim’s will start accepting card payments after a week.

Hong Kong Lane, Pune

The 600-metre stretch near Garware Bridge, called Hong Kong Lane, is a hotspot for cosmetics, mobile accessories, jewellery and bags. Usually busy, since demonetisation the shop owners in the 55-year-old flea market seem to be having a tough time.

A majority of the shops here don’t have card machines but some like Prashant Saswad, owner of Shri Shringar, are not letting that bring business to a halt. He is letting his neighbouring shops use his card machine. “All of my money is white and I pay taxes, so I don’t have any qualms in my machine getting used,” he says. Irrespective of such gestures, the footfall is low. Sanjay Kardak, owner of Rock On music store, notes that the machine isn’t of much help. He says, “Most of the customers who throng Hong Kong Lane are youngsters and they usually don’t own debit/credit cards”.

The shopkeepers say they feel bad to turn down customers due to shortage of change. Some like Sanjana Jani of Radiant Beauty cosmetics shop are accepting the invalid Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. “Business is low. Something has to be done,” she says.

Fashion Street, Chandigarh

Since the last one week, Krishna Kumari’s kiosk of salwars and embroidered pants wears a desolate look. Demonetisation has affected her sales, which used to be nearly Rs 6,000 daily. The rest of the shopkeepers at Fashion Street in Shastri Market, popularly known as the Sector 22 rehri market, share her sentiments. “Many of us don’t have machines for cards. Moreover, there is no change to give customers who give us the new Rs 2,000 note,” says Kumari, 34.

Meant for shoppers with a tight budget, the market sells everything, from hair pins to lehengas, socks, bags, western and traditional wear. Lined alongside are food kiosks, selling momos, paranthas, chaat and sandwiches.

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While some shopkeepers are still accepting the old Rs 500 notes, smaller vendors like Raju, who sells imported socks, have had practically no business for the last one week. “The socks are priced between Rs 100 and Rs 150, but no one wants to part with their change. I am accepting old notes but don’t have change to return,” says Raju. Manish, who sells parathas from a kiosk, adds, “We don’t have ATM cards and hardly have any savings. We have now borrowed some money. I hope things improve soon.”