It was a ritual of sorts. They couldn’t return from Lajpat Nagar without a chocolate ice-cream and a pair of earrings. “How many earrings does your shop now have?” Onlookers and neighbours who came to visit them would often ask, putting on mock-serious faces. That was when she decided to keep an inventory though nothing could tempt her to let her possessions out on rent.
Mom was always a swift shopper and would stack her bags with whatever she needed – items from a neatly prepared to-buy list – before her companions had even got started. The crowded open-format market had stores to appeal to all sensibilities. However, the crowd was sometimes too much to accommodate dilly dallying from people like her aunt from Assam who took an hour to select a cushion cover for her drawing room. The aunt would finally decide to buy an umbrella instead.
Lajpat Nagar competed with Sarojini Nagar, Janpath and Chandni Chowk as a market for well, everything. They always ended up choosing it over the other, more romantic and oh-so-old-Delhi options. As far as she was concerned, the ice-cream had turned more delicious with time and the market offered her abundant stock for her earrings shop. There was little reason to look beyond Central Market, as Lajpat Nagar was also called by the more anglicised friends of hers.
They told her Mom could not go along to Lajpat Nagar as often anymore; she wasn’t in town. But when she wandered along the alleyways on her own, now grown up enough to go without company, Mom whispered into her ears unseeingly and gave her tips on the newest designs of earrings. She then went ahead with the ritual in record time. She had grown up to be as swift a shopper as Mom.
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