Chandni Chowk Economics

Walking down Chandi Chowk is always an inspiring moment, and one of the best things to do in Old Delhi, even if street food doesn’t particularly excite you. This time I also saw the famous Urdu calligraphers and some of their works. My best mate has now had the best chicken of his life time at Karim’s. But he will never know the goodness of ‘Shahi Tukda‘ for a reason as lame as, ‘I am full’.

The bazaar, like Koti or general Bazaar in Hyderabad, is the quintessential wholesale market that is buzzing with activity even on a hot weekday afternoon. I pointed out, the best I could, to what is reminiscent of the old Havali architectures and some of the British colonial buildings that you can still find there. The people and the processes of the area would be quite alien to the rest of us, but one can passively observe them live their lives under the shadows of the majestic Red Fort and Jama Masjid. Aah..What structures of grandeur and awe!!

Some history from Wikipedia: Chandi Chowk was built outside the Red Fort by Shah Jahan as he looked to create his new capital next to the banks of Yamuna,  Shahjahanabad. The bazaar was designed by his favourite daughter, Princess Jahanara, and was originally designed for the shops to be in the shape of a half-moon centered by a pool which shimmered from moon light. The  name would most likely have come from the word Chand, meaning silver, which the market was famous for. The Moghul procession traditionally passed through Chandi Chowk, a tradition that continued to 1903, Delhi Darbar.

To me a simple walk through the grand market is a reminder of the complex and chaotic nature of India. The sheer scale and energy shatters any attempts to measure, validate or harness it. It is tempting, for the sake of conversation and argument, to  reduce this labyrinth of confusion into metrics we can comprehend. Chandi Chowk then is a reminder that no amount of academic economics, commerce, and statistics can summarize India and what it is doing; right or wrong. So at what rate is India growing? The GDP of India reduces from something point something to a meager something-else point something-else. Are now having lesser meaning as performance indicators.

What is for certain is that the great kings of old knew that even with absolute might and power, to rule is a privilege. While it is possible to rule by oppression, it would not last. The only lasting method to stay in power for substantial amounts of time is to ensure that the subjects are empowered, and have a means of livelihood.  To this end, while there are several pretenders like the Nizams’, the Moghul Kings were exemplary. It is not an accident that they were able to imbibe their culture, and heritage to the people. Empire rose and fell in India, those that left a legacy in history are the ones that helped India grow and prosper.


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