The hardest part about getting to the Dastkar spring craft fair is conveying where exactly you want to go.
"Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts jane," I would say to rickshaw drivers, to which they would look baffled, confused by all the syllables, mumble and shake their heads. "National Archives jane," I would say. Still mystified. But I would press on. "National Museum," I would say, finally striking gold but heading a good few blocks from my actual destination.
Somehow, despite the difficulties, I've made it three times since Saturday to the Dastkar Basant Bazaar, which is on in central Delhi until February 21st. Organised by the Dastkar society, which is aimed at promoting and maintaining crafts and craftspeople, it brings the said craftspeople into a marketplace setting, delivering them straight to the buyers.
And it's a fun few hours. There's puppet shows, dancers, music and a kind of a food court, as well as all the shopping.
And I think it was the food that brought me back today: after reading on other blogs about the mystical daulat ki chaat, which is generally only available at roaming street vendors in Old Delhi, I was thoroughly excited to find it on sale here, for the princely sum of 50 rupees a bowl:
I've had four plates in my three visits. What is it? Imagine fluffy, mildly sweetened milk foamy-froth, that dissolves when it hits your tongue but is studded with enough khoya and ground pistachios to keep it interesting. Apparently the secret to making it is to leave it outside overnight to let the dew settle on the milk. When I told Jason this he turned just a little bit green, but still kept eating.
I preceded today's bowl of daulat ki chaat (which translates to rich person's food) with some snacks from the popular Maharastrian stall. Apart from the ever-present pao bhaji, vada pav and bhel puri on the menu, I was thrilled to see some of the food my Maharastrian mother fed me as a child before I realised the copius ghee=thunder thighs connection: puris, modaks and puran poli among them. I chose the latter and chased it down with some lacy appams fresh out of the pan from the Keralan stall.
Then it was to the shops. No gloomy, dusty government emporium products here, Dastkar trains craftspeople in how to make their products fresh, contemporary and appealing.
At the Ranthambore tiger sanctuary stall:
Interesting charpoy-style chairs with built-in chai trays:
Handmade leather jooti-style shoes:
Painted beaten leather made into fish mobiles, from Madhya Pradesh:
Pressed leather bags (I think he was thrilled to be photographed but the desire to appear cool runs through to Rajasthan):
And beautiful, hand-embroidered work from Kutch district in Gujarat, thanks to Kala-raksha: