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Shopping is a personal choice. Some love it, and some do not. And this is especially true about shopping in Kolkata. While some people love shopping in Kolkata best shopping places, there are others who dread the idea of stepping out for shopping in Kolkata. They would much rather not have to face the crowds and the commute in the narrow lanes. Further, the haggling with the vendors and that too in the Bengali language is quite tricky.
Kolkata is a shopper’s paradise. It has a range of ethnic and international apparel stores, homegrown designer stores, the Kolkata jewellery shops and Bengali handicraft shops. The workmanship on the clothes and the craftsmanship in the jewellery is unmatched. (Read Shopkhoj Kolkata Shopping for a complete guide to Kolkata shopping.) You can find an exquisite boutique for sarees, filling your senses with a riot of colors. This is likely to inspire the love for ethnic and handloom fabrics on practically any street. Further, just wait untill the Mela season (Read Kolkata Mela) comes around, and you can find an amazing and breathtaking collection of handicrafts.
But what makes some shopping experiences a little more challenging than usual? Let us find out. For starters, navigating Kolkata shopping streets can become a feat. For example, if you are not entirely familiar with the city, its language and its eccentric ways. Let’s explore the challenges.
Barring the city’s well located malls, most of the shopping markets are spread around in its different obscure parts. It is easier for a stranger in Kolkata to accidentally wander into a desired store than to carefully plan on getting there. Directions are almost always about proximity to something or someplace else. Next to the bridge, under the bridge, take a right on the small lane next to the petrol station and so on.!
It is therefore quite hard for someone new in town to navigate through the busy small lanes and make it to the desired store .
How does one prevent oneself from getting lost in the vast number of small lanes and busy paras(neighborhoods)? Here goes:-
That brings us to the next problem. Your lack of knowledge of Bangla. Don’t worry though. The wave of globalization has not left the city untouched. Almost everyone here can now speak in Hindi, although sometimes hilariously incorrectly. The message is however usually easily comprehended. After a couple of khata hais and jaata hais you will be able to find your way . Mostly you will encounter Bengalis filling up the streets with their lively chatter. Most of the Bengalis do understand English even if they are not able to speak the language.
Beating the heat while shopping in Kolkata: Kolkata summers are unbearable and unfortunately the suffering lasts for a long time. As a matter of fact ,winters are fleeting and a glimpse of the wonderful weather at this time lasts only for a couple of months. And that aforementioned midday shopping, avoiding the office goers, becomes a torturous and arduous affair. For instance with the sweltering heat and the overwhelming number of people everywhere. So, stay in the shade ,wear appropriate clothes and have plenty of fluids. If you find it too hot, shop in the airconditioned comfort of the Kolkata Shopping Mall.
If you are not very familiar with the ways of Kolkata shopping, its narrow lanes full of vendors selling cheap knock-offs. It could be handicrafts, jewellery and pretty much anything really. In other words it might become an ordeal. Don’t be surprised if vendors accost you quite aggressively. You may find yourself buying something you didn’t think you wanted in the first place. And if they happen to detect the newcomer vibes you maybe walking around with, you may get cheated on the prices as well.
The best way to deal with these overbearing sellers is to simply ignore them and move on. There will surely be another potential buyer not very far from you to take over their attention.
Bear in mind that there is still indeed a possibility that you may actually find genuine and quite desirable handicrafts and trinkets. So, while you are ignoring the calls of the vendors, always keep your eyes open. For instance, you may spot the catch of your shopping day. Compare the quality and prices with 3 or 4 vendors, before you decide to purchase. Not to mention the fact that you should never try to purchase counterfeit and fake items. You will definitely have to heavily compromise on the quality. For a mere savings of a few bucks, you may actually end up wasting your money anyway.
This one is tricky. Many different shopping markets have different holidays. While most are closed on Sundays, there are certain shopping markets which are closed on Mondays or Thursdays. Call ahead to ensure that efforts are not wasted. Beating the heat, patiently wading through the busy traffic and navigating the squirmy lanes should end in success.
The other issue to keep in mind is that most shopping markets simply close down for lunch and afternoon siestas. This will curtailing the available shopping time. Shops are generally open only till 8:30pm at the Shopping Malls. Stores in Gariahat or New Market are usually open until 9 pm on weekdays. So, avoid shopping at peak afternoons and chalk out your plan well in advance. Hence, you will not only avoid the office traffic but also avoid reaching the market in the midst of a post lunch hiatus.
It’s insane to drive around the market and shopping traffic, with pedestrians walking in the middle of a busy road oblivious to the approaching cars. There is almost always a hold up of cars at busy shopping areas. And if you are looking to park your car near your favourite store, good luck to you. It would be a wiser decision to park blocks away from the stores and get that much needed exercise of walking the rest of the way.
In the end, with all the possible pitfalls and troubles, shopping in Kolkata still beats any other metro experience. The prices are reasonable, the quality is great and there is that amazing and famed street food, jhal muri (puffed rice mixed with other ingredients), phuchka (golgappa), singara (samosa), kachauri and telebhaja (oil fries), all of which have to be tasted to understand their allure. In all, the things that make you crazy in Kolkata, will be the very things you will learn to ignore and perhaps even enjoy. You may discover the shopaholic in you!
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