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07.09.2016

When we heard of a second DLF Emporio rising from the ashes of Chanakya cinema, a shining Valentino adorning its brow, our first reaction was anxiety for neighbouring Yashwant Place.

To reassure ourselves, we eat a whole plate of delicate prawn momos at the strip-mall’s Momo Point, which fortifies us to venture into the market proper. Here we find Surinder Singh Madan, whose Madan Jewellers, with its delicate Continental jewellery, has been doing business since 1969, the year Yashwant Place opened.

Few Indians come to buy Yashwant Place’s leather and fur, which largely caters to an Eastern European clientele. Fewer still know of the market’s line of jewellery shops, of which Mr Madan’s was among the first. Three generations of his family have held on steadfast; from his grandfather down, each Madan son has learned Russian, even if they’ve never crossed the Pamirs. Their memories — and log-books — are full of receipts from assorted embassies and excellencies. However, they remain reluctant to talk, and even more reluctant to be photographed.

Mr Madan isn’t impressed by the advent of a new player in the neighbourhood. “The mall may draw more locals to the area,” he says, “but I don’t think it’ll make much difference to us.” He knows better than many that tightening embassy budgets can make foreign visitors scarce. As for locals, they’ve never really been interested in what he sells. “They’re all looking to invest in heavier sets,” he says of his compatriots.

His jewellery is Bohemian in the strict sense. Florid, pearlescent and Victorian, it makes us think of Christina Rossetti’s Goblin Market, but Mr Madan doesn’t ask for a lock of hair before taking out a pair of gorgeous chandelier earrings, made of silver and set with tiny diamond studs. Jewellery sets in this market tend to be earrings-and-rings only, because Russian shoppers, for reasons we don’t know, don’t buy necklaces. (To find some, we rootle in the strongboxes of Mr Madan’s neighbour, Mr Jain of Jain Jewellery Store: he can be coaxed into opening up boxes of diamond-studded Victorian neckpieces, tiered lavaliere necklaces and larger-than-life cabochons of emerald and sapphire.) 

In Mr Madan’s view, Dior and Chanel are welcome to try and re-arrange the neighbourhood. He only sighs gently at the passing of time, wishing he’d succeeded better at drawing in local crowds himself. “Perhaps if you wore a gown to your wedding,” he muses, “you’d bring your father to my store to shop for your trousseau.” If that’s the criterion, Mr Madan should hold on: the farmhouse brides are on their way now.

Getting there: Madan Jewellers, 14, Yashwant Place, call 26883034; and Jain Jewellery Store, 103, Yashwant Place, call 24121103. Prawn momos at Momo Point, shop no 2, mini-market.

This story was contributed by Bhuvi Gupta, a publishing manager for a tech startup by day and jewellery designer by night. 

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