Sowcarpet is the ultimate shopping destination for those who love the style flavours of Bollywood. Payal Chhabria explores Mint Street and the mind-boggling variety it has to offer…

Sowcarpet is fascinating, especially when you don't live there. The scene at Mint Street, packed with an array of garments and accessory stores, resembles Chandni Chowk. Hawkers shout incessantly to attract women who walk past them in groups, settling their crisp floral printed saris on their heads. Some are lured into bargains offered, while others choose to step into the stores for better variety. Either way, Sowcarpet has certainly crafted a very “Bollywood” image for itself. If you a Bollywood fanatic, this is the place to be… whether its Kareena Kapoor's bangles from “Jab We Met” or Priety Zinta's salwar suits from “Veer Zaara”, they're all here!

Besides, the mehendi wallas have set up shop on the pavements, sharing space with vegetable vendors and pushcarts. And the rest of the hustle and bustle stems from eager shopaholics.

Bangles galore

The bangle stores scattered across the street may seem like a handful, but if you were to ever count them, you'd realise that they're quite a competition to the sari stores. It's almost impossible to return without at least a dozen in your shopping bag... metal, copper, glass, plastic, oxidised, silver, gold and stone.

“We sell stone bangles and glass bangles; we are crowded throughout the year. We even have bangle boxes and trays to complement them,” says Jitender Vaishnav of Agarwal Fancy. “People come here because our pricing is reasonable.”

Butterfly Bangles and Bridal Bangles are popular among those shopping for their wedding trousseau. They have a variety of stone bangles, displayed on decorated stands behind transparent doors. Prices begin at Rs.150 and go all the way up to Rs.1150.

At the doorstep of Kankariya Sarees is a hawker who tries to multi-task between handling the crowd and talking to us. Most people seem interested in the red polka dot bangles and the range of coloured ones striped with silver. His prices are simple; between Rs.20 and Rs.30. If you are keen on cosmetics, then Ramesh Fancy stores has a room filled with double sided eye-pencils, an array of lipsticks, nail polishes stored in humungous plastic boxes and anything else that you might be looking for.

And the sundry…

Squeezed between these sari stores are other shops offering salwar suits and material, western wear, exclusive accessory stores, footwear stores and stores focussed on garments for children. Ada Boutique has set up shop in the dead end of a match-box like complex beside Kothari Sarees and focuses on youngsters. The display has a variety of salwar suits and material and western wear predominantly t-shirts and tunics. At the foot of the massive sari houses, hawkers have set up their own little creative boutiques displaying bangles and footwear. Nirmal Sharma, who has a footwear stall, says, “We import our stuff from Bengaluru and our prices range from Rs.100 to Rs.150.”

The whole six yards

Kankariya Sarees is prominent among the array of sari stores on Mint Street because of its bright name board and the person at its helm, Naresh Kothari. Most stores have similar interiors, with bed spreads on the floor, and saris in varied colours and designs segregated neatly on wooden shelves that almost kiss the ceiling. It's a task to pick a store to visit, especially if you are a first-timer.

“There is nothing different in what we offer. My strength is the way I treat my customers. They always come back,” says Naresh, exuding waves of confidence. He patiently unfolds “the variety imported all the way from Surat, Bangalore and Kolkata” until a bunch of women step in, and ask for a fresh stock of self-designed blouses. He insists that we take a look, at his brother's store next door, Kothari Sarees, which offers a mish-mash of printed and designer wear. Rahul Kothari, says, “Of course, we do have a regular clientele. However, we have visitors from across the city, every day. The variety here is exclusive.”

Bharat Singh of Riju Sarees is exclusive for its selection of wedding wear. “We have been in the market for the last 17 years; our prices range from Rs.1000 to Rs.10,000.” Amrit Lal Jain has conquered the area with his bunch of sari stores that are evident not only because of the assortment in their offering, but also because of their names that stem from women-centric Bollywood flicks: Dhanalakshmi, Bhagyashri, Mehendi, Mayur, Sajni — and the two-month-old Rupmandir Fashions.

Payal is a II Year M.A. Communication student at M.O.P. Vaishnav College for Women.