In a retro Delhi mood

In a retro Delhi mood

I first visited Delhi’s Craft Museum in – gosh – must have been the early 1980s, when India was still new and dazzling to me, and Delhi was a bit sleepy and quiet compared to Bombay (as it then was) where I was based.

I have a memory of Delhi always seeming full of sweeping, empty roads, with space, and lots of governmental-y-institution-y places, all space and trees and not much happening.

Like the Crafts Museum.

I next visited the Crafts Museum some 7/8 years ago on a guided walk – pre Commonwealth Games, for sure – and it was full of amazing artefacts very poorly displayed.

Quite why I haven’t been back since, escapes me.

That usual thing of never finding time to be a tourist in one’s city, I guess.

Plus being constantly defeated by the horrific traffic – like today, when I wanted to weep, the jams were so bad.

Where on earth has the Delhi of my 1983 memories gone?

But now that the horrid, horrid drive there and back through manic traffic is over, I can honestly say that it was an absolute delight visiting, for only the 3rd time, such a charming place.

The object of the trip was to have lunch at Cafe Lota with my friend Catriona, so I only pottered around the courtyard of the museum, but I’ll definitely schedule a return visit soon, to go inside all the galleries.

What struck me today was just how gloriously spacious the museum premises are.  The whole vibe reminded of the lovely old Cottage Industries in Janpath, in that cute bungalow, before the new hideosity was built.

There is space and more at the Crafts Museum.

Courtyards, empty except for squirrels and the odd stray puppy.

During my pre-lunch pottering, I visited the shop which took me right back to the old Cottage Emporium days.  Lovely traditional products, classical music playing softly in the background.  Divine.

After lunch –  I have reviewed Cafe Lota separately in my review blog – I pottered some more, enjoying the gentle sunshine and the quiet and the trees.  There were some craftsmen selling their wares in one courtyard, though not demonstrating their skills which would’ve been lovely.  I seem to remember craftsmen working, on that first ever visit in the early 80s…

I bought some cute terracotta animals from this lovely man from Orissa, who told me that the nesting box he’s holding – well, nesting bird, to be precise – would attract sparrows.

He was so sweet, and spoke good Hindi, but got stuck at the word for “sparrows,” and then said “Orissa me, hum sparrows kehte hai” (In Orissa, we call them sparrows).


I bought yet more fat-bottomed-elephants, to add to my Diwali present from a girlfriend.

I met “Mummy-ji” who had made the eles:

The whole vibe was a little bit retro, and calm and unhurried, in a way that –  sadly – most Delhi experiences no longer are.

Now, about my bird box/nesting box/nesting bird.

Isn’t he too too too fabulous?

What self-respecting sparrow wouldn’t want to come and nest here?

Finally, if any of you lovely people feel like giving me a present – here’s what I would like.

THE most splendiferous gate ever:

Such a joy to find a calm, unhurried place in this city.

Return visit definitely scheduled.

AND…if any of you want to go buy terracotta fat-bottomed eles or the cutest nesting boxes ever, my friend Anantarana is there till the 30th of this month, so you still have time.

He also gave me his mobile number, so if you would like to contact him, do please message me.


  1. Catriona

    Yes – I love that gate too!!! Great post (oops – do I mean gate post?). Anyway it was a lovely lunch at Cafe Lota and I am sorry I could not do a bit of pottery pottering with you. Bird box is simply delightful.

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