Nehru Place, Delhi's amazing computer market

Dave Prager, a New Yorker living in Delhi, has written a smashing appreciation of Nehru Place, the main computer market in Delhi. I love LOVE Asian computer markets, have done since I first had my mind blown by Sim Lim Square in Singapore. I'm going to India to research a novel in September and I'm really looking forward to the computer-market-pilgrimage part of the trip.

All levels of retail sophistication have a presence at Nehru Place, from mom-and-pop-run closets stuffed with 1990’s VGA monitors to gleaming showrooms featuring shiny new brands. I got my Apple power adapter repaired in a shadowy twelve-by-twelve explosion of wires and motherboards and empty cases; the guy who actually did the work was perched in a wooden loft, surrounded by tools, his head mere inches from the ceiling. His effort set me back three dollars, and extended the life of my power adapter exactly one week before it failed for good.

You can’t imagine that this place once didn’t exist. The ancient old man screwdriving logic boards must have learned the trade from his father; the overstuffed cubicles must contain computers dating back to the Raj. Nehru Place is the new subsumed by the old: the greatest advances of humankind brought into a market that feels centuries unchanged.

Link (Thanks, Dave!)

21

  1. If you can find an original Lexmark/IBM keyboard, the one with the mechanical switches, then, well, gosh. Such keyboardy goodness.

  2. Yup, Good ol’ Nehru place. Of course, there’s the Palika Bazaar or Chor Bazaar (Thief’s market) where you can buy all sorts of pirated dvds and software, pleather wallets etc. Its underground, literally.
    I remember going to Nehru Place last year to buy a pair of nice Creative speakers that had chinese writing on the box.
    Couldn’t find a charger for my ipod though, had to pay for an overpriced 300 rupee one from a “legit” shop.
    The police try from time to time to scare or throw out the vendors out of the place and as soon as the cops show up you’ll see them running for it. Duck into a shop and when you come out a few minutes later, they’re back in the same place.
    Anyone who’s seen the markets in Blade Runner should visit New Delhi for the real thing. ‘Course you can’t get artificial snakes there…yet.

  3. I love that that picture. The keyboards are stacked up like they could be oranges, saris, or assorted tools, and then there’s the rocks beneath, supporting the guy’s various late-’90s wares. It reminds me vaguely of being in the South and going to flea markets as they got more sophisticated, with grubby old computers next to dozens of CD-ROMs, containing both unspeakably filthy pornography and pious Bible software. Oh, nostalgia.

  4. This is the permanent version of the Computer Shows they have all over the US.

    The difference is the computer show is usually only once a month.

  5. This article is way patronising. These are business people, not a tourist attraction.

  6. Gotta agree with Felix (#7), the piece is quite patronizing. Especially this line:

    The Indian retail economy is structured around clusters, with the best bargains and widest variety to be found in hubs where everyone is selling the same thing.

    Yes, that’s only in the “Indian retail economy”, right? Not paralleled elsewhere in centralized markets that sell similar things. Like a farmer’s market, a garment district or a diamond district.

    Also, the vast majority of what the guy in the picture is supposedly “selling” seems like pure junk. The homeless guys on Lower Broadway in Manhattan wouldn’t even touch that stuff.

  7. Riiight, #7, because shopping areas like this are never tourist attractions?

    Have you actually considered that the businesspeople in the market might like being a tourist attraction, because tourists do things like *spend money*.

    The NYC Farmers Market in Union Square is certainly a tourist attraction. It’s mentioned in tour guides. Part of tourism is about shopping anyhow. And about a differnt experience from what you see at home. Wherever home may be.

    I think you’re being patronizing in deciding for the guys selling in that market whether or not they can be both businessmen and a tourist attraction. As if being, in part, a tourist attraction somehow demeans you. It doesn’t.

  8. I’m going with ‘stray’. He does have an interesting face, sort of like a collie without all the fluff.

  9. …This brings to mind Harry Harrisson’s depiction of the “Circuit Breakers” market in Make Room! Make Room!. I wonder if any of those stalls also handled tube-type repairs?

  10. Cool picture! Kind of looks like my closest, which is really more of a technology graveyard than a storage place.

    Jimmie R. Markham
    <>dtr
    < hrf="http://400mtrvl.cm/" rl="nfllw">400mtrvl.cm: Trck & Fld Blg

  11. I was in Delhi in 1988.

    Walking across Nehru Place, I was literally grabbed and manhandled by three men who pulled me to a piece of grass and forced me to sit down.

    Each of them then literally FORCED their services on me:

    One of them was a professional ear cleaner
    One massaged my shoulders
    One massed my legs

    The ear cleaner was the most diligent. He created a pile of dark and gross ear wax on his thumb that [allegedly] came from my ear. He used his “medicine” on the inside of my ears. “Very expensive,” he said, but it popped and cracked and sizzled like hydrogen peroxide.

    I insisted over and over that I wasn’t going to pay for these services. Heads bobbed and rocked followed by a chorus of “Pay as you like, Sir.”

    At the end of this experience, three hands were extended to me looking for compensation. “As you like, to me, meant that I could toss 100 rupees to the bunch of them without any difficulty.

    Unfortunately, they were more savvy than that. They looked upon the 100 rupees I gave them as if it was a shit-sandwich and commenced to try roughing me up. I tossed a few more tiny denomination rupees in the air and bolted – my ears more finely attuned to the noise and peril of Delhi’s crowded and dirty streets.

    This took place exactly 20 years ago. I’ve never been the same since.

  12. The dog in the background is an example of the proto-dog that apparently all dog breeds when left to reproducing without human oversight eventually revert to. These curs litter the streets of every Asian metropolis.

  13. Fantastic, pick & mix; grab a bargain while you can! I’ve had a similar experience of having the hinge on my lap top repaired at one of these “stalls”, repaired quickly by a lovely toothless guy, cost a few rupees, lasted three days! Love it.

  14. Actually, it’s quite amazing what you find in these stores. On a recent trip to India, I forgot my (Toshiba) laptop power cord in the US. No problem. A tiny store in Chennai took an Acer power cord and converted it into a Toshiba cord in minutes.

  15. The description of the over-stuffed cubicle reminds of the furniture shops here in Malaysia. Some of the owners must be mad cause you frequently see furniture packed all the way to the ceiling, leaving only a small path down the middle just wide enough for thin man to pass. The boss is invariably NOT fat. ;-)

    They are full-sized shops, occupying the entire shoplot, but there’s no space for the customer to go in, much less browse. If you want anything, you tell them, and wait a few minutes while they dig it out to show you. Some hardware shops (as in paint and screws, no computer hardware) are similarly packed, though I haven’t seen any computer shops like this.

  16. When I was in Addis Ababa, I was using a borrowed cell phone and needed a charger for it. We drove down a certain street and the driver asked people out the window until he got to the right place, then we went in to a large closet sized store and bought it. Similar experience buying music CDs there. Good times.

Comments are closed.