Sunday, December 21, 2008

Photos - Afternoon of Day One - shopping

At a street stall, Linking Road, Bandra

Found a quiet place for coffee, my saving grace.

I can't find all the pics of our first shopping trip in Mumbai. I'm not much of a shopper anyway, and usually can't stand shopping for more than an hour, or ten minutes tops for groceries. But I had heard Linking Rd, Bandra was the place to be. We headed off in an auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) to Linking Road, and were treated to a wild ride of dodging cars, motorbikes and people. I will try to find the pic of me in the tuk tuk - my expression says it all - woah!!!! Bob was having great fun, in charge of the camera, taking shots of anything and everything. We were really enjoying the melee of sights, smells and sounds of crazy Mumbai by this stage.

I had Christmas presents to buy (like, everyone's) and clothes to buy as I had packed very light and had only two days worth of clean clothing with me. We planned to explore the entire length of Linking Road, but couldn't find where it started, and never made it past the first stall with our money intact. Talk about novice street shoppers.

We discovered that once you show an interest in any stall or item, you are swept into the stall, offered chairs to sit on, and then you are caught, and you cannot escape. The sun was out and the climate humid. We'd just come from wearing cardigans in Perth, and the heat got to me. The stall owner offered me water, which I politely declined, to his concern. "But madam, the sweat, it is coming out now." For the rest of our time in Mumbai my dear husband Bob had lots of fun making comments in his best Indian accent such as "The sweat, it is coming out now", or "The hunger, it is coming out now", or "Your temper, it it coming out now". Back hme in Australia, I am still copping it.

I have no idea what we paid for four salawar kameez, though I know we didn't have a lot of rupiah, and just a few Aussie dollars, we lost the lot. Hey, to make a sale this guy was happy to take Aus dollars, of course, he checked the INR/AUD exchange rate first. These guys are shrewd business men. Don't think for one second they don't know the exchange rate for every foreign country, nor how much a foreigner would pay for a similar item in a department store in India, or in one's home country. These dudes are smart cookies. So there I was trying to hide the rupiah in my handbag, with Mr Super Salesman looking into my bag to see what was in there, and pointing to the extra few rupiah flapping out of the zipper part of my bag.

"See, you have more money here," he declared.
"Yes, I know, we need it for a cab ride home".
"But Mister has the money for taxi fare," he advised me. And Mr certainly did. I look over to see Bob sitting there guiltily rifling through a wad of rupiah (that he had earlier declared he would throw on the bed and roll in because it looked like so much money, yet it was only a couple of hundred dollars.) I guess the lesson we learned was, sort your rupiah into denomination in private, not on the streets, and secret some away in a special place, or you will spend it all.

It took around an hour to select four salawar kameez. I wanted a shiny, beaded pretty pink one for my 12 year-old neice, an embroidered one for my sister, and a couple of plain day outfits for myself. Every item I expressed an interest in was put into a pile for "your later consideration". Four sets chosen, we then started the real monetary business. Apparently this included bargaining for not only for the sets I had chosen, but also the 20 items in the reject pile.

"Only two? But you like these ones also," said our sales buddy, lifting my pile of rejects into the air with a rather dramatic flourish.
"I don't need more than two," I say. "I'll take only two. Or one".
"Only one? No, you say two, or three. Look, see how beautiful these will be on you".
No, one is. I only need one".
More flourishing of the fabrics occurs, and I say, 'Okay, I will take three." I am so soft.
"But this one fits. I get you large. You big woman. I get you extra large." Oh yes, perfect sales pitch, I am convinced I should should take all his fat clothes. How to make a not-so-slim foreigner happy with her body image and purchases. Now I am just embarrassed.

And there is Bob, taking pics. (You will note I have not posted them ... though believe me, I have a couple of them, in a safe place, kept only to assist me with weight loss ... major ughness).
"Okay I'll take four," I say, as Bob's eyes roll and he hides the rupiah, an action that does not go unnoticed.
"Only four? See all these ones you choose. See he has money. Why you not want them as well? Very cheap, I will do you a good deal".
"i'I sure you will," I reply, completely sick of this game already.

So, that was it for me. I only wanted two sets, not three, or four, and certainly not the ones I didn't even like. I stood up ready to abandon the deal, I was over it. Mr Salesman pulled me back down onto the seat ... "Okay, only four." And I told him, "That is two too many, but I will take four. How many rupiah?

At that stage the sweat was really starting to come out, on me and Bob. We needed to pay and escape. I desperately need coffee and a safe place to regather my mind and body. We could have just walked away, but both Bob and I are people who believe that once a person starts to negotiate business, one must follow through, regardless of how much one does not want to buy.

Cranky Am, in need of breakfast and coffee barks: "Four. Only four. How much?"

The calculator is whipped out. "10,000 rupee". Quick mental calculations in our brains ensue ... that is $300 Australian dollars. No bloody way. I don't even want four. He is lucky I am stupid enough to accept four, much less the twenty items in the reject pile. I would never put up with this kind of harrassment from a street seller in Australia, so why am I being so soft in India? I guess I am kinda polite.

"No, too much," I say. "I will take only two. Or one. I only need one". Actually I need three but I just want to get the hell out of there before my sweat comes out on everyone and everything within a three metre radius of my body. More calculations and communications with a new salesman mate, who has appeared from behind a wall of Indian clothing, ensue.

"I do my best deal. Just for you. 8500 rupee". My brain is in overload, and I defer to my math-brained engineer husband, who works it out ... "Honey, that's $255. Just pay it and let's go".

No way. I don't want four, or even three, and I'm not being belted into buying things I don't want, or need. Nor am I sure I am being charged a fair price, at the same as I am unsure that I am paying them a fair price, as I don't know what these things cost. the last thing i want to do is be ripped off, but i also do not want to rip anyone off. To me $255 AUD is pretty good for four outfits, two of which are heavily beaded and embroidered, and blind Freddy Bubble Head can see that a heck of a lot of work has gone into making these creations.

Fighting against the forces of good and evil, his and mine, I say 2000 rupiah ($60 AUD), to which I am met with a roll of the eyes, from both Bob (pay and let's get out of here) and the collection of onlookers that have gathered to see the day's Great Bargaining Event. Out comes the calculator and further negotiation. We are offered 7500 rupiah ($225AUD). Nope. My mind wants to pay $100AUD and no more, for my required one set. heck, this is the first time I've hit the streets of Mumbai. At that stage I am thinking pay and get out.

To cut a very long story short, I think we ended up paying around $50AUD for four sets. I am happy with that. Though we did leave the stall and escape unsure of what had just transpired, with both of committed to never telling a soul what we paid.

The second pic is me, jet-lagged and cranky, finally safe in an air-conditioned restaurant, with a coffee. that's another story. Coffee cost us 12o rupiah ($3.30 AUS). We sunk our coffee, Bob left a top of around 30 cents, and we left, only to be chased out of the restaurant by the manager, the bill and our money in hand, telling sus that they do not accept tips. We-a culpa. Scrambling through our bags and backpacks, we found the correct change, repaid and fled back to the The Emerald, which, for the first time, despite its smell of cat piss and burning plastic, I appreciated.

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