Baptism by Fire…………
Today we went to two more Indian markets – we had been to the more touristy market and the market frequented by ex-pats (someone living in a country that is not their own – that sounds like a great idea – sign us up).
But today, after we left the kids new school – which, by the by, seems fabulous – we jumped in with both feet. No rest for the weary – we are here to experience India. Bring it. It was a big slice of culture shock. And it was fascinating.
On the way to the market, we had a few beggars knocking on the window of the car. The driver locked the door – that was an ominous sound. Cla-clunk. If the driver thinks the door should be locked – well, hmmmmmmmmm. Begging is a tough subject and I will address it more in later posts – I am afraid it is not going anywhere and we will continue to experience it frequently. Right now, I will just say it is one of the hardest things I have seen – women with babies begging for help. Filthy children with hunger in their eyes. I am not sure if my words will be enough to bring the experience to you – but I will try – just not now. Later.
The first market was amazing. We had to walk through a metal detector to get in. It seemed as if the detector was completely unattended. Bear and I both set off the alarm. No one seemed to care. I know it was Bear’s shoes – we found out at the Frankfurt airport that his shoes have metal in the soles – I forgot to mention earlier in my blogs that he had his first pat down. He was not impressed. And I think mine must have been the cell phone I was carrying. Nonetheless, in we went unquestioned. But not unnoticed.
The entrance was extremely crowded. People on top of people crowded. That is one thing that everyone seems to say about India – that it is so very crowded. But I have not felt (over)crowded here yet – not until today. Customers stopped and turned their heads to take a look at us. The new animals at the zoo. Merchants swarmed around us. Offering to sell us everything from handbags to sunglasses to shoes to brightly colored ropes. (There were quite a few vendors selling ropes – why, I am not sure. But if you need a brightly colored rope – let me know – I know just where to get it.)
I had been told that we might be seen as “rock starish” because of being very light skinned. And the girls’ blond hair certainly adds to our mystique. The first market we went to was mostly a clothing market. I was ooing and ahing the fabrics and our hosts were soaking us in. They seemed drawn to us – I know they did not fall in love with us – but they imagined us with pockets full of money. And us eager to spend it.
Enter Number One Hubby.
Don’t forget he has been here since September – no longer a newbie. Some of the awe has worn away. We bought backpacks, aprons, and hangers. My dear sweet husband, who used to not like to return things to the store because he might have to actually talk to the clerk, haggled like a seasoned professional. Two aprons and 100 hangers – $2 – SOLD. To the lowest bidder. That would be us.
So, seriously, if you need a rope – not only do I know where to get it – but number one hubby can negotiate a great price for you – cheap.
I have to say it surprised me that he argued over $1. I was truly almost embarrassed. And, yes, I said so. But to no avail. I have more than a dollar in change jingling around in the bottom of my purse. Completely unused. But apparently, it is the game you play here. It is the art of compromise mixed in with a little bit of chess. Strategy has more to do with the negotiation than the actual price you are willing to pay. It is fascinating.
I have absolutely no doubt that I will learn to play this game too. I will probably even like it. But today – once I figured out the conversion of rupees to dollars and decided if that was a decent price – I was pretty much done with the math. Bag it.
One little boy eager for a sale wanted to guess what our country was. That is how he said it – what is your country. Holland? Oh no, not Holland. Which one then? I answered, the United States. Oh yes, I know that one. The U.S. He went off to excitedly tell a man who I am guessing was his father. That was all the welcome they needed. Easily 5 more men came rushing over. They stood very close and repeatedly offered their wares. It surprises me that I never felt in danger – just crowded. Very. Very. Crowded. I held my girls’ hands much tighter than normal – but that is just one of the gifts India is giving to me. I am keeping my children closer as much for safety as for want. They don’t argue over holding my hand here. I like that. A. Lot.
So here is my best description of how crowded it was. Imagine shopping on Black Friday with 1 billion of your best friends right after they announce an 85% off going out of business sale – and they just got in the hardest to find electronic game of the season. Then imagine doing that in a store the size of a small bus. Yes, the width of a bus. But not quite the length. Then imagine 100 of those stores in a box. There you go. Very crowded. Relatively calm. But very crowded.
Then we went to a market focused more on food items. There are plenty of American brands here. They are more expensive than they would be in the U.S. but as a creature of habit – I like the familiar and I am willing to spend (a little) more for it. And, yes, they had Diet Dr. Pepper. And, double yes, we bought some.
There in the food market, was the market I have been most curious about. The chicken booth. Wow. Flower put your seatbelt on. There really were live hens and skinned not-so-much-alive hens. The line was long. I found myself just staring. I did not have my camera – but don’t you worry – I am taking it next time. Holy hen, Batman. I think Flower might have more questions than just “why eggs are taken from their mother”. Like why does their mother live in that box and isn’t that one cold without its feather coat – and, oh yes, its head. Yikes. And, what are we having for dinner again?
The rest of the market was much like we had seen before. Lots of fabric – some household items – toiletries – fresh produce. Lots of nuts and dried beans. Some things are not labeled. I guess it’s like buying something very expensive -if you have to ask, it just might not be for you.
Anymarket – I feel like we had an adventure today. Number one hubby was concerned it might overwhelm us. I don’t think so. It gave us food for our bellies and food for thought. And, just like a baptism should – it will change the way we look at the world.