Saturday, January 2, 2010

India: the buzz

They call the bazaar the buzz. It's a thirty minute walk down the mountain and into Mussoorie, beginning where the shops begin. The stores are small and tightly packed with a variety of goods, usually displaying a few outside of the store itself. Shopping requires a bit of hunting: while one store might sell utensils and cooking pots, the next store might have bigger pots or a better price. Storekeepers are happy to show you all that they offer, if you have the desire (or time) to sit and listen.

Bartering is very much a part of shopping here but there are rules. Start low, perhaps at half the asking price. Say you are buying a shawl and you see one you like. Look at a variety of shawls, careful to not let on that you really like that deep purple wool wrap. Then justify your price: there are loose threads, this color is a little faded, the stitching is uneven. You go back and forth until "Last price." Shrug, walk away. Say, "It is too much." They'll call you back. "When they start to wrap your purchase," Joie explained, "you can be sure they'll sell it for your price."

The first time I really bartered was in Delhi with an old woman selling dusty old tapestries. A blue design caught my eye. I got hot and sweaty trying to convert rupees to dollars to dinars to decide whether or not I really wanted to pay that much for a dusty old tapestry. A woman overheard the asking price and unleashed a stream of Hindi reprimanding the old woman for trying to rob me. Finally, my brother rescued me and pulled me away. He and Joie gave me a few tips and I returned, shaking my head, asking to see more, shrugging, adding another (slightly less dusty and old) tapestry to the deal, and paying a price that was still probably a little too high. But then again, the old woman followed me down the sidewalk, saying, "You are happy, you are happy" and I looked at her two rotting teeth and thought So what if I could whittle this down another two hundred rupees? and bought the two pieces.
This is a man at a shop selling Kashmir tapestries, plates, bowls and boxes. Beautiful work.
After walking around the buzz for a couple of hours, we stopped for lunch at a place that offers a better variety of cuisine. As in, Nate and Joie can order a pizza there when they are tired of curry. Claire was tired from the walk (well, the ride on Papa's back) and as parents, we're still amused by our sleeping baby.
One of Will and Annie's favorite things to eat: mo mos. Mo mos and samosas reminded me a bit of the different types of empanadas you can find in South America. Claire woke up in time to enjoy a couple of mo mos too.
Such a good big cousin!
Always so much to see! Speaking of India, and not just the buzz, Nate told me that after three and a half years of living there, he still sees new things.

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