Monday, March 19, 2007


I may not yet know exactly why the chicken crossed the road, be able to describe the sound of one hand clapping or even take pebble from hand like Grasshopper, but I do know why cows congregate in the middle of the busy India streets. No, it is not to be in the center of it all, nor is it to create traffic jams as they journey toward the center divider they so favor. Cows are neither so vain nor so inconsiderate. It is due to the fact that the constant stream of cars provides two services to the holy cows. It keeps those annoying flies away, and more than once, I have been tempted to set up house on a center divider as well if it truly works. The second reason is that the passing cars create a breeze which provide the cows with a cool place to hang out as most of them do not come with their own air conditioning or shade.

Last Saturday I was in the mood for some shopping and decided to call on the relatives of some of my closer friends. I walked over to South Extension Market where one can shop in the trendiest stores like Gucchi or G.A.P. and buy the most popular brands like Calven Klain, all at bargain basement prices. But that does not compare to the Palika Bazaar in Connaught Place where I managed to find an Armani belt from Woodland and some GAP kurtas, which looked exactly like the kurtas from Tommy Hilfiger and Versace, right down to the color, stitching and design. These designers really need to start coming up with their own ideas and not just stealing from each other. I find it very disturbing, indeed.

I quickly made a dash for the electronics area where I was offered an iPod at a very good price. It was back, had several button on it and had the word “iPod” stamped across the front in big white letters. It looked sturdy enough to be used 5 or 6 times before falling apart so I decided to stick with my very own video iPod and moved on. India is a country where men and women are frowned upon for showing displays of affection in public, where a man and woman kissing on the side of the road can cause traffic jams and outrage, so imagine my surprise at the experience I had walking through the electronics area. Palika is known for their pirated DVDs, CDs and anything else that can be copied. From Hindi films to Sex and the City, they have it all. Each of the stores is filled with sales guys that spring to action whenever a foreigner is spotted.

Palika bazaar is underground and built in the form of interconnecting and concentric circles, enabling one to wander through the narrow corridors and get lost without ever really getting lost. It is also crowded and one must be content with being pushed, shoved, pulled, poked and, when one is a gora, hounded and conned. Palika is crammed full of things to buy mostly electronics, clothing, cosmetics and souveniers. I found a kurta that had a life expectancy of two or three washings for the asking price of 795 rupees, an outrageous sum for what it was. As it happens in India, when one is not interested the prics starts dropping and within three minutes, it was 300. I decided to buy it and paid with a bill of 500. One would think I would have learned by no, but obviously not. When in a place like Palika, it is best to never give a sum that requires change as they are loathe to give it and would instead prefer to give more merchandise and keep the cash. Suddenly instead of merely having a white kurta in my bag, I was forcefully given a black one as well, getting two for the price of 500.

But let’s cut back to the electronics area where the presence of a foreigner sets off a blizzard of activity and the conversations between me and the guys at the kiosks went something like this:

“Hello sir. Sir. SIR! You want DVD”
“You want Hindi film? English? Nice English. What’s your kind name, sir”
“You want TV show? Sex and City?”
“No, no”, I say
Then he moves in closer and whispers “You want porn, yaar” It was a statement, not really a question
“No”, I repeat
“I got good porn, sexy Indian woman, Indian women with white men, very hot”
I shake my head and hand to mean “No”
“You want gay porn? I have very hot men making the hanky panky. You like very much. I make you good price. I give you very cheap. How much you give me?”

And so it went, from one stall to the next as though a script had been passed around and I was the guest star in my own reality series, suddenly I knew the pressure Jessica Simpson was under and immediately sympathized with her “This chicken tastes like tuna” line. It’s not easy being the center of attention.

No comments:

Post a Comment