And today was the Big Day.
Correct. Shopping Day.
In less than 2 months, your truly will be an embloyed womans. What does this call for? Celebration, of course, and new clothes. And shoes. And bags. And- yes, a long list. So I made a list of everything I need and everything I don’t need but simply have to have, and we set out – self and friend – to Pondy Bazaar.
Shopping in Pondy Bazaar is a kvlt experience. Those of you who have been there, bear with me while I enlighten the rest of India’s deprived population. Walking on the footpath is necessarily a joke, because there is no footpath. Where yesterday there was a footpath (presumably), today there stands an Encroachment selling stickers of Winnie the Pooh or “Nightie, medaam! Nightie paakkaringla? (you want to see nightie?)” or various wallpapers of some scenic location and a caption that exhorts you to “Rise and Shiene- for Tomorrow is Another Day” (Manimekalai Printers).
Not that I mind in the least- for one, the sheer variety is mind-boggling. “Ear-rings, medaam?” he asks benignly, the Encroachment Entrepreneur, as a firang stands bemused by it all, and the EE declares with a sweep of his hand, “What colour? I have all colour! All type! Ring shape, metal, white metal, blastic. All.” A little smile of modest pride lights his face. “Indian rings you are want?”, pausing to glare at the neighboring EE who takes the opportunity to shove a pair of ethnic footwear at her, announcing triumphantly “CHEPPALLLS!!” At these times, I nod and shake my head and gesticulate wildly and he ignores me, the Average Indian Shopper. At any other time, I am welcomed with a smile, but not when Foreign Exchange stands. I understand and respect his priorities and move on.
Thus rebuffed by him, I wander along into Mochi and stand gaping at the counters. A young Amit type salesman dressed in jing-chan yellow corners me and invites me to try on footwear with terrible prices discreetly scribbled onto the leather insides of the shoes. I resist and then fall in love with a pair of blue denim outside/leather inside shoes with a tiny bit of a faded gold thingie on top. I loll about trying this and that, but he’s seen my eye falling on them. He makes the Pitch.
“Medaam, aap yeh try karo?”
He holds out the blue shoes, more like magnets now to me.
“Bas, pehnke dekho, madam. Bahut accha lagega. Bas ek baar pehnke dekho aap”, he urges, watching my face for the slightest sign of capitulation.
I take them from him, and then try them on and sit, in heaven.
“Lekin itne costly hain!” I make a sad face and determinedly refuse to take them.
A steely glint enters his eye. He begins to babble, everything from the comfort of the leather, to how good they will look with my denims, the lifelong care system of Mochi Shoes, egging me to walk around in them, how shoes are not about the price, but about the quality, cut, wearability and brand…
Thirty minutes later, I’m charging the shoes to my platinum card and wondering if the MBA has helped at all. At any rate, his non-MBA-aided Global Gas is of much better quality than mine. Except pointing out how these new shoes will help eradicate pollution and thus contribute my bit toward Copenhagen, he has said nearly everything else in a penetrating voice. I have a new respect for salesmen. This one beams at me as I exit, his eyes no doubt counting commission. I want to scowl, but chee- I mean, one must be gracious in defeat. Besides, the shoes are muchly cute. I smile back.
Once out, I do the general PB round, past Nalli. The crowd ebbs and surges A maami outside Kumaran Silks looks me up and down and then, in a supposedly low-pitched voice, remarks to her daughter-in-law: “No bindi! And low neck shirt!” WTF moment of the day, peoples. A turtleneck… low cut? Really?? Meanwhile, a Roadside Romeo sings as he cycles past, “Loyola College Laila!” he trills, grinning meaningfully before he cycles out of my life. A loss that I will keenly feel for days to come, undoubtedly.
A tee, one dressy top which I promise myself I will wear at the nearest opportunity, and one obligatory pair of cheppallls! from the EE later, I stagger home, plotting the next venture.
Many thanks to Sruthi Radhakrishnan for her shopping assistance, the Saravana Bhavan chutney-chaat-chat session and general company.