The Market

I haven’t pooped in 24 hours! I think I pooped enough in the last 48 hours before that to make me good for awhile. The day before we left Varnasi, Jos and baby and I partook of a veggie burger with some fresh veg on it and reeked havoc on our bodies. The onset of culture shock happens quicker when you are sick and exhausted. I wasn’t too happy with India, it’s food, it’s thievery, and it’s 8 pm marching bands behind my hotel wall when I am trying SKYPE. But God in his grace took me to the market today with my friend Terri and I was back in love with the culture again (and food for that matter.)

I wish I had my camera to take all the amazing pictures that are flashing around in my head, but I already had my water bottle (for re hydration of the 2 days prior), a snack and my cell in my hands. So after hopping on the metro (9 rupees) to go maybe 5 minutes (3 stops down) we got off at INA market where they have anything and everything you could possibly need, my first stop was a bag/purse of some sort.

THE BAG– Being that I hadn’t bartered in a few years I felt a little rusty and a little timid, but it didn’t take long. Terri hated bartering and so she usually paid whatever price they said, with usually is the “tourist” price which I cannot bear to succumb to. I am sure that I am still paying a bit more than the average Indian but still a smashing deal in American standards. He quoted a little less than $4 for this great, well made, durable bag that I spotted. I bartered down to $2.50. Then I found this little jute looking handbag that had pink ribbon sewn through it for A, it was $1. I didn’t try going down in price for that, it really was a great deal.

THE CHICKENS– Terri needed some cumin so we paid a visit to her spice guy. They had all kinds of spices, lentils and nuts. She got her kilo of ground cumin and a pack of dried peas and off we went to the meat area. You know you are entering the “butcher section” because the ground beneath you is wet and slippery; and it smells like a combo of raw fish,chicken, and mutton. She talked to me about how you order and the process it goes through before it’s ready for your bag. THIS IS AN EYE WITNESS ACCOUNT: To the left is a row of freshly plucked and cleaned chickens ready for purchase with a man sitting over them shooing the flies away. Below him is a pile of dead “fully clothed” chickens on the ground. To the right of them are three stacks of cages with live chickens all conspiring about what “chicken heaven” will be like. And then there is the man. The man has a chicken in his left hand, wings folded back in his fist. He grabs the head and pulls it back into his left hand as well and with his right hand grabs a long serrated knife. In the next second he slits the neck and positions the chicken over some type of bucket to let it drip out before it gets boiled briefly for plucking. In that split second I was slightly disturbed. Maybe it was my recovering tummy, maybe it was the non-chalant way in which the chicken had a voice, then was silenced forever; or maybe my son gets his animal loving nature from me and not his father. Either way we quickly made our way back to the clothing section. (and when I returned home to tell Josiah of my adventures, the chicken story was met with “So?”, what did I expect a village Mexican boy to give me? sympathy?) At least I know I will be getting the freshest ingredients.

THE SHOES– WE ducked into the first shoe booth we could find. I was desperate to find something I liked after all I had the same shoes on for the last 2 weeks and they were slippery when wet, casual and dirty. Someone in Delhi is enjoying my other sandals along with my other beloved suitcase treasures. (ARGH!)So we came in and sat down and I quickly discovered I wear a size 40 shoe in India. They don’t do wide so you have to look for a wide style shoe. They pulled out 5 or 6 pairs of shoes in every color they had and I found myself jumping into the experience. “I don’t like it, can I try that in black?”, “that’s to itchy”. “how much are these?”,” I only want 2″, “no thank you”, “here is your money”, “no more please”, and on and on. I think I had to rescue Terri cause she was way to sweet to NOT look at the shoes they kept bringing her after she had paid. “Did you pay already?”, She shook her head yes, and I said “no more” as I stood to go with her behind me.

THE FITTING– I am looking for a few extra Kurtas (longer shirts) but am open to getting just the fabric if I come across something I love. Another Westerner gave me great advice last week: when you find something you love, get it cause it won’t be there when you get back. I gaze over the material a little too long and so we are ushered into the underground scene, beneath the shelves of material. We sit and something like the shoe scene unfolds again. But this time instead of two men helping there are 5. Throwing out fabric like you wouldn’t believe. About two minutes into it they already have a pile of material they think I like based on the looks I have on my face. When I finally decide on one set of material already picked out to match for pants, top and “Dupata” (scarf) they are shocked to discover that I am just getting the one and not their pile. But they succeed in talking me into getting it “stitched” right here and not later. “I only have 1 hour, no time” ” 3 hours for you.” “No I am leaving in 1 hour” “2 hours, very fast”, “Sorry I can’t” ” 1 hour ready in 1 hour”. I look at Terri and she mumbles, “that’s a good price”. I think “yeah, but that’s an Indian hour not an American hour”. I give in and the Male seamstress stops helping the Indian ladies and comes to measure me. I emphasize over and over that I want the bust and armpits and shoulders all very loose, not the way they like to make and wear shirts here. So now we have an hour to kill. We wander towards the kitchen things.

STAINLESS STEEL– this mainly will come in a later post as I am excited to make my new home even more “Green” friendly than any previous home. I have learned alot from Terri about how to minimize the toxins in our home. One thing they have TONS of here and I love it, is stainless steel. Cups, plates, cookware and so on. I can’t wait to come back and stock up on my household items.

THE PUNJABI MAN– We passed by his booth at first but I quickly remembered that a Mother cannot come back with a gift for one child and not the other, at least not if she has a son who loves little gifts. So we turned around and walked in to the “trinket booth”. Surinder was an elderly man who spoke a little English but charmed his way into our hearts. He shook our hands, “welcome, welcome”. I quickly picked out a “Tom and Jerry” pencil pouch for Malachi and a Rubik cube (each 10 cents) to finally test my doctors report of his genius brain. Before I could pay he asks “have a half cup of chai with me?” I look questioningly at Terri and she agrees. So we look around in his tiny but very full booth. Paper, folders, notebooks, pencils, pens etc. ETC. Terri looks for Pokemon “something” for her son who is a fan. When Surendir returns from ordering our chai, I nudge her to ask him if he has any Pokemon stuff, (there isn’t possibly enough time to look through his stacks of things herself). To which he responds ” Pokemon is OLDSCHOOL, this cartoon over here is the latest.” That was pretty funny coming from an elderly Punjabi man that speaks broken English. Our tea is delivered by a midget Indian man and we sit and drink to our scalding tongues delight. Where do we live? Where are we from? When will we come back to market? Will we come and have breakfast with him next week on our morning trip? “Make me very happy, please.” Terri says “I will remember that.” Nice non-committal answer. He then says that I look like a foreigner but Terri doesn’t. He takes her hand and kisses it and says you are a special friend. I detect that he is a sweet harmless old man and I ask “what about me?” to which he promptly answers, “she is married, you are not”. WHAT?! ” I am married!” see I hold out my ring finger which doesn’t seem to faze him much, Terri says in my defense “she has three children!” Many more invitations and “Shukria”s ” (thank you’s) later we saunter out of his booth and over to retrieve my newly “stitched” Salwar Camis.

THE END– We return 5 minutes early to hear “5 minutes”, of course those are Indian minutes so we hop over to the jewelry booth across the walk and I find A a glass bracelet (which is currently broke in the trash in our bathroom much to her dismay) and I pick out a toe ring, only for married women, to ensure that the next Punjabi man that calls me friend and gives me chai doesn’t misunderstand and think I am not not “safe”. We hop back over to retrieve my order and sit down on the bench. “Sari for the lady?” the men start showing Terri their pictures of women in Saris (the sophisticated outfit of choice for Hindu women in India). She is not interested for today but we need some entertainment while we wait. And entertainment it was. She asks about the rumored “ready made” saris that all you have to do is snap and its on instead of the intricate folding technique. And soon two men are on the platform in front of us, one helping the other put the ready made sari on. I’m sorry, I can’t help my laughter. Terri holds it together and asks away. But in the end I have to say “Looks beautiful on you!” And the sari wearing man cracks a timid smile. 2o minutes later we walk out of the Material booth and head back to the metro , the “Ladies only car” I might add. Very nice.

I wonder what adventures our new home have in store for me…

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