2006 #4: Give Me Pahar Ganj Any Day!

Yesterday afternoon, after several showers to reduce our skins to simmering point, we went for a ride on the Metro to Karol Bagh. The Metro has only just opened here, so it is all still brand new and shiny looking. There aren’t even any rats hanging around the track yet!

So you go in and buy a token – a little round plastic one – to your chosen destination. And then you walk through a metal detector and past a couple of guards. They had to laugh at the clowns from New Zealand both trying to get through the metal detector at the same time. We were like a couple of kids because it is all so new and exciting – we were all grinning like idiots over this. They waved us through without searching our bags. Maybe they think such fools cannot possibly plot a bombing or whatever when they can’t even coordinate walking through a simple gateway.

The trains come every few minutes, and they’re so nice and clean and air-conditioned, so we were tempted to just stay there and keep on riding….

Karol Bagh is a fair bit cleaner that Pahar Ganj, the streets are wider, etc, but the touts are just so pushy. It makes you wish you had a machine gun! There is some nice stuff here and there, but when you even swing a glance in the direction of something from four hundred paces, the touts jump on you and try to almost stuff their gear down your throat. I guess they just don’t grasp the concept that it totally puts you off and makes you want to walk away – it was actually tempting to stop and buy an umbrella as a tout-beating device.

Going into the department stores was almost the opposite problem. I wanted to find a Salwar Kameez (traditional long top and trousers worn here) and of course Murphy’s Law came into play and put the Ladies department on the top floor. They did have a lift, but I’m reluctant to jump in one of those, knowing how frequently power cuts happen in Delhi. Imagine being stuck in one of those for a while and becoming a tender, succulent roast. No thanks.

So, three flights of stairs later, I came across the less than enthusiastic shop floor staff. Young ladies that were distantly polite, and helpful when you really pushed it, but kept glancing elsewhere and otherwise doing a rotten job in looking interested in what they were doing. I guess when you know you will get paid at the end of the day regardless, it changes your whole view on giving service. Maybe they should spend a day touting out on the street, and then see how they feel about the whole idea.

I ended up with a Kurta (long top) and some Salwar Kameez material and dupatta (wide scarf) which I will take to a tailor to get made up. Even though it’s more expensive to buy in a department store, rather than out on the street, I wanted somewhere with a fitting room so I could try stuff on. This is not happening out on the street! In Pahar Ganj, if you are lucky, someone will stand in front of you holding out a piece of material and you get changed behind that. That’s if the shop is big enough to actually turn around in. And then, of course, there is the audience. For some reason, watching white people dealing with the shop keeper is a common pastime around these parts. Well that’s just fine if you’re the audience, but being the star of the show can stretch one’s comfort zone a little.

Back outside on the street, Paul bought a Kurta and trousers, with a scarf. The guy that served him moved at the speed of lightning. Because we had merely glanced in his general direction, he had 10 different outfits out on the table before we could blink and the corrrrrect one was packaged and ready to go before you could say ‘um…’!

“Yes sir, this is the one for you. Oh you do not like the colour. Then you are having this colour or this colour or this colour…You are not liking the buttons? Okay, then this is the one for you sir. And you will be having these trousers (whips them out, holds them against Paul’s body). Yes sir, these are the trousers for you. And how many of these will you be having sir? Only one??!! If you will be buying several sir, then I am having evening price for you…..Okay, I do special prrrrice for you. ” Etc.

Quite remarkable. These Kurta’s do look good on a guy though. Much stylier than a t-shirt and jeans. And I must say, this guy was good at what he did. It was quite impressive to watch. And at least he didn’t try to actually stuff the Kurta up Paul’s nose, unlike some of his cohorts on the street….

Well, that’s it for now. We’re going back out into the heat to deal with tailors (Lord preserve us and give us patience) and other business people.

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