Saturday, 17 May 2014

HAGGLING


Exactly one year ago I left India. It might seem silly (what's the big deal of leaving a country in which you've only lived for just one year?), but for me it was quite tough.
 
Saying that haggling is the usual way of doing business in India would be a euphemism. I think Indians learn this word before they learn to say mommy or daddy!  
 
In India each and every deal is negotiable: food, clothes, taxi fare, dowry,... the list has no end! You must work out a deal at the butcher's, at the fismonger's, at the bakery,... everywhere!
 
 
 
 

The first sale of the day is considered to bring good luck, so it's the right moment to get a good price!
 
 
But the real paltering takes place at souvenir shops.
 
A piece of advice: never, ever show that you are interested in something! Pretend to be indifferent; it doesn't matter how much you want it! If they see the teeny tiniest enthusiasm in you, you're screwed up!
 
The game begins when you ask "how much is it?" They start off with an astronomical price, and that is in deference to us, foreigners! They think we are all filthy rich!
 
 
At the very beginning, I have to admit that I was fooled. I paid 275 rupees for a churidar. If I had bought it two weeks later, when I was more experienced, I'd have only spent 100. When my mom came to visit me, I wanted her to try a vegetable which we cannot find in Spain (if I remember well, it's called bitter gourd). I paid for a pound of it the same amount of money my friend spent on veggies for fifty people in a week!
 
 
But then I learnt! Whenever I went to a tourist site, I was asked exorbitant prices for simple knick-knacks. Then I pointed at my clothes, my mehndi and my anklets and said, "But can't you see that I am already half Indian? You have to charge me what you'd charge an Indian!" I know for sure I paid more than the local folks, but I got to lower the price by at least 80%! 
 
Although bartering can be awkward for most foreigners, you have to find the bright side: you can have free tea! Salesmen offer tea to posible customers, so you just have to display some enthusiasm and... voilà... free chai (which is delicious, by the way)! 
 
Another way of taking advantage of eager shopkeepers is getting to know the place with the inestimable auto drivers' tourist guidance. They get a meal coupon or a petrol voucher for taking clients-to-be into some shops. That is what I did in Delhi. I saw part of the city in an auto (all by myself, not with 18 people more), I had some free chai, I went shopping (which I love) and (why not  confess it?) bought some stuff (mind you, real bargains!).
 
 

Monday, 5 May 2014

BELCHING


I am far from being a clean freak or germaphobe (or any of that shit), but India was far too fond of body noises for me at the very beginning!
 
There are a lot of no-nos in India, but there seems to be no taboo about coughing, farting, pissing, shitting, picking your nose, blowing your nose straight onto the pavement or onto your hand (and then wiping your hand in your clothes), spitting everywhere, bringing up phlegm before firing it out on the road and, of course, burping. Those are things they do with complete impunity!
 
But burping, especially burping, is socially accepted, even appreciated. They do like a huge, audible appreciation belch after a rich and spicy meal. It is a sign that you've enjoyed your meal and an indication of satiety.
 
But this sonorous post-meal belch seems weird to the uninitiated. It did to me, anyway!
 
I knew it was custormary to burp out loud. But the very first time I was eating in India and one of the fellow eaters at my table let go such a powerful burp that I'd have been less shocked if I'd seen an elephant flying, it made me lose my appetite; it made me want to scold him and follow up with a lesson on good manners.
 
On the second occasion, I was urged to start a little chat on the basics of hygiene. Nonetheless, here's the rub: the strange one around there was me. I was the uninvited guest who was in no position to criticize the habits and the culture of more than one billion hosts. Especially considering that I too, by ignorance or neglect, did things that were considered rude there.
 
One of the bosses there, made a great effort so that I got used really fast. He went all out; he gave everything he had! The minute he finished eating, he began belching. He let go a good 30 times, one after the other, after every meal. He did it, specially, while we went back from the dining-room to the school. No wonder why I stopped having breakfast, lunch and dinner with him altogether!
 
So, as the saying goes, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do!" So, when in India,... 
 
After all, as someone said, "who does not burp not fart is doomed to explode".