You only get to go to India for the first time once.
This post is a bit longer than the others – just bear with me and read it to the end. I hope you’ll find it as funny as the situation actually was. Sharon and I laughed at this episode many times after this with tears streaming down our faces.
I was resting after a long and punishing 5 hour drive from Agra to Jaipur, when Sharon bursts into the room and announces that she has found a shop selling kurthis and punjabis at 51% off. Suddenly energised I grabbed my purse and off we went.
“I know nice girls don’t walk down alleyways at sunset,” she joked “but a 51% sale calls for action our Mums never encouraged.”
All the trouble started at the end. At the first sign we should have just walked away – there’s lots more kurthis and punjabi shops in India.
The young and highly strung shop assistant had never seen a chip and pin credit card before, and tried to swipe it a few times (she didn’t believe me when I told her she had to put it in the slot at the bottom of the machine). After trying to swipe the card with no success a few more times, she then tried the slot at the bottom of the machine, and guess what… it worked!
The next challenge came when I realised she did not know how to use the decimal key. Instead of putting a Rs6,000.00 transaction through, she put just Rs60.00. We deducted the amount, manually, from the total and tried to put the the new total through. This time she put Rs59.40 through. At this point my bank decided to stop all transactions going through my card.
She was getting more and more angry, I was getting more and more frustrated. The thought of leaving the shop without my beautiful clothes not something to consider. I showed her how to use the decimal key and after 20 minutes we decided to try again. This time she put through Rs58,880.60 – ONE TOO MANY ZEROS! Horrified, I stopped her from pressing confirm just in time!
At this point a guy walks in and goes behind the counter. She shouts at him, waves the machine in the air, points at me, blames everybody, he gets angry and they start shouting at one another in Hindi. I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone. He tries to explain to her how to use the machine. She is not interested! She tells him she is not stupid (the english word among the Hindi)! All this time the machine is being waved around and she still has my card in her hand. Sharon and I and another customer stand, disbelieving, with our mouths hanging open…
With a sudden movement he takes hold of the machine still in her hand. She holds on to it tighter. Lots of shouting by both of them. They then start a tug of war with the machine. And the predictable happens… the machine goes flying across the shop and lands, in pieces, behind the counter. 5 pairs of eyes look down at the pieces of the machine on the floor, in silence. Phone cables dangling, uselessly, from the wall. Slowly we look up at each other, this glazed look of disbelief in all our faces.
It was only the compulsive, almost feverishly fanatical commitment to a 51% off sale that kept me from walking out at that point.
Eventually, one of the pairs of eyes in the shop that evening, a young student, also a customer, gently took hold of the machine, once it had been put together and plugged in (miraculously it still worked), that put through my transaction, like a pro – thank you Reema 🙂
PS: I sincerely hope that the highly strung young shop assistant and the guy who walked in to help are not destined to be married because there will be broken dishes and blood on the floor, every night.
Gulab Jamun…as promised, this post is dedicated to this most wonderful of Indian sweet. No other dessert compares (except maybe for my Mom’s chocolate mousse). I had loads of it! Tons of it! Everyday I had my fix of spicy chai and gulab jamun. It is now a standing joke amongst my colleagues.
This post is being co-written with Sharon, my travel buddy – and it’s the first time we are both visiting India. And one only gets to go to India for the first time once (so says Regina Martins – LOL!)! So we are going big.
Today’s blog is about the simple hooter. With all the mystical, spiritual and cultural allurances of India, you find that it is the small things that makes one stop and pay attention. And one such thing is the tooting of the hooter.