Big Bazaar Adventure! Shopping with a driver in India.

Yesterday, Daya rented a car so the housekeeper and I could go shopping for housewares at a big box retailer that several people recommended called “Big Bazaar.”

Big Bazaar is India’s version of Target. They have food, housewares, clothing, toys, furniture, etc. Items are scanned at the register. All wares have a set price that is not negotiable. I was the only non-Indian in the store.

It was nice to buy goods somewhere there was no need to bargain. I like bargaining, but there are times when it is not appropriate, and I do not know the culture well enough to determine when. For example, there was a time in Istanbul when Daya and I bought socks from a sock stand in a poor neighborhood in Istanbul. When we tried to bargain with the stand owner, he looked insulted and told us to just take the socks. We tried to give him his asking price, and put it in his hand, but he seriously would not take it. He insisted that we take the socks. Granted that was in Istanbul and now we’re in India, but there are still situations where it’s inappropriate to bargain and I’m not yet integrated enough into the culture to know what those are.

Back to Big Bazaar… While there, Rita and I bought: towels, pots, pans, cups, plates, serving dishes, food and spice containers, soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, spices, oils,  grains, legumes, an iron, an ironing board, a jump rope, some socks, and some ping pong paddles. Buying all the above would have taken a full day of going to various stores in a number of markets and then negotiating with shop keepers. That said, buying from local shop owners keeps a lot more people employed and spreads the wealth a big more than giving the profits to Big Bazaar’s shareholders. I’m a little torn here, but it was definitely nice to be able to buy so many needed things so quickly with so little hassle.

After shopping at Big Bazaar, the driver and I dropped Rita off at the apartment so she could put away the shopping and cook for Daya. Her food was ok, but not great. We are hoping that’s just because Rita was in a rush to get home after having worked an eleven hour day.

That Rita had an eleven hour day was a real “welcome-to-India” experience for me. The driver was about an hour and a half late, which meant Rita had a bunch of downtime she filled by doing a bunch of mopping – she refused to just sit on the couch. As a result of the driver’s lateness, we ran into more traffic than we would have had we left earlier. It should have been an eight hour day for Rita.

After we dropped Rita off, the driver took me around to the local places to shop. I asked him where the good places were to get clothes. I was hoping to buy clothes the same places middle class Indians did. It felt like getting cold water thrown in my face. I am way more privileged than I realize. I checked out the local stores and the quality of the clothes just weren’t good enough for me to wear socially. The clothes were often counterfit name brands made of thin fabric I could tell would rip soon. While I tend not to care about clothing on its own right, wearing cheaply made clothes would not fly when trying to go to nice restaurants in a class conscious place like India. I ended up buying a pair of decently made pajama-ish type pants that are now my favorite pants. However, I am still in search of decent quality, Indian made clothing.

I also bought a pair of Puma sneakers from the Puma store on sale for 2,000 rupees. That comes out to around $45. In my opinion, they were easily the coolest shoes in the store. However, others in the store were paying more attention to other styles that had the Ferrari logo on the heel (Puma has a deal with Ferrari and Ducati). The salesperson helping me asked if I was sure I did not want a pair with the Ferrari logo on the heel. He did not understand when I said I preferred the black and gold ones I ended up getting. I told him that in the US, the black and gold ones I was getting would already be considered flashy and he thought I was joking with him.

When the driver took me home, Daya was already there meeting with the plant consultant from Green Growers. He was walking around our apartment making suggestions for where to put plants. He made some really good suggestions we would not have thought of, such as hanging plants from metal hooks outside our window, rather than getting larger plants that would need to reach the height of our windows outside. I’ll show pictures as soon as I get my phone back to put his suggestion in context.

The driver called me a few minutes after dropping me off to tell me that he had my wallet. I must have dropped it in the car while pulling out his tip. I am happy I tipped him generously when he dropped me off. He returned the wallet with no money missing.

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