Needing a break from the hospital I took today off and used it to explore the city a bit. Exploring turned into shopping as I realized I needed lighter and more appropriate clothes. I brought with me plenty of clothes perfect for the shelter but cargo pants and scrubs make me stick out even more than I already do. So i was off in search of good, cheap clothing And i was ready to (try to) bargain.
Waking around in the city is far from relaxing. I have to mentally prepare myself every time before I go outside. I have to prepare myself to be stared at and constantly approached by the shop keepers and residents alike. Most of them ask where I'm from and what I'm doing in udaipur. I have to prepare myself to be constantly aware of my surroundings, my hand on my purse and eyes on the road at all times as to avoid getting pummeled by a rickshaw or motorbike.
I headed toward the city palace as there are many (hundreds) of small shops in that area offering a bewildering array of colorful merchandise. The city of udaipur is known for it's miniature paintings with many shops selling work on silk and paper. Many places offer silver jewellery, cloth-bound stationary, cloth, stone carvings and various other Rajasthani crafts.
A man on the street stopped me and asked where I was from and when I told him I was from the U.S. he got very excited saying he as going to New Mexico in a few weeks with his art teacher. I told him Boston was very far from New mexico but he insisted that I go to his art gallery with him (of course.) I was hesitant but reminded myself this was what it was all about - meeting people and integrating myself as much as possible. I am going to be here for a month and I want to feel at least somewhat of a part of their community. I entered the shop and met his teacher who insisted I give him my hand. He said he was going to paint an elephant on my nail. "Um, what?" I thought. As he painted on my nail with a tiny paintbrush he asked what city I came from. When I told him I was from Boston a huge smile appeared on his face. He told me his father went to boston several times to teach art and he claims he taught one of the red sox. (!!!) he said his father met some Yankees players as well but didn't like them as much. Never in my life would I have thought I would be sitting in a small art shop in India talking about the red sox and hating on the Yankees. He finished with my nail and when I looked at it I couldn't believe what I saw. A tiny, detailed elephant with my name across the body. It is so small and intricate. He put some clear polish on it and it will stay for about a week. He told me I could come back and get free art lessons whenever I wanted. Yes please.
I continued on my journey. As I got farther away from the city palace I could tell there was a distinct change in the atmosphere. I was out of the tourist area and into the city itself. Here, moreso than anywhere else I felt as though all eyes were on me. I headed back towards the clock tower on the way back to the hotel and went in a small clothing shop. I sat and had chai with the owner as I looked at the clothing. I picked out a dress and a pair of pants that are to be worn together - both hand made out of light cotton. After trying them on (the "Ali Baba" pants are really comfortable!) I picked out two dresses and two pairs of pants and the bargaining began. He pulled out his calculator and told me the price he would as for other tourists and then typed in the price he was asking from me - about 1000 rupees less. I said no, and typed in 800 rupees less than that. He made a face at the offer and typed in another price. I wasn't ready to give In just yet. So I upped mine a few hundred. Finally, we agreed on a price. I am sure I could have tried to walk away and he would have sold me the clothes for my original offer. I really need to work on my bargaining skills but I was proud of my small accomplishment of not giving in to his first asking price.