02.01.2010 - 02.01.2010 29 °C
I keep forgetting to talk about those "absolutely Indian" things that I have experienced since being here. What got me thinking was the thought of Indian driving school. I think it's fabulous that despite driving school- which sounds as ordered and lawful as ours- traffic here is apparent chaos. By rigid and uninterpreted western standards, there are no rules here whatsover, except the courteous honking of a horn when overtaking someone else (which happens all the time- blind curbs, straight stretches or in almost-standstill congestion.) The beauty is that, like China and other eastern countries, it works! Flawlessly (well, except for the unlucky bicyclist who rode into Lucky's auto rikshaw in Jaipur). Nobody slips into the dark pits of road rage when hooted at, pushed in front of, flashed or overtaken.
I decided to develop a newborn respect for our taxi drivers at home.
Another thing I love, but something that some could rather irritated with, is the fact that everybody is connected. It's hard not to find a recommendation for every basic or elaborate travel need that doesn't benefit a chain or interconnected friends or family members.
Other than that, I have a confession:
I bought a blow-up tube (as yet only used once) for Rs 140. I couldn't convince the shop owner to sell it for Rs 50 and after a little investigative research (and with some mental help from Dave), I acknowledged to myself that my attitude in Palolem has been somewhat anti-social, dismissive and even a tad arrogant when it comes to business.
Nevertheless, I'd like to believe that at the ripe age of 27 and three quarters, I've become a pretty savvy and intent bargainer- my skills born and honed in India alone.
I've used the following techniques (at times simultaneously):
1) Starting offer of 40% the seller's original price
2) Barter a bit then walk away, acting resolved NOT to buy anything
3) Doing background research and comparative prices analyses
4) Rs 50-take-it-or-leave-it offer
5) Questioned and shown serious doubts about the quality
6) Walked off when I'm blatantly lied to (an example being when i looked at a cheap t-shirt that what about 4 times wider than it was long. I asked about this strangeness and the response was, "This fabric the best t-shirt fabric in India. Very expensive. Very good quality. When you wear t-shirt, the t-shirt fit your body long. But ONLY when you buy and wear it.")
7) And when I have felt too high-and-mighty, I've converted to Rands and quickly obliged at any midway price
To be honest though and to temporarily forget childish price wars, I think we are either exceptionally ripped-off as a nation at home or Indians are sorely exploited by themselves. My restaurant or guesthouse food has cost less than if I were to shop at Shoprite for no-name only, cook basic meals for myself AND take a packed lunch to work. A local bus fare costs two chappies. An elaborate hanging made by hand costs a bottle of wine, and a 1litre bottle of mineral water (that combats Delhi Belly) amounts to a car guard tip.
Needless to say, I have lived well, have not gotten thin and scrawny as predicted, and am still having an excellent time.
I will try and summarise Goa in a couple of days. We're heading up north for a night and travelling by local bus. The 2 and a half hour journey should cost little more than a 30g packets of chips at home (from a supermarket, not a vending machine).