I had gone out with M yesterday to help her with some urgent last-minute shopping before she heads off to college for the next semester. The reason I had agreed to tag along was simple – she isn’t the kind of person who can make up her mind about anything; there’s always the need for a second opinion and then again some considerable time spent reassuring herself that it is the best buy before she finally decides. (Need I mention that her list of things to be bought was pretty long for a last-minute purchase? Nah! Just two sides of a sheet.)
Till yesterday, our routine consisted of hanging out at nearby malls, window shopping, walking in and out of brand stores, checking out everything from iPhones to lingerie, engaging in harmless trial-room shenanigans, clicking n number of photographs and of course, meeting other wonderful people like us!
It was yesterday morning when we realized that there was very little time left on our hands before she would have to leave for college and a whole lot of shopping was yet to be done. Given M is not one of those individuals with a conventional taste or atleast she likes to think so (choosy I call it!) and definitely not being too brand conscious, we opted for the obvious (cheaper!?) alternative – street shopping!
And so we set out at nine in the morning to Penta Menaka which is the place in Cochin one would go to for the best deals in gadgets and electronics. After visiting three shops, spending one hundred and fifty rupees plus one hour of our lives and a lot of begging on my part, she ticked the first item off her list – a fancy iPhone cover (which I later learned was a gift for a friend in college). Face-palm.
Then we hit Broadway, which many (including me) claim to be the Chandni Chowk or Linking Road of Cochin. It took us a good two hours to find a lot of things she wanted from craft paper to laces to hair clips and silver rings. I think I may have forgotten to mention how good she is at making artsy things, thereby making up for my complete lack of skill.
There was one more thing to be purchased before she could strike all the art-related purchases off her list – glow paint. After five shopkeepers told her it was no longer being manufactured or sold in Kerala anymore, my best friend finally acknowledged the fact that she couldn’t buy any glow paint.
“Can we go buy something else now, M?” I asked out of exasperation.
We had been loitering around under the hot sun for quite some time now and the heat was making me crabby. But my friend just wasn’t the kind of person to accept defeat.
“Let’s make our own glow paint!” she declared triumphantly.
In all honesty, I could have run her over with a car then and there. I couldn’t simply because (a) I did not have a car (b) I loved her too much.
We quickly googled the process and went in search of phosphorescent powder. As our luck would have it, we did not find any in the entire bazaar. This only made things worse for me. It was the opportune moment for M to start complaining about how nothing in her life was happening as planned.
I managed to loop my hand around hers and push her along. (As if my own body wasn’t feeling heavy enough!) Just as we took a few steps ahead, she spotted a table mat on a street vendor’s pile. It was green in color and had the painting of a pouting white cat on it. I knew what was coming my way and I looked away in the opposite direction saying a silent prayer.
Moments later, we were standing by the vendor’s cart under the scorching sun; me frowning and M going on about how cute the cat was. She had to buy it.
“Bhai, how much is this?” M asked the vendor holding up the mat.
“Medam, only sisty rupeej” the vendor replied in English.
“What?! But it’s just a table mat and it’s cotton!” I exclaimed.
“Nau medam. Orginal praij one pipty rupeej. Por you it ij only sisty rupeej.”
M and I looked at each other and then at the shopkeeper before we burst out laughing.
“Bhai, what do you mean one fifty rupees? It’s not silk and it’s only a single piece of cloth.”
“Medam, very demand product. Last piece.” he said as he rearranged the other mats on display.
“No no bhai.. Give it for twenty!” M bargained.
“Nau medam. Give sisty or don’t take.” he replied calmly.
M turned and pouted at me in a “do something” kind of way like she had been doing at every other shop. I was wondering how to tackle the vendor when I spotted a light blue stain near the top-right corner of the mat.
“Listen bhai, we can’t give you sixty rupees for a damaged mat. See.. there’s a stain here..” I said indicating with my finger.
“Nau medam. Washable. No stain.” he said defensively.
“Bhai, don’t teach me what is washable and what isn’t. This stain can’t be washed off. I’ll give you thirty rupees. Pack it.” I said coolly.
“Pipty rupeej” he bargained.
“Thirty rupees.” I said unruffled.
“Medam, no profit. Good quality cloth. Give porty rupeej.” The vendor was begging now.
“Bhai, nobody else will buy it and you know it. Thirty is final. Are you packing it or should we walk?” I asked in a firm voice.
I could feel M’s eyes on my face. I did not have to look up to know her expression would be the “OMG! What are you saying? I need this mat or I’ll die!” look.
A few moments later, as we walked away feeling richer by thirty rupees, M happily kissed my cheek before putting the folded mat into her bag.
“Should have bargained for twenty, right?” she said mischievously and we both laughed.
After drinking some lemonade at our usual spot – Punchiri Bakers (which roughly translates as “A Happy Smile”), we walked around the bazaar aimlessly till we came to a DC bookstore. We knew we just had to go in! It’s just like your Crossword or Penguin Bookstore.
Firstly, it’s a great feeling to go sit inside a book store with good ambiance. Secondly, all you need to do is waltz over to your favorite section and pick any book you want. Finally, nobody cares about you and you’re left alone surrounded by good books on all sides. All you got to do is not look like a shoplifter and also, not break anything.
But that’s not why we went in. There are only two reasons as to why I would go to a branded bookstore. One, to see what the latest books in fiction are and to check for best sellers I haven’t read. Two, to check their prices so that I can either buy them cheaper online or go to Blossoms and get the same books at a hundred and something rupees. (Don’t judge me!)
And that’s exactly what we did. After all the shopping was done, we went to Blossoms and bought books at less than their half prices. For instance, M bought a book called “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov priced at three hundred and fifty rupees for one hundred and fifty rupees. I bought Khaled Hosseini’s “A thousand splendid suns” (something I have been meaning to do for a while now) priced at five hundred rupees at Crossword and DC Books for a hundred and twenty rupees. First hand paperback copies mind you!
I don’t think we could have ended the day in a better manner. Soon after we left Blossoms, we took a rickety rickshaw ride and headed home; feeling happily spent and exhausted.
Thanks for reading. Cheers!!