Monday, August 20, 2007

"The World Loves Our Sweet Dark Beauties"

Shopping in India is at times overwhelming, frustrating and always interesting. Since we are moving to our new place this coming weekend, we needed this weekend, to find a basic minimum of stuff to make the move as least disruptive as possible.

We are simple people. We don't need a lot of stuff, but what we do need, we really really want to have with us. I'm looking for two mattresses, twins really, that we can later use as the base for custom couches or connected together to make a bed for the guest room. I need a few towels, some plates, cutlery, glasses... just typical stuff. We could also use a small fridge which can later be used in Will's room when we get a bigger one. And an air conditioner, just one for the living area.

Okay, now, where do we get this stuff? All the regular stores that we've been sent to are like malls, large structures with small stores within. Everything is expensive, not American expensive, but Kolkata expensive (I'm beginning to appreciate the difference). I know for sure that most Kolkatans do not go to City Centre to buy mattresses, but where? After going to many places, Will and I just gave up and went to the Crosswords bookstore.

We love books. We miss our books. I sent about 900 of my first editions, handmades, familiy heirlooms, art books, classics, etc. to my brother, and left thousands of them at my old home because I simply could not ship the weight involved. The cost to purchase new was less. Wills finished the last two Harry Potters on the way over here, and has read three more books since arrival. He really needed something to read and I've just missed having free time, let alone using it to read...

We arrived at the bookstore around one and decided to check out the whole store befor epicking up any books. Temptation was everywhere.

"Good Afternoon, Madam." The door was being held for me by the guard. We stepped in. There were three people in a small foyer. Each said good afternoon. Two followed us up the stairs. Two more people dressed in blue polo shirts joined them.

"Good afternoon, Madam, are you looking for something in particular?"

"Just looking, thank you." We walked from the stairwell toward the shelves. Another blue shirted beuaty appeared from between the shelves.

"Good afternoon, Madam, how are you today?" Total so far, five people following us around the store. I pick up Buck's "The Good Earth".

"Would you like that in a card cover version, Madam?"

"No, thank you. Will, put this in a basket." One of the people gives Wills a basket in which to put the book. I move. So do they.

Now, we're not the only people on the floor. It's quite busy actually; Sunday afternoon on Elgin Road is not a time to expect peace and quiet. There were other people looking for assistance, book in hand, but we seemed to be granted the larger share. We move toward the back of the floor, past the fiction, sighting architecture books. I was interested in finding a book on Indian architecture. None. I ask. Three blue shirts scatter. We take advantage of this and attempt to leave our entourage for another floor. As we start up the steps, we realize they are on floor duty. They don't accompany us up the stairs. Will said something about using this to our advantage.

When we got to the top floor, which was childrens' books and a cafe, people literally stopped talking and stared at us, everyone except the kids who were going about their play. I was beginning to wonder whether we'd made some big error somewhere. Now in America, by the time I'd seen two assitants looking at me I would have already asked for a manager and taken his/her head off. This kind of treatment is typically one of security guards/shop assistants watching to make sure you don't steal anything, and I for one never liked being treated like a thief. Here, it's a different kind of intrusion - we're uncomfortable because we're not used to this level of service, but I also feel that this level of service wouldn't have been the same if we hadn't looked like Westerners. A black (ahem, African) friend of mine says he doesn't get served at all here.

Anyway, we walked to the front of the store where the cafe is and looked at the offerings. A sign, "The World Loves Our Sweet Dark Beauties", was taped to the front of the treats case. It got me thinking. There aren't a lot of Indian women tapped for America's Next Top Model or featured on the covers of Vogue or Glamour, but there are some seriously beautiful women here in this country. And I'm not talking about the Bollywood archetype with skin whiter than my own, but women with an innate sinuous grace, shiny long hair that smells of jasmine, eyes as dark as a mystery, and a smile as bright as the sun. Women here walk with a sense of dignity and awareness of their quality. It's pretty amazing stuff. I related this to Wills over a felafel sandwich.

"Yeah, they've got some hot babes here," he replied.

The men aren't bad either, but that's a story for another post.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

All I could say is "Hmmmmmm"

When I moved to the US, I was working part-time while I attended school and I was looking at the same way you described..I did not intend any offense whatsoever, but I was trying to offer some help and one lady told my boss.

Thats the end of it..I never did it again..

Blacks wont get that treatment..when a Black says he is AMerican, Indians in India say "You're Kidding, Right?" :)

Radix

MITHU said...

Hi!! I have gone through your last post and came to know that you

are in search of some stores that are not expensive .... according to you "not

American expensive, but Kolkata expensive".
Since I'm born and brought up in Kolkata, I can give you some suggestions

where you can get these stuffs. You can try out if you wish.
Tell your driver to take you in Gariahat where there is a big store named

"Anandamela" -- a store where you can get all your electronic equipments.

This shop is located at the four-crossing lane of Gariahat.
As far as your matress and other regular stuffs are concerned you will be

getting all those stuffs in the Gariahat itself. Just tell your driver who I suppose

knows the street of Kolkata better than you to take you to the stores and not

to the mall. Just tell him to take you in a bedding stores where you can get

quality matress.
As you love reading books I would suggest you to go to "Landmark" once...

it's a store like Crosswords but here you will find many more things even you

can get your cuttlery set over here. Moreover your son Will will be getting

many more stuffs apart from books for his time-pass. Landmark is in Exide

next to Elgin. Here is the address of Landmark
Emami Landmark Store Pvt.Ltd, Emami Store, # 3, Lord Sinha Road
Ph: 22822617-19
Hope my suggestion will help you.

Anonymous said...

Hi!! I have gone through your last post and came to know that you

are in search of some stores that are not expensive .... according to you "not

American expensive, but Kolkata expensive".
Since I'm born and brought up in Kolkata, I can give you some suggestions

where you can get these stuffs. You can try out if you wish.
Tell your driver to take you in Gariahat where there is a big store named

"Anandamela" -- a store where you can get all your electronic equipments.

This shop is located at the four-crossing lane of Gariahat.
As far as your matress and other regular stuffs are concerned you will be

getting all those stuffs in the Gariahat itself. Just tell your driver who I suppose

knows the street of Kolkata better than you to take you to the stores and not

to the mall. Just tell him to take you in a bedding stores where you can get

quality matress.
As you love reading books I would suggest you to go to "Landmark" once...

it's a store like Crosswords but here you will find many more things even you

can get your cuttlery set over here. Moreover your son Will will be getting

many more stuffs apart from books for his time-pass. Landmark is in Exide

next to Elgin. Here is the address of Landmark
Emami Landmark Store Pvt.Ltd, Emami Store, # 3, Lord Sinha Road
Ph: 22822617-19
Hope my suggestion will help you.

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