Tuesday, September 4, 2007

I Bought Liquor By Myself, Sort of.

I asked the driver to pick up Will and bring him to the office. I asked him to accompany me on my quest to buy something all by myself. He said, "Mom, if I'm with you, it's not all by yourself." Okay. Truth is, I knew this could be a bit hairy, so I wanted him along. Havng a 6'1" beefy white dude couldn't hurt. We told the driver where we wanted to go. I was pretty sure where the place was, and I was able to locate it without too much fuss. It was dark by this time, and the only bright light emanated from inside the shop. There were four steps up to the iron cage that kept the people out. There was one hole in the grating, big enough for money and bottles to pass through. My car was about 15 feet from the steps. Will and I got out and approached the steps. Will said, "I'll stay down here in case there's trouble." He was standing there looking like a Secret Service agent - lots of furtive glancing, arms crossed over his chest, big scowl on his face.

I went up the steps to join the 8 or 9 men crowded around the entrance. Inside the store was brightly lit. There were lots of very small bottles and a lot of imported brands tucked in everywhere all the way up to the ceiling. I watched the men order - they were typically spending about 5 to 10 rupees on pints of whiskey. I asked how much the Skyy Vodka was. 1,500 rupees. I ask about the Smirnoff Triple Distilled - 430 rupees. I ended up choosing the Blue Riband Gin at around 200 rupees a bottle. I hand over the money and they wrap up the bottle in newspaper and hand it back. I head back down the stairs into the darkness, and into my car.

That wasn't so bad. Overall, it took maybe 5 or 10 minutes. I had a couple people tell me I was crazy attempting to buy my own liquor. Apparently, Bollywood starlets still get flak when they are found out to smoke cigarettes or drink. There is the possibility that people on the street may make assumptions about me and cause me trouble. Here's where everything I stand for, everything I believe in comes to play. I can either work within a flawed system and assimilate, or I can believe in myself and self-worth and not care what some dude on the street thinks of me. And as usual, I do not go quietly.

It may have seemed a simple thing, it may have seemed a stupid thing to do, but it was a big step for me in asserting my independence, something I do not take for granted.


Anonymous said...

Imao! Great Jeanne! It's good to see you that you decided to do your things in your own way.

Well,I just cant help you saying that Kolkata is much safer place than Mumbai and Delhi and it is unlikely that you will face any serious trouble, specially you being an westerner.May be there will be some men gazing at you but I think it wont affect you in anyway. But you better not take your son to that places; he might be a 6 ft 1" dude but if,god forbid, two or three men with good muscles try to create any problem , BOTH of you will be landed in a grave situation. It will be better if you ask your driver to be with you.
This is a just a word of caution. Dont get panicked :) And yes, try to buy the liquor in sundays during daylight...hehe...as there will be almost no bad crowd around the shop.

As far as taking help from the neighbours is concerned then you can be assured that there is less chance of your neighbour borrowing things as affluent families live there ..hehe....But yes, few of them might ask your favor so thaty they can land up in USA ;) After all the dream of getting US green card is still quiet common ;)

Jokes apart, seriously if you ask for guidance from your neighbours ,without being too friendly ,you will get help.You just have to keep a big smile on your face and patient and friendly in your attitude.
In return at one point you might be asked to help anyone but that's the way any society runs. Its all about adjustment and being each other's help when needed.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mam,

I was a employee in the company for whom you are working. As you are a foreigner, so everyone would like to fool you as you don't know what's the exact rates at which people work over here or rent a flat etc. So I do request you to check thoroughly watever you are going to buy or rent. As one of the other people has already told you in your blog not to measure in terms of dollars, its INDIA, so do measure it in INDIAN currency. And in your office do not trust those peoples who are giving their helping hand to help you. So BEWARE of those guys. And Last of all , i've been reading your blogs from the 1st day, and i must appreciate your courage and liberty to do anything you want as a woman within your limit..Do what you think is correct and dont hear anybody.. its kolkata evryone will PEEP in what you're doing. You know that INDIAN woman is still a "bird in the cage". They don't have any license to fly, to think of their own... HATS OFF 2 UU MAM..

You can reply to me in my email address...

BYE -- thrillinmystery@yahoo.com

Anonymous said...

It is always so hard isn't it to really be yourself in a new country? I've lived 16 years in the US and there are many times even now when I feel out of place and lost. But you have a problem that I never had to deal with: language. I speak English fluently so communication was never a problem. My advice: find a fellow woman professional to vent with and to help resolve some of your practical problems. Not a stay-at-home mom but someone who both works and has to deal with home issues like you. Easier said than done, I know. But perhaps, there is someone like that in your office? Perhaps the wife of a male colleague? Is there an expat organization like an expat women's group?

Also, India is not the best place to be "autonomous." It's very much a place where you find a group of friends and hang out with them all your life. Or where you hang out with your family which you have probably figured out by now is hugely important there.

Having said that, there are areas of life where you can assert your independence. Hire part-time help instead of full-time, i.e. servants who come for a couple of hours in the AM and PM. That way, you can have privacy for yourself and your son the rest of the day. Exercise your interests in the cultural arts (you're probably in the best Indian city for that, despite the shabby, crumbling infrastructure). Use the help you're given - people to do your groceries, your drycleaning, etc - to do what you really want to do, like reading, cooking, exercise.

Funny, I don't really mind not being able to buy my own liquor in India (that would be nice, I admit)or being able to drive (I'm always on the road here). What I miss most in Kolkata is the inability to walk outdoors for exercise because of the state of the sidewalks and the pollution. Good luck! I have a feeling that things will feel better once your son settles down in school.

Kenneth said...

congrats on your purchase, now about vodka, indian vodka brands like romanov is just as good as any other vodka, and a lot cheaper, after all how different can the indian(couch?)potato be from the russian one! the hype about absolut and grey goose is atually all about the bottle not the spirit,i would still be circumspect about buying booze on your own, cheers,kenneth.

Anonymous said...

I honestly dont think that your neighbors would lend something from you if you borrow something from them nor they will ask your help in getting a Green Card.

Take my word for it..the American Dream is dead, not many people care about landing here anymore..

I repeat, dont hesitate to ask help from your neighors thinking that they want to borrow something from you in return..atleast not in a kind of community you are living..Its just like me thinking that all Afro Americans are criminals since I was mugged couple
of times! :)

Things are really different, in this aspect in India..once you get to know people lil bit more, then probably you'd agree with me...

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