Sunday, September 24, 2006

get out of my face

We'd love to do some shopping. We've tried to do some shopping. We'd love to engage with the Indians we encounter -- we've tried that. But here in Delhi, and perhaps it's just that we're doing what most foreigners want to do, we're having quite a difficult time. Our autorickshaw driver this morning wouldn't take us where we wanted to go, because he was doing us so many favors, taking us here to go shopping instead of there, insisting that he's just trying to help (and we discovered we're not alone) in this frustration. We walked into a couple of bazaars and were followed and incessantly being sold -- look ma'am at this brocade, let me put this sari on you ma'am, come this way ma'am look at my pashmina, shall I put this aside for you ma'am, since you are the first customer of the day we will not charge you tax ma'am and we'll sell it to you for less. There is no space, no 'just looking,' no lingering. I feel assaulted.

Marc and I have different approaches to these social encounters. I feel sucked in, unable to ignore, drawn into listening to the explanations (the paisley, ma'am, comes from the emperor's stamp, from the side of his curled palm, it means good fortune) and watching and ooh-ing as they pull out item after item after item. Marc can do his own thing more easily and not engage with them. At the end of this morning's efforts to go to a particular part of New Delhi (Connaught Place) and to do a little shopping, I feel nauseous and intruded upon and kind of awful. I just want to buy something beautiful, and go where I ask to go.

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