One of the joys of living in Bombay, is that even if you only make a modest income, you can still live like royalty. How is this possible? Well, due to the fact that there are so many people in this city, the jobs need to be divided up. This means there is quite literally a job for everything. Yes, I do mean absolutely everything. There is one man who sells the fruit and another who sells the vegetables. Another man delivers the milk. There is one store for the grains and wheat but you have to take them down to another shop to grind the wheat into flour.
Sounds like too much of having to go all over the place? That’s okay, they’ll come to you. If my nephew is craving some of his favorite cookies, he just calls the shop and they run it up the four flights of stairs right to our door. It’s the same with finding a movie, getting your clothes washed and having them ironed….let’s see what else…oh yes, having your trash picked up,
You never have to bother leaving your house to get what you need. Of course, I rather enjoy exploring the busy markets and shops and seeing row after row of sparking bangles, clothes and shoes. However, if I ever feel like not putting up with the absolutely unbelievable amount of gawking and staring I get when I go out in public, especially with a full Indian family accompanying me, I can easily have the stores come to me.
I get all my Indian clothing tailor made. I used to try buying all ready made clothes but we soon learned that my American shoulders don’t fit into Indian sized clothing. So instead, I can request the fabric-seller to come to the house with a full selection of fabrics for me to choose from. If I don’t like the selection, I ask him to come back the next day with a new selection.
He shows up with a hefty pile of cloths wrapped in a white bed sheet and slung over his shoulder. His pile of pristine folded fabrics quickly becomes a messy mound as he pulls item after item to show me.
After I have selected the fabrics I like, Mummy-ji joins us and the haggling begins. I can’t wait until I learn enough Hindi to finally understand Mummy-ji in action as she deftly negotiates the pricing. Through Hubby’s translations I know it went something like this:
Seller: I usually sell these for 700 rupees ($14) but you of course need only pay 650 ($13).
(Mummy-ji heads off into her closet and comes back with a suit she bought from him one month ago that exactly matches the fabric he is selling today.)
Mummy-ji: You just sold me this one for 400 ($8). It’s exactly the same, why are you asking for 650?
Seller: Oh, the stitching is different.
(Mummy-ji holds out her suit for him to take a closer look.)
Mummy-ji: It’s exactly the same. I’ll pay only 600.
Seller: Sorry, no I can’t sell it for 600. It’s more long lasting than the other fabric, look at the stitching. I usually sell this for 700.
Mummy-ji: Why don’t you pack up, this is useless, I’ll go buy it somewhere else.
Seller: No, please, 600 is fine.
This is pretty much how it always is. Mummy-ji is an expert at haggling because when she buys an item, she also knows the prices for every vendor and what the item also used to cost her. As so many sellers are competing with each other, they will do what it takes to make the sell, but not without a bit of a fight. I used to be intimidated by haggling, but now I realize it’s all a game and the customer always wins. Sometimes you may need to get up to leave the store or even cross the street towards the next store, but you will usually succeed. If the seller is too stubborn to offer the price we want, there’s always somewhere else.
Since we bought our fabric, we call in the tailor.
Now that I have hand-picked the fabric that flatters me best, I get to design the suit exactly how I want. Short sleeves or long sleeves,? With a flair or straight? Trouser pants or Indian style? What kind of neckline do I want? How would I like the embroidery shown? This is the real fun part for me. This is why I spend an inordinate amount of hours during the year collecting pictures of Indian clothing. So I am prepared when I go to the tailor. I know exactly what I like and what flatters me best.
I recently headed out with Hubby and his sister to find some fancier fabrics. I mentioned to her that I just adored the fabrics from the saris and wished how I could find some suits with those details.
“We’ll just get a sari and have it turned into a suit” she said.
Oh, okay. Why hadn’t I thought of that.
“Let me just call my tailor and find out if he can have them ready in two days”. Two minutes later, we were buying sari fabrics which would be turned into the fanciest suits I would own.
The next day we headed down to her tailor, just a block away from where we live. And who did we see? The exact same tailor who had come to our home just a week ago.
It took me a long time to decide exactly how to design these suits but with the help of some quick fashion sketches from the tailor we decided on the most flattering options for both the fabric and me. The customary haggling ensued and we came away having three entire outfits tailor-made for less than $18 (not counting the cost of the fabric).
The result is beautiful tailor-made clothes that suit me perfectly…I wonder if he knows how to make western style clothes….I’ll just have to find out on our next trip.