India in the raw


I arrived here a few days ago, in a state of frozen fear. I had been given a very stern talking to by my accountant and felt that I was so scared I had no idea what to do.
Several days later I am finding that I have relaxed somewhat and today, going out with a delightful buyer from a chain of shops in Delhi, I suddenly find my confidence has returned. Sometimes I wonder if it really is confidence or a careening recklessness that overtakes me! Gosh, what an admittance! It is so hard to know how best to proceed with out the shop open, and at the same time we need stock. SO a rock and a hard place comes back. Confidence is everything.

I was planning to go to the Monkey temple today, but I find I feel so much better than I have for days and feel up to a bracing walk down Tripolia Bazaar. It is the street filled with hardware stores and huge piles of string. There is always something wonderful hiding there and I mean to find it.

I am now fresh back from a truly India afternoon. I was offered a motorbike ride into town, which I turned down absolutely, and took a tuk tuk. After a spicy lunch in the very garish LMB restaurant I went to the delightful Muslim stone merchant. Is that the correct term for a man who sells diamonds and all manner of other delights. I was not looking for diamonds, but stones cut to my sizes. A very obliging man, well, they all are, for a price.

Then the bazaar. It was all I had hoped. Such wonderful moments, one after the other, all piled up on top of each other. First there was the “terracotta images of Gods salesman.” We were haggling over the price and he had bad breath. Not only that but he looked like a 5 foot tall version of Freddie Mercury. I really was not getting where I wanted to get with the man, and he was annoying me. It was nothing to do with his looks, more his tone and smell. Suddenly I spotted a large mosquito in silhouette, drinking his blood. This beast, that had started out transparent, was rapidly filling up with blood. I was transfixed and could not drag my eyes to his. Should I slap him hard on the face and then explain? Or should I leave him to his fate. The seconds ticked by and I could not decide what was best, so I left it. Finally, full, the mosquito flew drunkenly towards me. I clapped, and splat, strawberry jam all over my hands. He shouted at me not to kill things. (thank god I had not slapped him, then). I retorted that I did not need him to tell me what to do. I knew I did not like him…
We parted all smiley and financially happy, so that was fine.

From there I visited the stainless steel wallah, just to let him know I wanted to see him, but not right now. He is charming and hospitable. So I was given pride pf place, right in the middle of his shop, on a rickety plastic red stool with a circle of veiled Muslim women all chattering to each other about me. He started filling them in on who I was. I told him to zip it, and charmingly, he did.

From there, I thought a walk would do me good and set off down the hill past the Wind Palace. It is a nightmare walk because it is the main net for catching tourists. I think it was ten paces before I had had enough and I leapt onto the back of a horse and cart to take me back. It was delightful. He let me drive the horse! I was so thrilled. It is a charming way to move around. All the motorbike boys were hooting, all the shop keepers shouting and the sound of the clipetty clop was drowned in a chorus of hoots, jeers and whistles. But I was exhilarated. Just me and the underfed Indian horse making our way back home.

So now I am all smiley and happy. It was fun. India in the raw. I am filthy, my hands were black, my ears are ringing and my catalogue of mental images has been fully re-charged.