Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Day 8

I blogged everyday in India at my family's request so they could get a sense of the country. Here is my post from the final day. Most of us slept in on Sunday after a long Saturday travelling to the Taj Mahal. Two of my classmates asked me to walk to a nearby outdoor shopping mall which included a Pizza Hut versus staying at the hotel for an Indian lunch. It was an easy decision and the Pizza Hut tasted like heaven...scary, I know. After lunch we boarded a bus for a local flea market, which was in a gated park in downtown Delhi. The market charged 20 rupees ($.45) to enter to encourage serious buyers only. Once inside the deals were tremendous with vendors selling Kashmir (cashmere) scarfs, sarees, etc. as well as leather handbags and jewelry. All pricing is negotiated and I think I did pretty well picking up two cashmere scarfs, a leather handbag and three leather wallets for about 3,500 rupees ($70). A typical cashmere scarf might cost about $100 in a U.S. department store and these were hand made. The irony of coming from one of the richest countries in the world and negotiating prices with vendors from one of the poorest countries in the world was not lost on me. However the vendors seemed to relish the opportunity. If they quoted a price and were unwilling to come down, I would walk away and you could still hear them shouting after you ("I give lower price") from several kiosks away. Several times I would negotiate the price down and then tip them the difference from the originally quoted price...the difference might be $5 and they would treat you like a king. Our flight home left at 4:50 am Monday requiring us to leave for the airport around midnight. Many of us gathered in one room and reminisced about the trip over Kingfishers rather than get a few hours of needless sleep. It was an incredible trip that exposed me to things that I had never seen before. Poverty was everywhere you turned with people sleeping on streets and beggars all over the place. In America this is taboo but in India it's part of the landscape and you quickly become numb to it. The Indian people treated us like kings expecting good tips in return which we were happy to provide. The difference in living standards is night and day and impossible to compare...lord knows we tried constantly converting rupees to dollars and perplexed by the low cost. Casual conversations with my Indian cohorts revealed their appreciation for America, which explains why many emigrate but few return. Indians place tremendous emphasis on education and schools are excellent which explains why many are able to come to the U.S. and perform very well. They are worlds away when it comes to basic infrastructure such as roads and power grids and with so many people packed into a relatively small area, I don't think their infrastructure will ever compare to ours. Chakde Phatte!

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