Monday, February 19, 2007

India - Shopping Day

We woke up fairly late on Monday, and only staggered out into the common area around 10am. We ended up chatting with Sudhir for a couple hours, and he regaled us with entertaining stories about his family and his reasoning for wanting to rent out rooms (both sons are married and gone, and his daughter is busy getting her MBA). He and Aruna (his wife) helped us work out our itinerary for the day, and he made sure that both Melanie and I were taken care of.

Interestingly, we found out that he owns a 150-store shopping center named after his family on a street that is also named after his family. We mentioned that we wanted to buy the dancing Siva statue, and he told us not to worry about it for now, and that he would take care of us. I also wanted to note that Sudhir and Aruna were already well dressed and obviously ready to head out someplace before we woke (found out later it was 2 weddings on this auspicious day), but they waited for us so that they could get to know us better, as well as help us to plan our day…super nice. The Sabharwals were Definitely not Carol Swift (more on this someday).

We hired his driver for the day, and proceeded to strike out into Delhi to do some shopping. The first place we went was called GK-I, which is a small shopping center that is somehow very well known and apparently a Mecca for visiting white people in India.

First, we had lunch at Zaffrons, which is a great rooftop Indian restaurant. From there, we spent nearly 4 hours in this crazy store called Fabindia. There were 3-4 different branches of Fabindia shops contained in GK-I, each selling different wares. I am not really sure how best to describe it, so I will just say that it seems to carry many fairly high quality textile products manufactured in India. They sell kurtas, shirts, dupattas, shawls, saris, tablecloths, linens, etc., and the stuff is both neat and affordable. I am still not entirely sure how we blew 4 hours there, but we did end up with a whole bunch of neat stuff, both for us as well as presents, so it was definitely worthwhile.

We had just enough time to head over to the Lahore Music House, where I was able to pick up a gorgeous sitar and a set of stunning tablas for a remarkably cheap price. I LOVE THEM. The other cool thing is that Sudhir actually helped us to negotiate (by phone) the rate down by another ~3000 Rupees AFTER I had already gotten as low as I could go. I will post pictures of both at some point in the future. We then did a rather remarkable job loading everything into the Tata Indicar (about the size of a Ford Focus) and headed on back to the Sabharwal household.

On the way back, we saw our first wedding, which was quite an interesting affair. I was not able to get the camera out in time, but we did see several more over the next week, so I will post pictures of some of these a little later.

When we arrived, Sudhir was again waiting for us, this time dressed nicely for what must have been a more western wedding. He hooked us up with SIM card with an Indian mobile number (rented for the week for ~US$11), gave us further details about our upcoming Agra excursion, and gave (that’s right – gave) us the dancing deity statues (apparently called “Nataraj”). I have to say that our host felt more like Uncle Sudhir than Mr. Sabharwal.

We then all headed out, with Melanie and I going to a restaurant called Dumpukht (also at the Sheraton) for our dinner While this was a higher end dining experience, it frankly was not nearly as charming or tasty as Bukhara – still, it was certainly an excellent meal. We were seated by the piano/tabla duet, playing beautiful and evocatively foreign music.

Speaking of foreign, this was also the first time that we experienced what turned out to be a common occurrence in Indian dining - precious metal foil on the food. I am not altogether sure if this is good for me, let alone whether or not it really makes sense to actually eat gold and silver in the first place, but it didn't seem to have any adverse effects. This just goes to show that it's possible to pimp darn near everything these days.

We then went back to the B&B and chatted with Sudhir and Aruna for a little longer before going to bed. They gave us the finer details for our Tuesday trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal, which really made both of us very excited since we were GOING TO SEE THE FREAKING TAJ MAHAL!!!

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