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  • chrisvollan

Full Contact Bartering:

So here’s the daily ritual: guided tour for three to six hours, a deep dive into the histories and stories of the place and her people, then the local crafts. On the road, it’s lunch or tea at a roadside restaurant/hotel, always with a massive gift shops.  Road stops are mandatory….lol

Price of entry to the experience is apparently, shopping, which I’m just now starting to appreciate for the experience.

Personally, I find discussing the price of anything uncomfortable, bargaining to reduce the price is… horrifying.  I get it that some poeple love this exercise, but it makes me feel obligated and pressured, and uncomfortable, more-so if I feel confined and double that if I feel I’m going to have to be rude to get free. It seems to trigger every alarm inside me (how does your nine year old self feel about this Christopher…?).

Although some thrive in this, I break out in a sweat.  I’m certain its amusing to watch, but it ain’t pretty.

I’m aware that my reactions are all my interpretations (my story) of the situation, so partly real but mostly discomfort I make up in my head.

So, to keep saying “yes” (to myself moreso than anyone) I need to lean into this discomfort.  (Arrrrrghhhhhh…… I literally have to talk to myself to keep from bolting out the door, and I’m always aware of the nearest exit).

I am, with some effort,  getting better at it! Much like walking on the busy streets, bartering is also a game, and the story told by the vendor is an important piece (and I like stories, so there’s the “in”)

Chilling out and letting the story unfold is what I’m starting to enjoy.  Note: Chilling out is not my natural state of being, nor is being the centre of attention among complete strangers.

Every vendor has a stake in what he is selling (only one has been a woman so far), whether it’s generations of Persian marble inlayers (of the 20,000 artisans brought from Iran to work on the Taj Mahal), to the weavers and painters of the women’s cooperatives, to the gem makers, also with a long chain of ancestors in the biz. Some have support of their arts from the Indian government, others have deep family ties to the craft. All need to make a living!

So, the story unfolds, the tea comes out (this calms me down apparently, but also makes me feel obligated), one main presenter/entertainer is supported by four to six others (hold this up, polish that item, turn the room lights off and table lamp on to show how the marble is translucent, fetch more tea, etc)

I’ve sometimes been given insight before hand (thank you Mr Ram!) as to appropriate price range, other-times I’ve just walked out, or wandered off to see something else (feigning disinterest), this, apparent disinterest, works.  Me, of not so good poker face when I see something I like, has to just play it cool (also not a forte)

This is also, a dance and a show, on both sides. I’m still getting wicked nervous (still to the point of sweating) at the thought of being set up, and having four or five people stare at me, but I’m really enjoying the story, and understanding the game a bit more, and the livelihoods attached to it.

I AM a sucker for s good story, and as Grandma Forster used to say on buying something on impulse, “a year from now you won’t notice the difference”. I’m also very aware of my entitlement and extreme, relative wealth as a very well employed Canadian, so its not going to kill me to contribute a bit to the Indian economy.

In other words for me, my perception of overpaying for something means diddly, because Grandma was right, and even if I end up tucking something away in storage, I have benefited from the story and, hopefully, supported current and future artisans in their trades.

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