Friday, July 14, 2006
Shopping for US (2001)
After my visa arrived I had to face the reality that I would be leaving India soon. All of a sudden even the beggar crying for alms outside the house was an expert on America and all things american. Comments and advise flew in from all sides. Some made sense, some dint and some were outright hilarious. The joke, however, falls right back on us if we choose to follow any of these outrageous comments.
One of my dad's friends was from England. A sane source for advise .. or so we thought. "you have to get atleast three pairs of coats and trousers. Abroad, you wear it all the time" he said with an oh so sagacious expression that dad fell for hook line and sinker. The next day we set out to get the coats and trousers. I saw a few decent looking shops on the way and suggested to dad that we should stop. "No way! This is America we are talking about .. Best place in the world!!" he said contemptuously and drove on. Off we went to the most expensive shop in town. By now I was working out the math. I dint have any coats but I had once bought a shirt from this shop .. it cost Rs 1500. Putting a coat at three times that would make it Rs 5000. "Whatever", I told myself "it is America, land of opportunity, where gold flowed on the streets .. I'll get back my investment in a jiffy." Poor poor me.
Once inside, I could see that the shop was empty. No surprise that. Who in his right mind would shop at a place like this! The person at the counter saw us and came sprinting. I think he was waiting all day for a customer. "show us the coats please" dad said. Now this one was a smooth talker. He had already sized us up as those who don't usually buy coats. He walked us slowly to the coat section.
Salesman:"for you sir .. or your son?".
Dad: "My son .. He's going to America."
Salesman:"I see .. Handsome boy .. He will look good in a coat and suit"
I glanced around to see who he was talking about ... No one in sight. That meant the game was on. I had seen this pitch before, having done it many times to get my way with people. As if on cue he started off.
salesman:"Sir I have a suggestion. Your son has broad shoulders. I think a tailor made coat would look better. We have a wonderful tailor here. Just pick the cloth and we'll take care of the rest."
He did it well. Never once mentioned the price. My protests were silenced and back we went to the tailoring section. There was an even slicker talker there. "Hariharan sir?? Do you remember me? I was your student in college". My dad's face suddenly took on a knowledgeable dignified look and I knew right then that dad would buy ice pops in the artic circle from that guy. He showed a lot of cloth pieces and recommended the most expensive one. Dad just nodded wisely and send me off to give my measurements. I was able to talk him out of buying a third coat. But by the time we got out of the shop we had spent Rs20000 on two pairs of coats and trousers and dad's pockets were empty. Eventually dad came back to earth. We sat silently in the car on the way back. By the end of the trip dad had exercised his parental priviledges and somehow passed the blame on to me. Told me that this was the end of all my US related shopping. I wore the first coat only once, on my flight to US. The second one is still to be worn by anyone. They are now 4 years old and neither my dad nor I can bear to look at them.