Wednesday, August 30, 2006

“Suit” Yourself.


Surely there had been enough of melodrama the last few days and I had told dad after the Sunday episode that if I was not taken to the wholesaler (or whatever) the very next day, I’d straightaway take the metro to Esplanade, enter one of those showrooms at Lindsay Street, blindfold myself, and pick up just anything my fingers fancied. Of course all these empty threats never work on dad. Nevertheless, on a clear, sunny Monday morning, I was dutifully taken to the wholesale market.

Now that’s easier written than done. Anyone who has been to a wholesale market would know the chaos and utter mayhem one gets to witness. So when we took a bus from Central metro past the Lalbazar Police Headquarter, little did I know that I’d be seeing a place that was a far cry from the grandeur of the shopping malls I was so familiar with.

For reason number one, keeping pace with dad when he walks is an impossible feat. And in wholesale markets, you do not have the benefit of buses, cabs, or anything more than hand pulled rickshaws. After the first few lanes, I did not even know where I was being taken to. Almost scampering through the lanes and the alleys, frantically trying to keep pace with dad, I could barely manage to steal an occasional glimpse at the names of the shops just to know where exactly I was. After a few incomprehensible street names, I found out that we were somewhere in Kolkata- 700 001. That had to be close to the Dalhousie, tea board area. The lanes at times were so narrow that I could not even walk parallel with dad. And then, I had to run like a scared kid, grabbing hold of his left hand (since he had his briefcase in the right one), lest I miss him among so many office goers. If somehow I was lost there, I had nothing more to help me than a few thousand rupees and a mobile phone. And even with that, I was sure I could never find my way through the place.

Every time I looked in front of me, I would see coolies and baniyan-clad daily wage workers carrying asbestos sheets and foam mattresses and screaming expletives, almost bumping into me. I had felt this scared and agoraphobic the last time I had been to the Chandni Chowk market. I had never believed there could be a crowd of this magnitude dashing into you every now and then if you were not careful enough. This is one reason I never go pandal hopping during the pujas. I feel claustrophobic.

And then, people would test your reflexes every now and then by spitting pan and expect you to acrobat your way through the filth and dirt. Or it would be the footpaths where one would wade through the giant chulhas, hot tawas, unwashed utensils and dirty water from these food stalls.

So after what seemed like ages of walking, I finally managed to scream and grab hold of dad’s arms to stop him and to know where exactly were we headed for and if at all he knew a particular place. To which he calmly said, wait, we will need to stop over at a few shops and compare prices before we make a deal. A few shops? I could almost feel the first bouts of dizziness as I approached a blackout.

But no, I couldn’t afford to black out just like that. If I did, dad would take me back home and then, my plans for buying a suitcase would be stalled. I faintly tried to remember brave women like Rani Laxmi Bai who’d fought battles. Surely I could tolerate this much of heat and sweat. But then, perhaps the Rani of Jhansi had never been to a wholesale market in one of the dingiest areas of the city, and if she did, perhaps she too might have needed a few glucose biscuits, a few sprinkles of cold water on her face and the smell of worn shoes and stinking socks thrust into her nose to bring her back to her senses (It’s a common belief to let the person who has fainted smell worn shoes. My theory is that if the person is strong enough to withstand this shock, he/she will live).

To cut a long story short, we finally arrived at a place that seemed to me was in one of the remotest corners of the world. A pan chewing pot bellied man soon asked the attendant to show us a few suitcases. This time, there was no air conditioned showroom, but just a dark room with a noisy fan that dated back to the days of Akbar and could have done with some lubrication. But there was a repeat performance of the Sunday melodrama as I saw dad carefully scrutinize every brand of suitcase they had stocked. The materials and zips were checked, the country of origin verified, the guarantee period known, the colors and the looks… ah, that was the only thing where dad sought my opinion. Surely I hated those 2 bulldozer sized suitcases he had chosen.

But dad, I won’t be carrying ballistic missiles in the suitcases. Why do you want me to take such rough and tough (filthy looking) stuff?

What if your suitcase breaks at the airport?

Dad has always had a fascination for rough and tough, unimpressive looking things, basically anything that has more of strength and less of looks. And it’s not just the suitcases I am talking of. And no, I’m not talking about my mom either.

So after endless rounds of haggling and haranguing, I am finally the proud owner of 2 suitcases and 1 cabin luggage, bright red and deep blue in color. And I can boast that I have got the best deal in the minimum possible price, unless of course your dad happens to be the owner of a travel gear shop. But wait, let me tell you more.

Dad never returned home with me. He packed all the stuff into the rear end of a cab, exchanged a few words in Bhojpuri with the cab driver (and I’d give anything to know what exactly did he told the cab driver), and waved me a goodbye.

But dad….

Don’t worry. He’ll make sure you reach safely. Just give me a call when you reach home.

Sighs !!!! So very typical of you dad. But thanks for the suitcases anyway. Of course we got them at a great discount. Plus, I got to write this post too.



Scorpion King said...

Alas " Sunshine alias Rani of Jhansi " has emerged victorious , and the reward of victory is Two suitcases and Cabin Baggage !!

Scorpion King

Sudipta Chatterjee said...

Hmm... those little acrobatics and super-sensory perceptions are the basic survival skills in any daily market, dear mall-hopping lady! A few more such trips and I am sure you will know better :)

Congratulations, BTW! :D

Virgo Guy said...

hey !! nice post, this brought back (then painful, now sweet) memories of my dad and off course the times when all that mattered was price and functionality.

SID said...

Well at least you ended up with ur suitcases, had the experience of ur lifetime with sweaty armpits and survived all that to post it here.
So all in all Good going!

whoami said...

Dad has always had a fascination for rough and tough, unimpressive looking things, basically anything that has more of strength and less of looks..
ahem!! and dad will choose his damaad accordingly, i think [;)]

cardamom said...

hey this was better...*respite*
now i know why the "sun is shining" on the various blogrolls under the sun...;)

sunshine said...

scorpion king- and a waist pouch too !!!

sudipta- hey.... a few more such trips? why on earth? i have the suitcases dear. anything else, i'm sure you'd help.

virgo guy- hey !!!! what else matters now?

sid- yeah, right !

whoami- you know what? only you got the meaning of what i wanted to say. of course i was talking of the damaad when i wrote this. but you see, everyone missed it.

cardamom- he he. happy reading.