A Man in Delhi

by Brenda on May 4, 2012

Taj Majal

Travelling to India wasn’t on my bucket list but being an adventurer at heart, I had no intention of saying no when offered the opportunity. I had some reservations, namely getting deathly ill in a country where my Doctor wasn’t. She, hailing from India herself, told me to buck up and be mindful. She was firm, but she laid out the rules and promised me if followed her guidelines while I was traveling, India I would part the best of friends. She was right, of course. I had an exceptional experience. I would return to India in heartbeat, but I would most likely avoid the stranger in New Delhi.

India is not for the faint of heart. If you visit, you must travel with no expectations, be open to the possibilities, and have the brute force and strength of Genghis Khan when shopping or when dealing with a carpet salesman. I’m certain the locals would laugh at my lack of finesse but I was new and in way over my head. What the travel books fail to mention to the virgin traveler is carpet salesmen are a breed unto themselves, and no amount of prep can prepare you for negotiation or escape.

 

Once I overcame my trepidation about the trip, I shifted gears. I planned to complete all my holiday shopping. Although I was going to be on business the trip would span several weekends. Time enough for sight seeing and holiday shopping. I was after anything that would fit in the spare suitcase.

JP, my then boss and traveling companion, and I flew from Hyderabad to New Delhi. We planned to spend day shopping there followed by a weekend sight seeing trek to Agra. We both wanted to visit the Taj Mahal. We each had a shopping list, I was after anything glitzy, and JP was after furniture. We shared our intentions with our driver an off we flew down the road, me clutching the seats and praying to all the Gods over head I would survive the drive.

After hours of shopping, tired and ready to return to the hotel I rallied for a final stop at an out of the way place, the equivalent of a strip mall here in the states. It was over 90 and humid as we exited the car. I was not quite cranky but hovering close. I focused of sipping something icy and tall, anything so long the drink contained alcohol.

We entered a carpet store. My head started swirling. The colors and delicate designs overwhelmed me instantly. I watched the salesman sprinting across the room like a gazelle.

“Can I help you?” He asked without loss of breath or hint of accent.

“No thank-you, I’m looking.” He smiled kindly, but the look in his eyes said, what does a woman know. He grabbed my elbow and manhandled me to the back of the store and pushed me into a lumpy sofa designed to swallow a body whole. Out of nowhere someone thrust a cup hot sugary tea into my hand. My doctor’s voice screaming in my head, don’t drink or eat anything if you are uncertain if the water, food, or dishes have been cleaned.  I placed the cup and saucer on the floor untouched. The Salesman melted into the floor beside me while barking out something in Hindi to the empty room. In less than a hiccup the room filled with eager assistants.

Carpet after carpet was unrolled at my feet. They were beautiful. I did want to buy one, but I was sinking further into the abyss of the sofa and struggling to breathe.  I wanted time to explore and to see the other delights the country had to offer before making a decision. My Carpet Dealer had other plans.  I looked into my captor’s eyes, pulled myself up, squeaked out, “No thank you, I want to look around, ” and made a dash for the front door.

“NO, you cannot leave. SIT!” He grabbed my elbow and guided me back towards the sofa.  I managed to elude his clutch and imprisonment by the sofa. The years in ballet paid off as I once again sprang towards the door.

“How much do you want to pay?”

I tried no thank you for your time and walked with determination. The Delhi Carpet-bagger planted his body in front of the door. Apparently, he had also taken ballet lessons.

“I cannot move, you must have a price in mind. Name a price, then I will step aside.”

Survival required switching to plan b. I considered faking an epileptic attack. I was pondering my chances of escape when JP rescued me. I exited the carpet store slightly rattled, but determined to continue my quest for presents. I entered a fabric store two doors down.

“Madam, do you have a price, your lowest price. Your purchase of this rug will feed a village.”  My carpet stalker unrolled the rug across the fabric I was looking at.  No one in the fabric store paid him any attention. There was no stopping this man.

I left the store but the Carpet Dracula followed me in and out of each shop I entered until I had no choice but to make a getaway by car. As we drove away, Dracula pounded on the trunk swearing colorfully.

I’d like to say the rest of my shopping trips were less eventful, but that would be a lie. I never did buy a rug but I did have a fantastic time.

 

What do you do when you meet someone pushy?

{ 40 comments… read them below or add one }

Kelly Hashway May 4, 2012 at 6:20 pm

I remember traveling to the Caribbean when I was younger and the sales people wouldn’t let you leave until you bought something. They loved to bargain with people, but it could get overwhelming. I’m glad you came out of that okay, Brenda!
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Brenda May 4, 2012 at 6:25 pm

Oh yes, I did. Agra was another story entirely.

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Helen W. Mallon May 5, 2012 at 1:54 am

Helen I hope you will write about Agra!
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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 5:09 pm

I will.. It was a magical place and haunts me still.

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k~ May 4, 2012 at 6:45 pm

Oh my heck Brenda, That takes the pleasantries of window shopping right off. I might have been in trouble when he stopped in front of the door to attempt to keep me inside. You were more gracious in that situation than I could have been. I would have spewn tiny barbed sabers at him with my tongue, until such time that he was delighted to let me leave, perhaps would have even assisted me through the doorway tips her slightly bent halo to the right to hide the bondo… and grinZ Perhaps I had better stay home until I learn some manners. :-)
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Brenda May 5, 2012 at 3:11 pm

K-I know what you mean. I am a relic by today’s standards. I still enjoy window shopping, looking but not buying. I hate to admit the hours I have spent in a book store walking up and down the aisles pulling out books, reading the description, and sliding it back into the shelf. I don’t think there was any malice in the man’s heart that was just his style. If anything you have to admire his closing skills. I am the way I am because after being embarrassed by American tourists ( my countrymen) while living in London, I vowed to uphold what I could of our country’s poor image.

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Elizabeth Young May 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm

There is absolutely no way I could handle that kind of shopping/torture! Moi is definitely too faint of heart. I’m interested to hear what my daughter has to say when I see her. Through her e-mails I have learned a little, namely that they absolutely love India and are planning on South America next!
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Brenda May 5, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Elzabeth – I suppose if I had thought about it beforehand or knew what I was getting into I might have had the same feelings. JP, my traveling companion suggested to me sometime before we landed to ‘be open’ and wash my mind of any expectation that India would be like any place I had ever been and I did. See if you can get your daughter to send along an excerpt from her travel journal … might be moment to capture on your blog. I wish I had blogged back then, it would have been a hoot.

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Amy Morgan May 4, 2012 at 7:46 pm

Honestly, I would have been scared. This is NOT my idea of any type of shopping. I was horrible when we went to Mexico and I was supposed to barter. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it!

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Brenda May 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm

Amy – I suppose I should have been scared but that never entered my mind the entire trip. I think the only time as ever frightening was walking through the Taj Mahal – too many people all and no personal space, but after the initial rush I was back in my skin. My Mexico experience is pail in comparison to my Carpet Salesman.

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Bella May 4, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Brenda, I think you were a real lady in the way you handled this pushy salesman. I’m afraid I would not have been this elegant and cursing more than likely would have ensued! hee hee! That is one amazing photo of the Taj Majal! Wow! Breathtaking, to say the least. I want to think that I’m assertive when it comes to dealing with pushy people but you just never know how you’re going to react in some circumstances. There are days when we have more tolerance than others and on the days when the tolerance is low, well, lets just say assertive can quickly turn to aggressive! ha! :)

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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Thanks, Bella. I never thought of it quite that way, me being a lady. I was in some other worldly mind zone when I was traveling. I sort of floated through my experience and absorbed as much as I could..

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Jess Haight May 5, 2012 at 12:54 am

Oh my goodness! I was actually nervous reading this post- although I knew you wrote it so you had to be okay. I cannot imagine someone keeping you in the store and not letting you out (good job not drinking the tea). I encounted some pushy people in the Bahamas that would not take no for an answer. I was outside though and although they kept following me, I kept walking. Glad you were able to get away!
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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 5:13 pm

Hi Jess.. I was probably nervous at the time, or might have just been hot and thirsty, but in hindsight I am only amused.

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Jo Heroux May 5, 2012 at 1:49 am

Been in similar situations and hated it! Bought nothing and was happy to escape with my health. ♥
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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Hey Jo, me too. Escaped with stories to write about.

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Helen W. Mallon May 5, 2012 at 1:53 am

Wow, what a hilarious piece. I’m sure it was terrifying to go through, but the telling is fabulous. I like the crazy, manic dignity of “Name your price, and I will step aside.” Like: “Salesmen, this is your brain on meth” or something. And, oy, the guilt: A village will starve unless you buy this rug !!
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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm

I had fun writing the piece, Helen. It was meant to make you smile and not cringe, so I am glad you laughed. He was a skilled closer, so many sales people these days lack his tenacity.

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Beth May 5, 2012 at 2:42 am

Yikes! I remember similar experiences on a childhood vacation to Spain and Africa. A market in Tangier was especially challenging, with vendor after vendor all applying crazy pressure.
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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Hi Beth, I dont’ remember such pushing sales people in Spain, but then I am in love with that country so I might be wearing rose colored glasses. Tangier – yes, crazy place. Exotic.

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Savira May 5, 2012 at 3:01 am

Interesting funny piece reminded me of my first experience… now the wiser I hope…
I will say that you do find the odd pushy sales person especially in areas where the tourists tend to be.. but at the same time you find those that are respectful and listen when you say “NO Thank You”
Every country has a pushy sales person and then you have those that don’t give you the time of day!
Ps: I have stopped blogging completely… no site etc so this is my only way to interact with you….

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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Savira – I am going to miss your posts. At least we’re friends on Facebook and I can still see your beautiful photos. And yes, it was an interesting experience. I left best friends wit India, just as my doctor said I would.

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Monica May 5, 2012 at 5:30 am

Carpet Dracula! I love that. India sounds fascinating but I am too timid to go there myself. Good for you, to make the journey and gain all those experiences. But the shopping and the rug–too, too funny! Great post, Brenda. Would love to see more photos from your trip. :)
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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Monica – He did get a tad out of hand. I had a great travel companion and a wonderful host when we were at work. I don’t know how it would have been if I was entirely on my own and since I wasn’t it was a great experience for me. I am an easy traveler, which helps when in third world countries. I was writing to the prompt ‘The Stranger’ which is where this post came from and assumed no one would read it. How funny. I’ll have to share another India experience.

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Nikky44 May 5, 2012 at 5:37 am

I was laughing all along as this is how it happens in many places in my country, but of course not as much as India or Egypt!! If you decide to go to Egypt, be ready!
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Brenda May 5, 2012 at 2:49 pm

Nikky, I’ve not been to Egypt-yet, but there is time yet to visit. I am glad you had a good laugh, it is a funny story (to me anyway) and it was fun to rewrite it. I had written it after the trip in my journal, which I enjoyed revisiting for the sake of this post.

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rimly May 5, 2012 at 6:37 am

I had a hearty laugh reading this Brenda. Yes India is like that, colorful, vivacious, mysterious and full of persistent carpet sellers. LOL! My Irish aunt has the same problem here. especially if you go to places like Old Delhi.
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Brenda May 5, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Rimly, so glad you had a laugh, that was my intention. I remember being hot and flustered, tired and cranky, at the time, but later thought it was funny. I did have an amazing experience all around. The food was delicious, the sights – for a Native California, it was sensory overload at any given minute. I think what made it easier for me is traveling without any expectations, good or bad. I was just there to absorb.

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Claire May 5, 2012 at 8:29 am

A country of wonderful contrasts.

India redefines pushy, so bold in their actions they manage to ignore all your signals and capitalise on those brief moments of stunned surprise when you find yourself even considering looking at things you had not set out to purchase. It can last days. :)
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Brenda May 5, 2012 at 3:00 pm

Claire – it is isn’t? I can see still the deep pool of eyes looking back at me every time our Driver drove us back from our work office back to the hotel. I still wonder how he navigated between the crowds. We’d get stuck in sea of bodies in route not able to move forward. I’d sit in the backseat watching people move by, some like us were off work for the day, others–too many–were begging. They’d knock on the windows asking for money. It’s the eyes, some hopeless some questioning, some empty, which burned an image in mind.

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Claudine Gueh May 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Oh dear, I haven’t been to India, but I’ve met a few pushy salespeople in this half-a-lifetime. When I’m weaker, I give in and pay for a thing I don’t need just so I can get him/her off my back. Sometimes I just walk away with a smile and a firm hand. In the worst experience, I had to repeat ‘No’ each time the salesperson spoke and tried to guilt me into buying things so he/she could feed someone. (But I’m ashamed to say I usually cave in …)
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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Cluadine, I’ve not met too many people who have brute force strength when it comes to salespeople, well except for my mother, and I didn’t inherit her genes in that department. You are not alone. I have noticed in recent years I’ve become the queen of saying no, but I think that came with writing. Are you free for dinner? No. Do you want to go here or there? No. Now I just say no thanks when I am shopping. I don’t want to be pressured.

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Linda Medrano May 5, 2012 at 9:52 pm

I would have been tempted to buy something just to shut him up! I hate really aggressive sales people. I took my husband into a Union Square shop to buy him a nice cotton shirt. He ended up with two shirts, a pair of shoes and the woman was trying to get me to buy socks for him too. I finally told her to “Quit! Or I will walk out of here with nothing!”. She stopped but jeeze louise!

I’d love to take a train across India. What a place to see!
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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 4:39 pm

Linda – I’ve done that as well, bought something so they leave me alone, but a silk rug isn’t a small purchase and I was just as happy not to buy one. It was an amazing journey. I kept a travel journal but I wasn’t blogging at the time, which might have been fun. I am hoping for more adventures in the days ahead, who knows where I might be.

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My Inner Chick May 6, 2012 at 3:03 pm

–Brenda,

What a GREAT story!
This dude should def. get OUT of Retail Sales!

I’ve never ran across anybody that pushy, but some clerks who were quite Snotty.

Xxx <3
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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 4:37 pm

Always a pleasure to entertain, Miss Kim.

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Heal Now and Forever May 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm

That’s incredible! I can’t imagine. what if you had said like $1. or something. Would that have stopped him?

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Brenda May 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm

No idea, Jodi. In the moment, the mind (or my mind) didn’t even consider that as an option.

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Beverly Diehl May 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm

O.M. G. You cracked me up – Carpet Dracula, wow. And buying a carpet – let’s say you paid $5, how much would it cost to SHIP it back to the US? Is there enough money in the world? (I know there’s not enough in MY bank account.)

I have never had to deal with a salesman so pushy, but I would dare it, for the chance to visit the Taj Majal. Good for you for getting away!
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Brenda May 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Bev – yes shipping was huge, but those silk rugs are NOT CHEAP, much cheaper in India than here in the states. I am glad I had the opportunity to visit but wouldn’t have unless offered the trip. Now that I have gone, I am glad of the adventure.

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