As per Mr. Russell Peters, Chinese cannot stand bargaining and Indians can’t live without it and both the communities live in peace in the US! Though I am a big fan of Mr. Peters’s stand-ups, the minute he touches India, he becomes a nobody to me. Boiling blood! Not sure if the feeling is because someone is touching my nation OR from the thought of why my nation is taking so long to get it to work.
I didn’t know Mr. Peters would mock the celestial nature of bargaining in the later years when I stepped out during last recession for some purchase. Some of you might call it shopping, well yes, it is. But a bloke would like to call it ‘some purchase’. I got this word ‘bloke’ from Sarah Millican’s show that I started following a few months back. Thought I should squeeze it somewhere to showcase my vernacular abilities, which I initially spelled ‘block’ and then with the help of google corrected it to bloke.
And back to purchase…… So, off I went.
Still shuddering from the very thought of Chicago December weather, I remember poor me wearing 3 sweater shirts and a jacket, got into a shop to eat something before I start. More than the fact that I’ve underestimated how cold the cold can be and did not buy a proper winter jacket that could resist the chilling, I was happy in the extra layer of clothing with the puffed look that made me enough to match the crowd around.
Soon I got in, checked with the shopkeeper whether he will accept international travel card to ensure two things. 1, I am an international bloke, don’t underestimate me with the colour or color of my skin and a 5.8-foot figure. 2, I don’t have to do the dishes or clean the floor later!
After receiving the confirmation, placed an order for some spicy chicken wings in the best of accent I can put on. Strongly believing in the couple of year experience with a UK based company operating from Bangalore. I was feeling proud of myself and my accent which is normally used to give me an elevated status back in my hometown. Few seconds, the shopkeeper is not moving but staring at me. Very clear that my ‘accent’ did not work. I just pointed out to a large serve of chicken wings in the glass display with my head, eyes, hands and slightly moving my entire body. This time it worked! Thank God, there was nothing else left in me to tell him what I want.
Spicy chicken wings were all sour and sweet but looked attractive and tempting with a few of them plated in a ‘W’ shape. Very clearly, somewhere the cook misunderstood the concept of spiciness I was looking for!
Purchase time started. Got a Tommy Hilfiger travel bag at a reasonable price. No bargaining… see Mr. Peters, you need to change your thoughts. Then bought a pair of canvas shoes for $5 and a thin pullover sweater for half price than printed on the tag, I guess $7 or something. See Mr. Peters, how about that? No bargaining, make a note. Next was a souvenir showroom with Chicago all over it. Shop seemed like they didn’t realise it is recession yet OR the owner is from the ruling party who does not agree it is recession. Well, it doesn’t matter to me. I have my travel card. My eyes got stuck on a Chicago Bulls round neck shirt (T-shirt). Neatly bundled in a roll with no price tags. Slowly moved towards the shopkeeper and asked for the price. This time, with an improvised accent and all the aforementioned bodily movements. He looked at me head to toe and said $20. I smiled, that divine Indian smile and asked, ‘what is your recession offer?’ The shop keeper again looked at me head to toe and responded, ‘for you, I can make it half price’. Finished, simple as that. No bargaining. Somebody making a note? Ehmm ehmmm…. Mr. Peters?
All done, took a train to Schaumburg where I was staying in a hotel. Rushed to the room, freed myself from the multiple layers of cloths. With great reverence, pulled out the Chicago bulls shirt. I have the original one from the very Chicago….. yes; you heard that right. Pulled it over my head, standing in front of a full-size mirror. Shirt covered my neck and went down, covered my stomach and went down…. covered my knees and went down…… covered my foot and went down………… covered the floor and went…… nowhere! It slept on the floor, like a bridal gown with a red bull printed on it!
Hairs on my head stood up like Albert Einstein’s, who found out I paid $10 for it. The most expensive piece of cloth from that purchase spree! I looked like an Arab bloke in his thobe. Rather, an Arab kid in his Dad’s thobe! God re-winded the scene of the souvenir shopkeeper looking at my 5.8-foot figure from head to toe. That was a sign I missed!
For a very long time I used it as an extra thickening agent under the thin hostel mattress, well kept for a souvenir. Had I bargained….. not much….. a little……