July 3, 2011

An Introduction to the City: Shopping

Saturday we had our first excursion into the city to shop. We traveled there in a van, which we won't be doing much longer because soon we'll get our train cards. The city streets were so crowded as they're filled with cars, vans, buses, bikes, mopeds, pedestrians and the like! The lines on the road don't really seem to mean much here as mopeds zoom between cars and buses.

Walking along the street was frightening enough, with cars zooming right on the edge of a really non existent sidewalk, but crossing the street now THAT was frightening, exhilarating and exciting. The 7 of us followed close behind Shabik, Anu (BCA), and Anu (2 - MCC). Well, we tried to - I would often cling to the person in front of me or grab their shirt. We only had to cross traffic twice, and the second time was an accident. The second time we were walking right between stopped cars that could go or move at any moment. Here's a view from our van. They really fit 3-4 vehicles in a two lane road and what not.

We went to a store called Saravan Stores and the whole complex had 7 floors! We ventured to the second floor which had "Ladies Readymades" There were loooooong rows of clothes, even western inspired clothing like jeans. We browsed the kamis tops and some salwaar bottoms. I selected a gold and red camis top - Bridgewater colors! (Is anyone surprised, really? Really.) This place was packed with people. PACKED.

We also did a tiny bit of shopping on the street, where we're allowed to bargain. I was satisfied with my one top for the day and snapped some pictures of the street. We had a couple of beggars follow us around. One woman with a baby followed after us in hot pursuit - even through traffic. She kept tapping us on the shoulder. "Ma'am! Ma'am!" It broke my heart. When we stopped at a little stand, I asked Anu (BCA) what we should do. "Nothing." Ah, it's so hard.

Then we stopped at a veg restaurant that was celebrating it's 4th year of being in business. This is what I had for lunch! It was served to us on a banana leaf.

Sunday we went shopping again! This time to a huge mall -Expressway Mall. Anu (BCA) mentioned that it's a small slice of American culture plopped into the middle of Chennai. We found that to be SO TRUE. It's shiny and clean, like a nice American mall. There were 4 floors and a basement, which housed a super store Bazaar foods. Bazaar Foods was very similar to Wal-Mart, you could find everything there. I'm even pretty sure I didn't see everything there was to see in that store. Some of the stores were such a fascinating paradox - there would be western clothing and then a section of Indian clothing right next to it.

Shopping at the Mall was an interesting experience - much less overwhelming than yesterday's shopping experience. I saw as many people in traditional Indian dress as I did in Western clothing. Really, almost ALL of the men I saw were in heavily influenced western clothing - jeans, polos, sunglasses and the like. One group of boys wanted to get a picture with our small group (there were about 5 of us at this point). But each of them wanted their own picture with us. The first one wanted us to do a "Screaming picture" - whaaat? Yeah, it's what it sounds like...it ended up being a picture where we all just shouted. Anu said we shouldn't pose for pictures with men, because they will show them off as "Oh, I have my picture with these American girls" and they'll brag. The assumption about Western women is that we're carefree and easy and we won't really tell them "No". They get these viewpoints from watching Western films and various other Western influences. We said no to similar requests after that.

Shopping in the Bazaar was another overwhelming experience. There are just so many people everywhere. All the time. It's something I'm really going to have to get used to. We stopped here to get some fruits and other groceries if we wanted. I snagged some shampoo and body wash - they had Dove, Herbal Essences, and Garnier Fructis - just to name a few big brands. I mean, seriously, I see the effects of Globalization everywhere I look. There are SO MANY American/Western products here. I did notice that all of the shampoo was focused on sleek and shiny hair or straight hair - nothing was marketed toward me and my curls.

1 comment:

  1. It looks like you are having a great time on this wonderful adventure! Love you & miss you & I look forward to all of your beautiful anecdotes!