The store was choke full of women, some with their houseboys (young male, jack of all trades live in servant) in tow piling their carts with enough fruit, vegetables and dry goods to outlast a famine but the ultimate joke was one such lady at the check out counter. Her cart looked as though she was planning on feeding a houseful of wedding guests, the amount of cash in her hand and the bored looking houseboy beside her did not by any means scream that she lacked for money...but she held up the line for a full half hour after her stuff had been priced and packed, haggling over the total, a couple coupons in hand and a bag of sugar going back and forth between her and the cashier. The coupons were worth a hundred rupees by the way, but her total bill was undoubtedly somewhere in the thousands.
The lines were serpentine in every counter and the others and I in this line just kept waiting, thinking at least her stuff has been checked out, so there's no point in moving to the end of another long line - and ended up irritated and tired. At one point, I wondered if I should step in and ask her to stop haggling and leave, I mean, if she is that fond of saving every penny and bargaining for her rights, she shouldn't be shopping in a busy supermarket...she would be better off going to one of those veggie vendors whose prices go down dramatically the more you buy from them and the the local kirana stores where she can quibble and haggle to her heart's content while the shop fellow engages with her and serves ten other customers at the same time. He doesn't have to worry about fancy cashier machines, that won't let the cashier in a supermarket multi-task but accepts only one payment at a time!
But of course I did not do any such thing, can you imagine the fracas that would have resulted if I had done so? In a minute there would be a mob, two parties and for lack of stones to pelt( stone pelting is very hot on the hot streets here this summer) we would start pelting packets of potato chips and bottles of juice, both being the handiest items near the check out counter!
More and more, as the days go by in this hot hot summer, I tire of city life and look for ways to simplify. It is ironic that I should live in the city that houses Gandhi Ashram and dream of a simple life but remain absolutely clueless on how to make it happen here. But then again, the only simple spot in this city is the Gandhi Ashram. If you go in there and walk around the large open grounds, stand by the banks of river Sabarmati and take in the cool simplicity of the buildings standing under the shade of beautiful old trees it's hard to believe that life can or should be anything but simple living and high thinking like Gandhiji advocated. Then, you come out of the ashram gates to be stared at by the glaring face of 21st century, urban India and thoughts of simplicity simply flee like frightened rabbits...
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