I have become an unenthusiastic shopper. Do not rush to any conclusions - I still recite the chants of consumerism that plague this country ( and quite honestly the world ),march to the drum beats of department store, sway to the song of the supermarkets ... well you get the picture. But the act of shopping in itself has just lost its charm for me.
Shopping some years ago in India was a total package. The first step was to assemble a bunch of your friends/ relatives all of whom had their designated competencies. There was the "Bargainer" - this person can muster a disbelieving sneer at even the rock bottom prices quoted by men with shops set up in the scorching sun under an umbrella on the pavement. This talent would have been insufficient without the ability to counter any offer with 30% of the quoted price, with complete confidence and lock and maintain eye contact with said (skinny, probably starving, father of 6, caregiver of elderly parents) shopkeeper.
Then there was the "Fashion Expert" - this was the person who could stick her hand into a pile of export surplus, button missing, fashion disasters and pick up the one great piece, the one thing that will probably make the outfit that you bought with your mother in the branded store in Khan Market seem dowdy. This person could take one look at you and immediately divine the clothes that suit you, colours that bring out your eyes/hair/skin, and make suggestions about when the item of clothing can be worn.
Such a shopping trip would not have been successful without perseverance and patience. That brings me to the "One with the Stamina". Long after your sunscreen has worn off, your feet have given up, and your Bisleri is exhausted she perseveres. It is all about the hunt for this woman and she is no quitter. With her on your side you would try that 5th dress in the 8th store until you find the one that is just right.
Though not directly contributing the success of a shopping trip there is also the "Street Food Junkie" - she would ably guide you past the many mediocre chat shops to the one that makes the perfect tangy, melt in your mouth Suji Golgappa and also the "Very pleasant/ extremely pretty girl that all shopkeepers have discounts for".
Shopping then was a complete sport. These lovely women helped elevate shopping in India to a sport/ talent/ ability on par with learning an instrument (a harmonica perhaps, probably not a violin). Shopping rightly held its place in the activities section in the Orkut profile page along with hiking, reading and learning new languages. It required skill, endurance, training and as with any sport innate talent always helped. Long hours, lots of walking, people watching, navigating huge crowds all a part of this dying sport. At the end of such a day there was a sense of accomplishment and contentment that was a mix of an hour at the gym, a successful meeting where you beat the odds with your dazzling arguments, and a dark chocolate brownie with ice cream.
The scented, polished, branded version in America that is also fast becoming the dominant option in most large Indian cities offers the best in shopping but have laid the skills I developed all those years to waste. Now I just shop online and stare at travel shows with longing.
Recipe I tried and liked.