So we started at Udaipur, at a government run fair called Shilpa Gram. My mother in law who had come us on our trip to Rajasthan was also with us on this day. Shilpa Gram charges a small entry fee and so is able to provide the craftsmen with shop space free of cost. Inside, there were performing artists who danced and sang for all the visitors, painters and potters who explained their craft, huts built in the style of villages. I was afraid that it might be a little too touristy but I really enjoyed myself and would highly recommend the place to all.
As we ambled in and started to take in the shops, I shooed away my husband. Armed with a digital SLR camera with all the bells and whistles including a change of lens and three filters, I thought he would hurt our chances of getting a good price. After expressing his indignation and hurt with mock anger and sad faces, he walked off more than a little happy to be free of the talk about bandhini sarees and unglazed pottery. In fact, the next time I turned around, he had put a suspiciously large distance between us. He was well out of hearing range while being within visual range. He smiled and waved charmingly at us and looked happier than I have ever seen him look at a shopping expedition with me.
I, on the other hand, was following my mother-in-law around in the saree stalls area and was awed at how this sweet spoken lady was able to bargain with the most experienced of shopkeepers without ever being even slightly impolite. Year after year of shopping at malls has left me rather unprepared for the deft exchanges that I watched my mother-in-law exchange with the shopkeepers.
Determined nevertheless to try, I walked over to a line of pottery shops and stared intently at the pots. The women tending the stores took one look at me and seemed to disregard me almost instantly as a potential customer. But as soon my mil walked over to join me, there was a swarm of activity around her as all the potters clamored for her attention. I tried valiantly not to let there estimation of me discourage me and managed to find the one potter who had missed my mil's arrival. Fortunately, he was bored enough to show me a few of pots and I bought a couple things to take back with me.
We had a few more minutes before the place closed for the evening and in this time my mil picked up a couple of sarees and my husband came back with a gorgeous scroll painting. We all left Shilpa Gram rather contentedly.
My husband still smarting under the insult that had been heaped at his cameras ability to drive up prices was very proud of his bargain.
"He wanted 450 for the painting and I was able to talk him down to 200"
My mil on the other hand had also bought a couple of sarees for almost 40% less than what the shopkeeper had wanted.
Husband looked pointedly at my bags and said
"What did you buy?"
"I bought a pot for dahi and a terracotta water pot."
"What did you pay for it?"
"That's a good buy. What did he want for it?"
A stifled giggle later - "Well, at least you did not give him 120."
Edited to Add-
I wanted to add a few pictures of Shilpa Gram - the pictures are courtesy the camera toting husband.
And this continued for the rest of the trip. At Palika Bazaar in Delhi this exchange took place between my husband and a belt seller.
"Ye belt kithne ka hai?"
As usual, on spotting a well fed couple armed with a touristy DSLR camera, the man promptly replied -
"Only 450 saar."
Then he proceeded to twist and turn the belt to show us how indestructible it was.
I had been told to counter at 50 to 60 percent of quoted price. But after seeing the feats the belt could perform had decided that 350 was a very good price for it. I was about to whisper my suggestion to my husband when-
The man looked aghast, insulted, almost speechless.
"Kya saar. First class belt hai."
He then took out a lighter and showed us that even fire was unable to damage this prince among belts.
In the meanwhile, I started looking around to try and map the clearest route to the exit so that if the poor shopkeeper decided to resort to violence to counter my husband's insulting bid, I would be able to get away relatively unscathed. Clearly early success had gone to his head.
Three minutes later, husband had the belt tucked into his backpack after paying shopkeeper 100 bucks, who is now smiling almost guiltily at my husband.
After we walk away from the shop, husband turned around and confronted me - "You realize you took a step away from me when I was bargaining with him. Were you going to run away?"
No, no honey I would never do that. I would have walked confidently into the crowd and pretended that I did not know you :).