Tuesday 20 November 2012

Golden Triangle Part 4 : How Not to Buy a Rug!

When our driver stopped the car at a rugseller's shop on the dusty road between Jaipur and Agra, I immediately began to get that sinking feeling.  Having already fought off various pashmina and rug vendors in the last few days of our trip, I was really not in the mood for what was coming up.

For anyone reading this who is about to go on a tour of the Golden Triangle (or indeed for those who have been on it)...this is how it pans out :

Your driver/rickshaw driver stops the vehicle and tells you that this is the best place to buy a rug in Jaipur "45% cheaper prices than anywhere else...wery, wery good!"

Because you have kind of developed a nice relationship with whoever is driving you, you kind of feel you don't want to let him down by refusing just a glance at the carpets - so you agree to get out of the vehicle "just to have a look".

A young man sits down at a loom inside the open-fronted shop and proceeds to shows you and your friend/spouse/partner the process of weaving a carpet.  He tells you some background information about the local rural village where a co-operative is government funded to buy materials and looms to make the rugs.  He then tells you about his very old grandmother who still weaves to this day and his grandfather who works in the fields to help support the family.  A proper heartwarming story. Not only are his grandparents also heavily involved in making these carpets, but so are his mother, father, brothers and sisters. This is an amazing and ancient skill that has been passed down through the generations to this young man in front of you. He shows you a carefully prepared photo album of the villager rugweavers.  To you, they all look like Bollywood actors.

Check out the slicky hair
Out of the corner of your eye, you notice a pair of aviator sunglasses hanging up on a mirror on a side wall.  Then you glance at the young man, and you see that he has perfectly slicked backed hair and city-slicker style trousers and shirt.  Not very rural looking you think to yourself.

Then the moment you have been dreading (and when your friend/spouse/partner goes to hide) - when the boy starts flicking out each and every one of the rugs that are contained within the not unreasonably sized room.  With each and every unfurling, comes an increasing pressure to appreciate the handiwork, to size up, to measure, to consider colours.  To get your wallet out.

The aftermath of unfurling of rugs.  My teal rug in the fore-ground

Before you know it you are talking money...having settled on a nice teal and cream number that will match ever so nicely with your new bedspread, recently purchased at Good Earth.  The driver, who has been so quiet yet fixated on the proceedings, starts to hover just a little too near for comfort - within earshot, listening in to all the negotiations.  He must think you were born yesterday!

You 'insult' the rugseller by offering a price deemed too low for the weeks and weeks that his grandmother has put into weaving this particular rug.  You go up a little bit then refuse to budge.  He tries to unfurl some bigger rugs with more intricate workmanship - but you tell him you can't afford them - but he says "no matter, you take rug and send money later!!" "REALLLLY???" you say! (You realise later that this is just a ploy to build trust... perhaps you should have tested him to see what would have happened....)

 An  attempt to sell me a more expensive rug that has been worked on for months by his ancient father.
Yeah, so what!
But in fact and probably thankfully for you, you 'only' have 10,000 rupees in your wallet so there is no way you are going to buy anything more expensive than that.  You are desperate to get out of the shop by this point but because you have a sense of guilt (the poor man is going to have to refold all those carpets!), you hurriedly agree a price for the teal rug that is way over what it is worth.

With smiles all around, the curtains are drawn, you are sat down, the boy's father appears out of nowhere and you and your cohort are offered a cup of chai whilst the driver mysteriously disappears.  Then there is prolonged joviality whilst you are made to sign a visitor's book and discuss where you are from.  (I can't be bothered to tell them that I live in Mumbai, especially after my shameful attempt at haggling).  The driver returns looking pretty happy...after just being paid his cash-in-hand commission.

You really should have known better eh??!!!

The father of the thief who stole my money and then waved goodbye to me.
 I wonder whether he is also wearing Bryl Cream under that turban?

But on the plus side the rug does look lovely in our bedroom!

OK, its a bit creased...and slightly off colour, but I like it!

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