Having studied two years in the US, I am often faced with the question what I missed most when I studied there. There are many things I missed—the food, the culture and lots more. Prominently, I missed seeing my mom bargaining at the stores. Bargaining, I have realized, is one of those essential parts of Indian living. It is more like a habit, a hobby to some, and that urge to get things at a cheaper price always exists in every Indian heart. Even if you get your vegetables at an admirably low rate, it is difficult to quietly pay up. We would like to prod the poor vendor even more, trying to get our onions at a lower price. I think bargaining is an art, because everyone cannot be good at it. I am terrible when it comes to bargaining, but the older ladies of the city, through years of experience have become adept in it. The philosophy they follow is that every vendor can be forced to lower his prices. Nobody is too tough to crack. There are many types of Bargainers—the vigorous bargainers, the persistent bargainers and the clever Bargainers. I have observed one very clever bargaining technique: (My mom uses this)
“How much is the price of potato?” you ask.
“Blah-Blah-Blah…” says Vendor so-and-so.
“Aha! That’s too much? Could you reduce the price to twenty-five rupees?’
“No, I really can’t.”
Then you bargain a lot; heave a long sigh and say, “Well, I can’t buy them! They are selling the same potatoes for twenty on Market road.” And then you smartly walk away (not too fast to be out of hearing range of the vendor, mind you!) and finally, a gruff voice from behind calls for you. “Alright madam! Alright! Twenty five it is!”
Well, walk into a supermarket or a mall and you will quickly understand that you need to be well-mannered. Visiting a supermarket demands many special things. For example, you can’t barge into a supermarket in that wrinkled sari of yours and a torn shopping bag. Oh no! All those well-bred creatures up there will stare at you. You strut between the Aisles, sweetly take a look at the ridiculously priced corn-flakes cereals, replace them in their position and walk away. There is no bargaining. Prices are fixed. Surely, all those daily bargainers will feel uncomfortable in such a situation. We have been bargaining since many years, if all those American supermarket chains like Walmart and Target do arrive in Bangalore, engulfing the local vendors, then it is no surprise that the old women and the bargaining lot will become uncomfortable and some may even curse these superstores under their breath! While we generally consider it as a convenience, the traditional ladies might end up feeling they were robbed of their right, and the art that they had developed over years of practice has been wasted.