India Travelogue, Ep. 17:


I have been known to be a prolific shopper in my day, but I was pretty restrained in India, in part because of the monetary crisis (cash shortage) that hit the day after we arrived, and in part because I had spent a butt-load of money on a 25th Wedding Anniversary party right before my big trip.

I’ve already talked about the trinkets I brought home as gifts for others, but this quilt is one of  three “treasures” I bought for myself. It’s hand sewn by Indian women who make their living this way and it’s patched together from used saris (traditional Indian dresses).

I knew when I saw it I had to have it. I asked how much and the seller said $350. I paused but not long. I mean . . . I’m a quilter. How could I say no?

But then my friend Vandana walked up and took over. She frowned at me and stared at the seller. “How much?” she demanded. He repeated the price and she immediately gave him a stern “No!”

By the time she finished negotiating, the price was $160 and I was one happy camper.

I grew up poor enough that bargaining has always been deeply embarrassing to me. To my way of thinking, not paying the sticker price means you can’t afford it. When shopping for cars and houses, I have on many occasions told my husband “Just pay what they’re asking!” (Fortunately, he doesn’t listen to me.)

But Vandana . . . She is a stud. Just watching her work was a primer in deal-making. She was firm but not belligerent or rude. Hard-nosed but not unreasonable. Tough but fair. Bargaining is de rigueur in her culture and she made sure her American friends got square deals in every single instance.

And ain’t my prize just grand?