Days 03-04 Malls and Rickshaws

The first full day here went by in a haze of humidity, good food, and a few short trips around town. The second, almost as quick.

I’ve taken a lenghty nap in the middle of the day, each day. From 12-4 it’s killer outside and better left for dozing it off until the sun sets.

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Yesterday, after the afternoon nap, I went out with Partha to a local Rowing Club where he’s a member; essentially, an upper-middle class haunch for men and their families, with on-site restaurant, bar and manicured lawn by the lake. There’s a garage filled with rowboats, idling away from the water, as well as an indoor babmington court where some men practice their cricket game.

Udit joins us a half hour later as we’re sitting on the upstairs terrace, enjoying the cool breeze, overlooking the lawn and the lake. Along the contours, there are other clubs and footpaths. In the distance, a small condo project is the only thing that break atop the treeline.

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The family has a driver named Dinesh, and he takes us most places we need to go. At first, I didn’t understand why you would hire a driver, but after having been on the roads a couple of times I see why.

Traffic is bedlam. It’s even worse during the day. It flows with a sort of essential chaos. The narrow streets are packed, often bumper to bumper, with sedans, busses, trams, three-wheeled autocars, rickshaws, scooters, moter cycles, and pedestrians. Lanes are optional.

Dinesh drives stick, and watching him navigate through the streets, make turns, and merge into traffic is like being inside a car in an action movie case scene. Only, instead of speeding on open highways, we’re going between 30-50 km/h in bumper car hell. It apparently takes some grit to get around safely.

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It was only 35 degrees plus humidty today. Compared to the first day, the roughly ten degrees drop is noticeable and refreshing.

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Prices are strange. A bag of chips at a roadside store costs roughly 40 cents. The same for a lot of other snacks and odds and ends. At branded stores, and cafes, the prices on similar items are quadrupled. Still not particularly expensive, but interesting to see how roughly the same offering jumps in price depending on the anticipated clientele.

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After our afternoon nap, we hop a rickshaw to the South City mall. The driver takes us through maze-like alleys filled with little shops, gated homes, garbage and more alleys. The ten minute trip costs 20 rp (roughly 50 cents).

At the mall, there’s a security checkpoint at every entrance (with metal detector and bag check), and an extra posse of guards at every storefront. When you leave a store, you also have to show them your bill and bags once again.

Inside a department store, not all that different than a slightly upscale Walmart, the place is packed – and not just with customers. There’s easily 20 clerks per department, as opposed to the non-existent ghosts we chase back home at the Canadian tire. Everyone of them smiles, says “hi” and asks if you need anything. It’s courteous, but gets grating after the 5th time in as many steps.

I have the constant feeling that I’m being followed, and I am. The smiling clerks shadow you, hanging two steps behind, waiting to see if you need help with anything. There’s no escape of the endless onslaught of service personnel.

After stocking up on ramen and club soda, we pay at the cash and go to the restaurants. We settle on some heavy, pan-fried momos (Tibetan dumplings) in a thick tomato sauce. All ride back I feel the heartburn gnawing at my insides.

Author: alexander

Drinker of bad wine and writer of many things.