Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thursday, June 5 - Bangles: is it possible to have too many?

The girls and I are deciding what we like most about the things we have from India. The chudy-das are a favorite, as are the ankle bracelets and bangles. Mahalakshmi told Erin that her ankle bracelets look black, and that she needs to wash them. “How?” I asked. Mahalakshmi said, “Soapy water. Use soapy water.” So Erin did, and her ankle bracelets do seem a bit shinier. The question is, will they rust?

We decided that we should try and get some more bangles, as the first batch of bangles we bought turned out to be made of glass and rubber. While they’re very pretty, they aren’t hardy, and just wearing them seems to make them disintegrate. The second batch of bangles we bought with Mani’s help at a bangle cart at T. Nagar have been holding up nicely, and so we decide to get a few more of those, as our glass/rubber ones don’t look as if they’ll last much longer.

Lily also decided she needed a “good quality” chudy-da, as the three she has were bought at Saravana store, which we have all discovered sells inferior quality clothing, but at attractive prices.

It doesn’t take any convincing at all to make me want to return to T. Nagar. Mani, on the other hand, comes just short of rolling his eyes. I know he enjoys us, but I think he thinks we are just a little too excited about bangles and shopping. Perhaps he’s beginning to understand that shopping is the great female American pastime. We wouldn’t have shopped nearly so much, by the way, if we had been in India longer. Or at least we would have not packed it into so many times a week. We just knew we were leaving soon, and don’t know if we’ll get to come back to India, and don’t want to pass up our one chance to take home some things that are so unique to India.

Mani takes us to T. Nagar, and we ask him to help us find the jingle-jangle bangles that we bought last time when he helped us. I love it when Mani leaves the car and comes shopping with us. He’s a man on a mission, and he is very good at finding just what we’re looking for. Fortunately, I thought to wear my bangles, so that we can show shopkeepers exactly what we’re looking for—a rainbow-bejeweled bangle with bells hanging from a chain that jingle every time you move your arm.

Mani took us to Podee’s Bazaar (which I kept getting confused with Pothy’s Department Store, but which are very different things. Podee’s Bazaar is a street with some tiny department stores and open-air markets. Pothy’s Store is a rather posh department store. Both are at T. Nagar).

We walked around in the open-air market area along both sides of a street, stopping at bangle carts and looking at everything they had. For some reason, we weren’t finding anything jingly. Erin found some bangles she liked better, and since bangles are so inexpensive (approx 50 cents to $1.25 a set), we bought some.

Mani is always so confident about leading us down alleys, around carts, across busy streets. I’m amazed at how he can find his way around and find nearly anything we ask him for. The only problem is, the streets are often so crowded that the girls can’t walk beside me as they’re accustomed to doing at home. Thus, my mantra in India has become, “Girls, follow Mani!” as we form a single line—First Mani, then Erin, then Lily, and I follow-up with Heidi in the stroller. Mani always smiled when I’d give the girls that order. I always thought it made him look somewhat like the Pied Piper.

Mani led us down an alley where we could buy silk jasmine, as he knows how much the girls love wearing jasmine in their hair. We didn’t find silk, but we found plastic, and bought a rope of plastic jasmine flowers for each girl. Later, I discovered that the plastic jasmine is probably not meant to be worn in hair, but rather is probably used to decorate Hindu shrines and gods. I am sure that we could have found silk jasmine for hair, but not under the deadline that we were working under.

Here I saw a lady sitting with a big bowl of the red bindy dot powder for sale in front of her, and longed to take her picture. I asked her, and she said, “no.” I thought, “After all the photos that we Burkes have tolerated of Indians taking of us, I am rather miffed that you won’t let me take your picture.” Oh well.

We decide to take Lily to Pothy’s to see if we can find a reasonably-priced, “good quality” chudy-da for her. We find one right away, and luxuriate in the dressing rooms that this particular store provides. I felt rather smug this third time in the store, because now I knew the procedure: you weren’t to take hangers into the dressing room, and if you wish to purchase something, you ask the clerk for the hanger back, then proceed to the check-out counter where you will surrender your purchase at one counter, pay at another counter, then receive your merchandise at another counter. No more confusion for us at this store!

Mani then said he’d take us to the same bangle cart we had bought our jingly bracelets at before, which was right in front of Saravana Store. He drove us as close as he could get, then explained to me where the cart was. Heidi, meanwhile, had fallen asleep, so he said he would drive around with her and keep her cool in the air conditioning, and meet us in 15 minutes in the same place.

Erin, Lily and I dashed off and were surprised we found the bangle cart so easily. We were sure it was the same cart because the bangle cart shopkeeper greeted us with such enthusiasm, and said, “You come back my shop!” We easily found more jingly bangles, and then the Erin spotted a lovely jewelry set including a necklaces, earrings, and a forehead jewel (a long gold chain that lies on top of your head, dangling a jewel in the middle of your forehead). She had wanted one of those forehead jewels, but we hadn’t seen them for sale at a convenient time, but here they were, and very cheap. We bought one set for each of the girls (except Mama, who wanted one, and will get one next time she goes to India).

We hurriedly dashed back to find Mani and the sleeping Heidi waiting for us, and hopped in the car to return home. I thought sadly, “This is probably the last time we’ll be in T. Nagar. What experiences we’ve had here!”

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