Sunday, January 13, 2008


a couple of weeks ago i went to a well-known market in delhi called dilli-haat. it's known for being one of the nicer markets in delhi, with lots of lovely crafts from all over the country, and decent food. i was meeting a friend from work there, and she was running a bit late, so i was hanging out by myself outside the entrance for a while. luckily, there was a monkey there to keep me company. here she is:

hello there! your fruit looks so fresh and delicious.

as it turned out, my friend was running very late, so i watched her for a while more. here she is, sunbathing:

here she is, minding her own business while some girls fawn over their digital cameras while their packages of purchases wait patiently:

outside of the entrance to dilli haat, there are a handful of men who walk around carrying unclean looking plastic thermoses and small plastic cups shouting 'chai coffee! chai coffee!' if you want some tea or coffee, you hand them 5 rupees (current conversion is 38 rupees/usd) , they give you a plastic cup, unscrew the appropriate thermos, and pour it hot into your cup. one was bellowing in our section and passed the monkey. a few paces past her, he stopped, thought for a minute, turned around, and walked back the way he came.

he came back 2 minutes later carrying one of his plastic cups filled with water and put it in front of her. instead of thanking him for being so thoughtful as any well-mannered monkey would do, she stared at him and he stared back.

for those of you who enjoy labeled objects and maximizing photos to make them readable:

at this point, my friend called to let me know that she was very close, so i hopped off of the ledge where i was sitting across from the staring contest to get in line to buy two 15 rupee tickets for entrance into the market.

the market was, in fact, nice and lovely. it's essentially a craft fair, where it seems that 40% of the stalls carry stoles and scarves, 30% carry junky jewelry, and the remaining 30% carry ganeshes made out of one material or another. this is ganesh:

he is one of the most popular hindu gods as the remover of obstacles, patron of arts and sciences, and god of intellect and wisdom. ganesh is very busy.

we walked around and chit chatted aimlessley. because i own plenty of random crap already, i didn't buy anything, although i did see a nice pair of large cubic zirconia earrings close to the exit. ooh! i thought. so sparkly. they were a good size; about the same diameter as the bottom of a chocolate chip. '200 rupees,' the girl said. '100,' i said. '150,' said her stallmate. 'hmpf,' i said, and walked away. my friend and i went on to run errands and have lunch at connaught place.

that was four weeks ago. ever since then, i've been thinking about the sparkly earrings. i went back to dilli haat to look for them today, but to no avail; they were nowhere to be found. rats.

then, my really dumb personality spoke up. not to worry! it said. you're a big girl now. you know what you should get? diamonds. forget this 150 rupee fake bullshit. get some serious rocks.

ok! i agreed enthusastically. i left delhi and asked the driver to take me back to the gold souk in gurgaon (where i live), which is basically a giant mall filled with gold and diamond stores. just as i was entering the mall thinking about how much everything inside was worth, a uniformed man carrying a gigantic rifle cut me off and i nearly had a heart attack.

i went into the first shop and asked for diamond solitaire earrings. he brought out some diamonds that looked like he had gone just inside the entrance of the closest supermarket, reached in his pocket, pulled out a quarter, turn-locked it into a gumball type of machine, and received a small plastic ball with a colored top in exchange. he probably threw away the little piece of paper that comes with it and the sealed plastic pouch it came in and handed it to me directly.

bah! why are you showing me this garbage, i said on the inside. 'thank you very much,' i said on the outside as i stood up to leave.

i went to another store, and they proceeded to show me earrings i swear i bought at a claire's in the topeka kansas mall in the fifth grade.

i entered a third store and said, 'earrings. solitaires. huge.' the lady disappeared and returned with a small box. she opened it, and i was blinded. they were exactly what i wanted: simple, sparkling, and 1.6 carats each.

as i was giving bedroom eyes to the earrings in hopes that they would steal away with me stealthily, i remember an indian friend telling me about a story about how her aunt pulled her aside once and asked her if her husband was taking care of her. she'd noticed that she'd worn the same three pairs of nice earrings over and over again to a number of different functions, and when a woman wears jewels, it's a sign of the husband's financial health. if you don't wear enough bling, people start to worry. and when i say 'nice earrings,' it's serious. it's common for older women to tear their earlobes from weighty jewels and get them stitched up every couple of years.

gross. gross. gross.

now, to avoid this, preeti could have given her jewelry up and gotten it remade it into something new so her overzealous auntie wouldn't have noticed. apparently, women do with this with some regularity (once every five years or so). they pack up all of their gold, go to a jeweler, and have them melt it all down and turn it into new jewelry. they lose around 20% of the value of the gold due to losses during the melting and restructuring process, and this doesn't include the labor costs for the new designs.

what's the point of me telling you all this? ice is a big deal. BIG. a girl told me that she went to a wedding where the bride's parents gave the groom's sister a pair of 6 lakh (1 lakh = 100,000 rupees = $2500 usd) diamond earrings. it makes me wish that diamonds were a big deal in taiwanese culture. when i told my mom today that i wanted to buy myself a pair of diamond earrings, she snorted and told me to eat more vegetables.

at this point, a voice interrupted my inner monologue. 'these are nine lakh, forty-nine thousand six-hundred seventy-five,' she said. i looked up at her. what? '949,675,' she said again.

this is $24,190.12 usd.

tata just launched the new and impressively cost efficient 1 lakh car at the delhi auto show this week. this means that i could either buy these earrings, or nine and a half cars. if you're interested in knowing more about the 1 lakh tata, read my friend eric's article here.

i thought about all the gold and diamonds that families must accrue over the course of their lifetimes, and envisioned a treasure chest in my apartment overflowing with jewels, not unlike that treasure chest in goonies. i frowned when the mental picture of my apartment filled with jewels morphed into a mental picture of my apartment filled with 1 lakh tatas.

i actually look like this. no nose.

then i imagined myself wearing the diamond earrings:

not sure yet how i could ever justify this expense to myself, so until then, no earrings. perhaps i will ask ganesh! he might have some good advice.


Anonymous Laura said...

i say stick to the cubic zirconium. way cheaper, just as shiny, and producing them doesn't require the enslavement and mutilation of african children. it's win win!

11:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah . . I don't think anyone can really tell the difference anyway. not that i've tried. we can go to a Claire's here in SoCal, or maybe you can wad up some aluminum foil and tape it to your earlobe.

12:37 AM  
Blogger Rita said...

I find this blog highly entertaining. Do you have a huge audience for this? Because this blog is highly entertaining.

Don't be fooled by the rock that I got. I once lusted some huge CZs. This was shortly after D surprised me with the aforementioned one rock (the cost of which I did NOT lust). D was equally displeased with my appreciation of the CZs. There was premarital strife. I did not get them.

11:42 PM  

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