Adventures in India: Touring India

Adventures in India: Touring India

This is the second blog post in a four part series about my travels in India. This post will focus on my adventures touring India with my dude and m’lady. Click here for the first part of the series, ‘Adventures in India (1 of 4): Adjusting to Indian Culture’.

Adventures in India: Touring India

My dude and I arrived in the Delhi airport from Mumbai. We had plans to meet our third travel companion, m’lady, and continue our adventures touring India together. 

Navigating the Delhi Airport

My dude and I started to navigate from the domestic to the international side of the airport to meet m’lady. We learned that the domestic and international flights went to different airports. We realized that finding m’lady would be challenging.

Also, though the smog in Mumbai was bad, Delhi was noticeably worse. I could not breath and walk at the same time. In desperation, I slowed my dude’s walking pace down once outside of the airport. I needed a moment to master breathing while walking outside.

My dude seemed to be equal parts excited and anxious about meeting his girlfriend, m’lady. Thankfully, my dude did his best to not rush our journey over to the international arrivals. And I did my best to keep up at my dude’s walking pace while managing my asthma. I desperately hoped for a good deep mindful breath. But, now being well versed in my mantra, I focused on the present by accepting the situation and moved on.

My dude and I arrived to the international side of the airport sooner than m’lady. Since we didn’t travel international, my dude and I had to wait outside of the airport for m’lady. We had no way of knowing the status of m’lady other than confirming her flight did arrive. We assumed m’lady was delayed due to needing to clear through customs and border protection. So, my dude and I waited.

Meeting the Tour Driver and Guide

Prior to the trip, m’lady had diligently set up a detailed and personalized tour. Our tour included a personal van driver for the next 5 days. We would also have 3 different tour guides for exploring Delhi, Agra, and then Jaipur.

Standing outside of the international area we spotted our driver and tour guide greeter holding a sign that said, “Mr. M’Lady”. M’lady has a clearly feminine and almost Indian name. Though amused by “Mr. M’Lady”, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the patriarchal assumption that a woman was not in charge of organizing this trip.

My dude and I introduced ourselves to the driver and tour guide greeter. M’lady’s flight had in fact landed on time, though we still didn’t know how long before we would see her. M’lady did not travel with an international phone, so we patiently waited. My dude became increasingly restless and eventually decided to try to find m’lady within the airport. I stayed with the tour group staff outside. I didn’t feel like I needed to worry about m’lady as she is a well traveled independent female. In all probability, m’lady was simply stuck in a boring line somewhere in the airport.

I did my best to talk with the tour guide staff, though they only spoke broken English. Every now and then m’dude would pop back into view from inside the airport terminal. My dude would motion to me from a distance that he still hadn’t found m’lady. I non-verbally communicated back in support of his search and provided humor to lessen the stress.

Waiting to Meet M’lady

We waited many hours standing outside the airport as day turned into night. Given the long wait, our tour guide staff suggested arranging a taxi ride to the hotel. And the instant we started making actual plans, a large group of people started drumming on buckets. The excitement appeared to be directed at welcoming home some local athletes back to town. Needless to say, it was impossible to hear anything other than the bucket drums. Thankfully, the drummers were quite good.

A few times the tour guide staff tried again talking with me during the drumming. Unfortunately I could only shrug my shoulders in confusion due to the noise. We all found the timing of the drums quite amusing. About 20 minutes into the drumming I spotted m’lady with my dude walking toward the outside. I reflexively made my way toward my dude and m’lady.

Just Simply Alice Greets M’lady in India

Normally m’lady and I, upon first seeing each other, engage in an epic hello hug. Typically I pick her up and together we spin around while hugging. I was excited to see m’lady, especially since I hadn’t seen her in many months. And nothing could beat an epic hello hug on the other side of the world.

As m’lady and I got closer to each other, our excitement transitioned into immense apprehension. Both m’lady and I knew that even public displays of affection between married couples is unacceptable in Indian culture. And here m’lady and I were, two women in a very crowded Indian airport about to hug in the most epic way feasible. It is impossible to describe how quickly this moment of pure excitement and happiness was overpowered by unfathomable levels of intangible judgement from unknown onlookers. Both my’lady and I are very independent ladies with quite a lot of well placed chutzpah, yet, this was India. M’lady and I quickly and non-verbally compromised to share a quick hello hug. Immediately after, we scurried over to the tour guide staff as if the physical contact between us never happened.

Just Simply Alice, My Dude, and M’lady

We arrived at the hotel with little hassle. While talking to the tour guide staff, m’lady explained for the first of many times to a variety of people that while yes, her name may sound Indian, she is not in fact Indian. Once we were checked into the hotel, the tour guide staff discussed with us our tour morning plan and left.

The three of us settled into our hotel room. The only luggage we had for our 3 week trip was a single backpack each. Also, at that moment I realized that the unspoken plan for sleeping three people in one room included me always sleeping on a roll away bed. Which, in hindsight, was probably the best option for me.

M’lady, stir crazy from her long travels, rallied the group into finding a place to go get a drink. My dude instinctively started going on his phone to research nearby places. Conversely, m’lady insisted that we instead just go outside and explore. I was on board with m’lady’s plan. Only a few blocks away was a passable restaurant that served alcohol and so we went inside.

Indian Restaurant Service

While waiting for our beverages to be served, I once again observed the very confusing culture of Indian serving staff. There were always multiple people working, always male, who appeared to do a very small part of a larger job. Through my American eyes I assumed the Indian restaurant service would be more efficient with fewer people. Jobs could be simplified and streamlined.

We could always see multiple staff waiting around to do their small part of a service job. And yet, we tended to have to persistently get someone’s attention for service. Over the past few days I observed this serving culture style to be generally true for most everywhere we went.

M’lady in India

M’lady updated us on her adventures halfway around the world. We were eventually served our ordered drinks. Before finishing our first round, my dude abruptly announced that he needed to go back to the hotel room due to stomach issues. My dude affirmed that he would be okay and insisted we stay out.

M’lady and I now sat across from each other, in a mostly empty Indian restaurant. In that moment I think both m’lady and I finally internalized our excitement. We were touring India together! We toasted to the days to come and updated each other on the happenings in our lives. The conversation and familiar banter settled us both comfortably in our new Indian surroundings.

Just Simply Alice and M’lady

I knew I could be respectfully open and honest with m’lady. I apprehensively asked her about me not being sooner informed about her dating my dude. She immediately thanked me for being upfront and apologized that I wasn’t informed. M’lady assumed that my dude told me about the relationship a few months ago. Consequently m’lady then realized her mistake in assuming. My dude is a man of few words. Rarely does he initiate updating anyone on important life stuff, even with regular contact.

Also, m’lady made a point to say that while yes she is dating my dude, the most important thing to her during our trip, and always, was friendship. M’lady insisted that she did not ever want me to feel like I was a third wheel. Additionally, m’lady encouraged open and honest communication during the trip. I wholeheartedly accepted and agreed with everything m’lady had to say.

After our second round of drinks we decided to head back to our hotel. M’lady and I, wanting to fully embrace our moment of ‘how cool is this that we’re touring India together’, decided to rebel a bit and walk the long way back to our hotel. The night was full of polluted air, the roads were filled with litter, the streets seemed unsafe, and I was filled to the brim with utter joy to experience that moment with m’lady.

Just Simply Alice Accepts and Moves On

Touring India continued to be challenging. However I was immensely thankful for having two unconditionally loving friends with me. My ‘accept it and move on’ mantra could now transition. My breath of fresh Indian air became our shared smiles, laughs, and inside jokes. But, the adventure, by no means, stops here.

Just Simply Alice and M'lady
Just Simply Alice and M’lady

Touring India: Delhi

That night we all slept well. The next morning our hotel room filled with much needed giggling. As we got ready that morning, we naturally fell into our usual roles: my dude as the knowledgeable internet researcher and quiet straight funny man who spoke few words but had comedic timing; m’lady as the positive buzzing energy and accurate emotional gauge; and I as the skilled observer and reliable comic relief (usually, but not always, directed at my dude).

Meeting the Tour Guide

My dude and I made our way down to our hotel breakfast before m’lady. We met our female tour guide for that day. Our tour guide asked us many questions. After a few other tour staff asked  similar questions, I learned the standard question list.

-What brought you to India?
-What do you do for a living?
-Are you married?
-Are you in a relationship?
-How long have you been in that relationship?
-When are you going to get married?
-Why aren’t you married yet?

Though, the best line of questioning of our entire trip is when m’lady finally joined us that morning. The female tour guide asked m’lady the following, in this order:

-Your name is very Indian, are you from India?
-Do you live with your mother?
-Where do you live?
-What do you do for a living?
-Are you in a relationship?
-How soon until you get married?

Just Simply Alice’s Indian Cultural Observations

The line of intrusive questioning quickly became predictable. However, the most absurd part continued to be the lack of genuine interest in the answers. Frequently we would be interrupted by the question asker about more practical matters of the trip. It was as if asking the questions served a mental checklist of building rapport. And the answers were irrelevant.

Pretty quickly I became annoyed by these predictable questions, especially about the implications and expectations around relationships. I very seriously wanted to answer, ‘Yes, I am happily married to my wife’. Also, I struggled with the amount of times I heard someone say, ‘Indian marriages have very low divorce rates compared to Americans.’. I almost responded with something like, ‘Divorce is not a bad thing and doesn’t mean failure!’. But, I knew I had to choose my battles. And challenging Indian ideals around relationships and marriage seemed fruitless. We were three Americans at the mercy of people in a foreign country who were not friends nor family. So, to cope, I bit my tongue and shared well timed frustrated glances with my friends.

Touring India: Studying the Kama Sutra
Touring India: Studying the Kama Sutra

Touring India: Quitab Minar

Our first tour day of Delhi was probably the most jam packed and most exhausting day. We saw many incredible sites ranging from old ruins and gorgeous tombs, to modern government buildings, and Gandhi’s memorial site.

One of my favorite moments of the day was during our first stop at Quitab Minar and the surrounding ruins. Quitab Minar is the highest stone tower in India constructed in 1199. M’lady and I have both traveled to Israel and have been in the presence of old, old ruins. But, my dude made a point to stop and truly appreciate the significance. He shared that this was his first time in the presence of something outside of a museum that was so old and man made. His child like awe and curiosity inspired me to fully appreciate the significance. I could not even fathom how people designed and constructed Quitab Minar over 1,00 years ago.

Touring Quitab Minar
Touring India: Quitab Minar

Being White in India

As we navigated around our first site, we quickly gained an appreciation for what it would feel like to be a celebrity. While touring India, many people wanted to take our pictures. My dude is tall and white, I am with light brownish hair and white, and m’lady is Persian white with a very welcoming personality. Being white in some parts of India is a rarity. My dude probably got the most attention from the students on school tours. I enjoyed watching the kids flock to my dude. And my dude would joyously take selfies with the school children.

Indian Children Requesting Selfies with My Dude
Touring India: Indian Children Requesting Selfies with My Dude

The rarity of Indians seeing white skin didn’t fully sink in until a few days later. Our driver noticed the blue veins on our arms and asked what they were. We explained that they were veins. He showed us that he couldn’t see his own veins. Our driver shared that he had never before seen someone’s veins. Now, when I look at my veins, I can’t help but think of how weird it is that I can see them.

Touring India: Chandni Chowk

Our tour continued that day, filled with many sights, sounds, and smells, as well as numerous observable cultural differences.

The last stop on our tour we decided to go was Chandni Chowk, the oldest and busiest markets in Old Delhi. Chandni Chowk was built in the seventeenth century and is now a modern day whole sale market. This old market was by no means a typical shopping area to navigate. Chandni Chowk was the most dense, most populated, most chaotic, and most sensory overload experience of our whole trip.

As apart of our tour package, our tour guide hired rickshaw drivers to go on a 45 minute ride around some of the market. We navigated down the very narrow alleyways and roads surrounding the market. My dude and m’lady rode in one rickshaw and I in another with our tour guide. I took both videos and photos of this experience, but not even that captures the chaos. I’ve visited various old markets before, and this place was incomparable.

Touring Chandni Chowk
Touring India: Chandni Chowk

Buying Saris in India

During our tour, our tour guide had learned that we were visiting India for our friend’s Indian wedding. M’lady and I wanted to buy saris for the wedding. Our tour guide said that our best deal would be to buy them in Chandni Chowk. My previous research also recommended Chandni Chowk as the be the best place to barter a deal.

My dude, m’lady, and I already had immense hesitation around not knowing how to properly engage in the Indian barter system. And our white skin appeared to already give us a noticeable disadvantage at times. But our tour guide said that we were like ‘family’ and that she would ‘help get us a deal’. So, with well placed apprehension, we agreed to go to a sari shop within Chandni Chowk.  We had ‘no pressure to buy anything’.

I had the most intense shopping experience of my life at Chandni Chowk.

The Sari Shop

Our rickshaws stopped, and instead of going directly into one of the many visible shops, we were directed to go up a very narrow flight of stairs. And then another very narrow flight of stairs. We were then led into a very bright white room with shelves on all walls completely filled with folded saris to the ceiling. Saris in every color imaginable. Like all of the other places of business in India we visited, only men were working there. Our female tour guide instructed us to sit on the white pillows on the ground. We then learned how to ‘properly’ shop for saris.

Learning How to Shop for Saris

Essentially when shopping for saris, we could request whatever color sari we wanted to see. One of the many male workers would then dramatically unfold numerous gorgeous saris. He would carefully drape one sari on top of another making a colorful pile of saris. As an American, this process seemed very theatrical, and at times intrusive. Someone would continue to insist on helping, even when requesting some space. But, we learned as we later shopped with friends for saris, this was standard practice.

M’lady and I made the most of viewing the saris, not having too much knowledge of what we wanted. It was an exhausting process. But, we knew buying a sari for a wedding in India was probably a once in a life time cultural experience. Once we finally selected the sari we each liked, they instructed us to go up one more flight of stairs. Since Indian weddings are 4 days long, we apparently had more outfits we needed to buy for each day.

We tried on a few garments, and then asked about prices. These garments were more expensive than the saris and were way outside of our price range. We insisted that we were done shopping for the day. We also purposefully highlighted that we each had a very tight budget. After over an hour of shopping, we finally started to barter the prices of our saris.

Bartering Sari Prices

They brought to us our saris we had previously picked out. And, oh, guess what, the original price of each of our saris were actually way more than the originally quoted price. M’lady and I said, ‘No thanks, can’t do that.’ They said, ‘But wait, we have cheaper ones. And in fact you liked some of those cheaper ones.’ We said, ‘They better be cheaper or we’re not buying anything.’

A few times we tried to politely engage in the negotiation. Almost every time we would be met with a feigned friendly and mostly hostile response. The salesman would state that they were ‘treating us like family’, and ‘giving us a good deal’. By challenging the price we were told that we were being disrespectful.

Now, it may seem like we were being scammed, however, this is how bartering works in India. This is the sales process, even for native Indians. Very rarely are items priced at their final sale value, and it’s an exhausting negotiation process to get a deal. Plus our very noticeable white skin and inability to speak Hindi made us a very easy target. However, given the cheap exchange rate (67 rupees to $1), while paying only a few extra dollars may not seem like a lot to us, to Indians this is quite a profit.

Commissions

It also quickly became apparent that our tour guide was most likely going to make a commission on whatever we bought. Our ‘help’ was a biased support in this bartering process. Unsurprisingly, as we continued touring India, each of our tour guides and driver all made at least one attempt to bring us somewhere to shop with hopes of making a commission. We rarely bought anything, but still had to go to the shops.

Given everything, my dude had hesitation about buying anything. But m’lady and I did our best to barter. We knew we could walk away from the sale at any time.

So, after having a very long tour day filled with an overload of sensory experiences, and now having the most intense shopping experience of my life, we ended up negotiating a lower price for our alternative saris.

Cultural Unease

The whole day made me, and my travel companions feel quite uneasy. We paid about $100 each for our saris. We later learned that while we probably could’ve paid a cheaper price, we didn’t overpay by a ridiculous amount. But, the shopping experience, though normal for Indian bartering, felt very uncomfortable to us.

As we said goodbye to our first tour guide, we had many apprehensions about our experiences with her. (Some of which are not mentioned in this post.) But, given our intense exhaustion, we felt incapable of conceptualizing our uneasy feelings.

An Uncomfortable Dinner with the Touring India Group Co-Owner

Lastly, at 7pm that night, we arrived to have dinner with the co-owner of the touring India company. We had to check in, review the rest of our tour plans, and pay the rest of the amount that was due. After the long chaotic day we had, the three of us did not feel equipped to interact with yet another business person.

We did our best to be open and honest while also being respectful to the co-owner about our experience. We highlighted things about our first day that we liked and didn’t like. Then we respectfully asked questions around perplexing cultural differences. Even with our utter exhaustion, I felt impressed with our ability to have an open and honest conversation with the co-owner.

And the co-owner’s response was basically, ‘It is what it is.’ No validation. No questions to further understand our apprehensions or explore what we did like. No effort at all to really connect with us on any level. This dinner was purely business. And while his interactions with us on the surface felt very cold and disconnected, I finally put my finger on that missing American comfort: genuine hospitality.

Just Simply Alice’s First Day Touring India Reflections

Again, let me stress here that our interpretation of how we were being treated was through our own cultural lens. While these interactions didn’t seem unusual for Indian culture, they definitely felt incredibly foreign to us. I realized that it was going to be unusual to find any genuine interaction or familiar hospitality when exploring India. Outside of a family interaction, hospitality in India felt very different. So when someone asked us a question, appeared interested in our personal lives, and/or made an effort to help us in any way, we had to remember that these gestures were driven primarily by the hopes of a business interaction, and nothing more.

Throughout the day we had found many ways to share smiles and laughter, but it was hard to shake off this strange uneasy feeling. So by the time we arrived back to our hotel room from our first jam packed day of touring India, we were all quite on edge. None of us knew how to properly process our intense day.

And, yet, even within this messy slop of Indian stress, our friendship never once wavered that day, or at any point during our trip.

Touring India: Humayun Tomb
Touring India: Humayun Tomb

Touring India: Agra

The next morning we went to Agra, about a 6ish hour van ride.

As usual, m’lady and I were ready to go in no time at all. My dude, as always, lagged behind. If my dude wasn’t such a sweet and caring dude our constant needing to wait for him would’ve been annoying. Plus m’lady and I already knew that my dude moves at the pace of a sloth, so my dude’s slow pace was expected.

I shared with m’lady during our hotel breakfast that my unprocessed overwhelmed emotional state must have snuck into my dreams because I woke up sobbing the night before. We both attempted to process and understand our experience of yesterday. We also acknowledged the importance of moving forward with a new day. Eventually my dude made his way downstairs to join us and we made our way out to the van.

Our 6ish hour van ride was pretty uneventful. Our comfort traveling together becoming solidified within our long natural silences. We arrived in Agra around late afternoon. We immediately met up with our new tour guide to explore the Taj Mahal during sunset.

Meeting Our Agra Tour Guide

After our first tour day we were all very apprehensive about meeting with our next tour guide. Unlike our previous tour guide, this tour guide was very attentive to our learning experience. He explained things tailored to our own pace, and allowed ample time for us to soak it all in. It was an amazing tour experience and the Taj Mahal probably one of the most fascinating man made structures I have ever personally witnessed.

Touring Taj Mahl
Touring India: Taj Mahal

Touring the Taj Mahal

Contrasting the amazing beauty of the Taj Mahal was a lot of garbage, and a lot of poor people. A common sight to see while touring India. Maybe it was because we were unexpectedly emotionally stirred of tales about love and peace during the tour, but upon leaving the Taj Mahal, I struggled to internalize the vast number of poor people we passed. Thankfully our tour guide was very aware of the chaos upon exiting the Taj Mahal. He purposefully made a point to make sure that we were safe.

After our tour of Taj Mahal, our tour guide informed us that he would bring us to a few different shopping places.  He stressed that we had no obligation at all to buy anything and we could leave at any time. He stated that the reason we would be going to these places would be to better understand the Taj Mahal for 1) how the marble was crafted, and then 2) how the jewels were made and used to look like paint.

Shopping in Agra

Both the jewelry and marble places were interesting enough. Also, we did feel more in control of how long we stayed with no pressure to buy. We learned a new Indian selling tactic: first show the customer how something is made in a small room outside of the shop, highlight the pride of the quality product by sharing some of the history behind the technique. Next escort the customers into the shop and be very attentive to any needs. Offer a beverage and/or snack, and actively watch the customers to know what they are interested in. Finally, state to the customer a willingness to reduce the posted price because the customer is ‘like family’. This whole process happened a lot. We learned how jewelry was made many times during our trip, and not by choice.

Though, as frustrating and time consuming as this whole process would become, (we would’ve preferred just to quickly go in and out of a shop) it at least had the making of a great inside joke. For example, upon arriving to the airport:

‘Hey, my dude, before you board the plane, let me first show you how the plane was made. First we crafted the metal made in India using an old family technique passed down by many generations. Though you may see other similar planes, our planes are special because no one else uses this exact technique. Here are some of my family members currently working on a piece of the plane right now that you can watch. If you’d like, we have more plane models inside that you can view. *walks into plane* Can I get you a beverage? And because I feel like you’re family to me, I will give you a great deal on that thing I see you eyeing.’

Touring India: KFC Advertisement
Touring India: KFC Advertisement

Night Life in Agra

After our tour was over, we gave much thanks to our tour guide, and we checked into our hotel. I felt pretty exhausted because I didn’t sleep well the night before. I used this opportunity to go to bed early. My dude and m’lady went out for a bit in search of a drink and explore.

At the Indian hotels we stayed at, only one hotel key was given to us. This key also turned on the room’s electricity. So, since I needed to keep the hotel key in the hotel room with me while I slept, I woke up only long enough to let my dude and m’lady back in once they were done adventuring. I then promptly returned back to my sound sleeping for the rest of the night.

The next morning, m’lady later told me that they were unable to find any place that served alcoholic drinks. M’lady said that while it may seem like there was alcohol at bar like establishment, well, they usually only made mocktails. The timing of when alcohol can actually be served was near impossible to figure out. M’lady also informed me that the thumping bass I heard last night while I drifted off to sleep was in fact a 6 year old’s Birthday party. And, no, they had no alcohol for the Birthday party. Eventually we learned that most states in India are dry states. Finding alcohol outside of major metro areas was going to be quite tricky. Thanks Gandhi.

Touring India: Jaipur

Feeling much better about our second experience touring India, we were in a better mood as we loaded up in the van for another 6ish hour ride to our next stop of Jaipur. At this point we got to know our driver pretty well. Though his English wasn’t perfect and we knew no Hindi, he seemed to appreciate our energy and humor.

Road Trip Rest Stop

Our driver usually made rest stops unannounced and on a whim, so we weren’t too surprised when one of those stops was on the side of the road. But, on our way to Jaipur, our driver went to the trunk and pulled out a bottle of rum and a bottle of whiskey for us to enjoy. (No, he did not drink any alcohol with us.) We were very appreciative of this gesture. Since we knew we didn’t have any tours this evening, we invited our driver to dinner, and he agreed. He later then said that he could bring us to his friend’s place for a home cooked meal. We excitedly agreed to share dinner together.

Touring India: Rest Stop
Touring India: Rest Stop

Navigating Cultural Difficulties

We arrived in Jaipur, after another long day in the tour van, and checked into our hotel. Afterward, our driver took us to where we thought m’lady could buy some cheap jewelry. After, we would go to dinner at our driver’s friend’s house. Well, the cheap jewelry was actually rather expensive. However m’lady and I were motivated to stay longer as one of the staff said he would be willing to provide a free Arya Vedic reading.

While the reading itself was intriguing, and the staff member said he didn’t cross over business with readings. After the reading, another staff member insisted on selling us gem stones. I was somewhat interested, and appropriately skeptical. I emphasized my current lack of job and asked for a business card so I could first think about the purchase. Though they said they did have business cards, they never handed me a business card. They wanted me to buy then and there.

The staff members became increasingly pushy the longer we stayed. We soon told our driver we were ready to leave and go to dinner. Our driver then walked us upstairs to a tailor shop. We were then escorted to go inside, by the same staff members. They did have dinner cooking for us, but this was turning into yet another business deal. We were all feeling very uncomfortable and overwhelmed.

Just Simply Alice Sets Boundaries

We tried to talk among ourselves to problem solve this unexpected situation. During our conversation, we were constantly interrupted by the staff with various requests of looking at things and offering beverages. Being pushed too far, I decided to lead the leaving initiative, as supported by both my dude and m’lady. I told our driver that we wanted to go. Now. To our driver’s credit, he didn’t question my request, and helped us make a quick exit.

Feeling yet again in a place of frustration, our driver dropped us off at our hotel. We figured out our own dinner plans for the evening.

Touring India: Jaipur

The next day we had our final tour with our last tour guide in the city of Jaipur, the pink city. Of note, we saw the science park filled with various old astrological instruments, various old buildings, and the old fort in the mountains. Our tour guide appeared to not care if we could hear the information he rattled off during a rushed tour. At this point in our travels, we weren’t motivated to speak up. Though, we all shared a laugh when m’lady clarified if our tour guide said ‘hookers’ when, in fact, he said ‘hawkers’.

Jaipur Elephant Rides

The final activity included in our tour was the elephant rides. Upon arriving, we were once again sat down with a staff member to first talk about the elephants while enjoying a complementary beverage. While my dude and m’lady did accept a beverage, I had about had it with this whole selling routine. I respectfully refused to have any drinks. I did enjoy the informative talk the staff member provided, but, of course, after the talk came the pricing. And the ‘let me make you a deal because I want to treat you like family’. The staff member even had a pen and paper to write down the prices, a common tactic used when bartering.

We were all confused as to why any prices were being discussed. Elephant rides were included in our touring India package. The staff member provided some vague reason as to why we needed to pay more. This wasn’t our first time getting screwed over by having to pay more for something that was supposed to be already included in the tour. My dude and m’lady were very excited to ride the elephants so they bartered a price. I sat there. In that moment my excitement for riding an elephant, which was incredibly high, did not outweigh my overall frustrations.

Just Simply Alice Refuses to Barter

The staff member tried engaging me in the bartering process and I simply refused. I sat and quietly observed. I knew my only power play was my visible indifference. And I was willing to sacrifice my elephant ride for the small victory over not feeling once again slightly scammed.

My dude and m’lady eventually agreed to pay half of the originally stated price, around $30 each. This pricing included a long ride, and then petting and feeding the elephant. They left to go pay and get ready for their rides. I continued my small protest by sitting in my chair. Eventually the staff member came back over to me as my dude and m’lady were preparing to get on their elephant.

The staff member could tell I wasn’t going to budge with paying anything. So, the staff member indirectly admitted defeat. He encouraged me to also go ride an elephant, and then later allowed me to feed and pet the elephants with my friends. I was apprehensive as to my success, but I joined my friends. All in all, I was able to do everything my friends paid to do, and was not expected to pay anything. I considered this a small, yet very needed victory.

Riding Elephants in Jaipur
Touring India: Riding Elephants in Jaipur

Successfully Bartering in India

Before our tour officially ended m’lady spotted a jewelry shop where she could finally buy some reasonably priced bangles. M’lady being in a similar, ‘don’t mess with me’ state of mind and confidently negotiated the price. I provided support while my dude allowed space and time for the interaction to take place. And then, after much persistence, m’lady also had her small victory in India by negotiating all of her items to half of the original asking price. The final price ended up being much cheaper price than if she bought the jewelry in America.

These victories may seem comparably small to the levels of stress we experienced while touring India, but these victories became a much needed reminder to not lose our confidence and sense of adventure while in India.

Just Simply Alice Finishes Touring India

The next day our driver brought us back to Delhi, another 6ish hour ride, so we could catch our plane to Goa. Goa was known as the tourist beach spot. We all had many apprehensions as to how actually relaxing our few day beach adventure would be; and how mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared we would be to then attend our guy friend’s 4 wedding. But, even with our ever increasing pile of stress, we all took great comfort in knowing that we could rely on each other.

 

More Adventures By Just Simply Alice

Previous: Adventures in India (1 of 4): Adjusting to Indian Culture
Next: Grief Dancing Ceremony

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