Thursday, 30 June 2011

The Sting

Upon arriving in New Delhi fatigue was starting to set in - just a handful of hours with Indian TV blaring in the background for a part of it then the 300km drive from Amoor to Hyderabad where i managed to slip away with neck creaking consequences for an hour or two before the flight. Joyfully, i got an exit row although on a domestic Indigo flight that barely means knee room, but better than the alternative.
The hotel room was sparse but more than adequate - i was in sore need of sustenance after the previous day's expulsions but couldnt stomach the idea of anything Indian (no offence to the fantastic cuisine of this land but i wouldn't go to an Indian restaurant for three meals a day back at home for a week so i shant do it here) - McDonalds was calling with its regional affectations - no red meat available but some old faithfuls were there to remind me of ohm - one thing to note is that this is the ONLY place where I've seen fat children anywhere in the country.
This hotel was far more central than some of the others ive stayed in thus far so it was a good opportunity to do some walking - thus far i've found i've been stuck in cars for a lot of my trip which is not the way i like to explore a city - i was reasonably central and whilst i didnt have a map on my person i felt i could explore enough without getting too hopelessly lost.
There's something about someone who has just arrived in a city, no matter how hardened they may be, that just screams 'first day' so it wasn't long before i was approached, subtle like, by a local, and I don't want to be judgemental but stereotypes are a real time saver, who appeared to have a touch of the Rominy to him, he started off with advice about using the metro rather than the rickshaws and he suggested a touristy area (where i was going to go anyway) so he accompanied me - very chivalrously telling me to walk on the other side of him when we did the leap of faith into the heavy moving traffic, bought me a chai as we babbled about travelling things - he seemed to be edging towards trying to sell me hashish but also directed me into one of the cottage industry shops where i was offered pashminas, traditional shirts and jewellery (the owner there intimated the incredible value of the jewellery, perhaps trying a variant of the Thailand jewellery scam which i bested several years previously). As i had no wife (nor girlfriend) the jewellery pushing was half-hearted at best although they did suggest i purchase the ubiquitous masturbating monkey (he turns up everywhere!). I knew there was a scam coming but was having a hard time working out what it was - i was getting a bit of a free tour and he was interesting enough - he started dropping in hints of a tale of woe (growing up on the streets and living in a tent with his children) and also gave a clue about being illiterate and knowing that if he learned to read he would be on his way to success.
He thought aloud that if he had a dictionary (even a second hand one) he would be able to use it to push himself and his family upwards and as he didn't want to sell me anything (because i was such a nice guy of course) perhaps we could find a bookstore and i could get one. Well, we found the bookshop (run by a Sikh) and lo and behold he had that second hand Hindi-English dictionary right under the counter and he was selling it for 1400 rupees and thats when i saw it. 1400 rupees is not a huge amount of money but its more than a new one would cost in Australia - I laughed when i saw the quote written down - it had been a few hours now and i was getting a little bored and tired and decided to head back hotel ways - he changed his tack and suggested my presence there as a westerner meant that he was overcharging (as Sikhs are won't to do!) and claimed that he could get it for 600 rupees if he went back by himself, then 500 rupees ... it was definitely a bit more creative than some of the scams i've seen or read about.
A lot of the more hardened travelers i've spoken to over the years consider anything more than local prices is a scam for tourists but in the end, our buying power is ridiculously high over here compared to your average local - paying $10 for something that you could potentially get for $2 is not going to break you - i don't like being rorted for nothing but being overcharged is hardly something that I'm going to lose sleep over (especially when i'm paying less for it than i would at ohm) - if somebody tries to do the dance and it's an interesting dance I will dance with them but I'm not going to buy them a dictionary.

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