Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Everything is negotiable. That is, unless it has a federally regulated maximum resale price tag on it. The richshaws have a meter with a flag. Sometimes they don't like to run the meter. So you make a deal upon entry. Sometimes the driver asks for more at the end of the ride. This gets interesting because from our side the suggested overcharge is usually around 20 cents, U.S. currency.The second night we spent in Delhi, I had a conversation about this with Gregg Jamison, a Fulbright archaeologist from Madison. We agreed that if our egos are in place, the "rip-off" is meaningless. Usually, that's true. Sometimes the attitude of the driver or merchant is so agressive or filled with smirking pleasure at our ignorance that 20 cents or 40 cents is enough for me to respond. Twenty rupees over the standard fee: move to another rickshaw. Some days, when we've been negotiating everything else and dancing to the beat of rubber stamps, saying no to something is a way to feel like we have a little control. Of course we have almost no control here at all.
Lee has suffered lots of stares and a certain amount of stalking. The first clear stalker appeared at Humayan's tomb in Delhi. He followed at a distance, then would pass and move ahead, anticipating our direction. We played with him a little, letting him get ahead then reversing our direction and taking a parallel route. He even followed us out of the monument and watched while we got into our cab. We called him the barnacle. I'll post his blurry, cheap-detective style photo when our neighbor's internet permits.
This attention disturbs Lee less all the time. We call her the white goddess. Not many "foreigners" here. The local guy, the Badora Stalker, was at it again today, walking back and forth, trying to stay inconspicuous. I walked down and stood about five inches from him, not moving. We both gazed across the street for a while. He dropped his cigarettes and matches. Very satisfying. Whenever we see this guy, we take a rickshaw home, so he won't follow us to our apartment.