Yesterday, the 10 of us, our wonderful driver from the AES school and two teachers packed into our van and headed 45 minutes outside Delhi to the Surajkund Mela--a huge open air crafts festival. We arrived to find hundreds upon hundreds of stalls filled with every conceivable craft from the various Indian states and several surrounding countries. And thousands upon thousands of people. A sea of humanity, really.
In the early part of the day it wasn't quite as crowded, so it was more possible to actually shop. Shopping is an experience here. First there is the process of looking at innumerable items all the while vendors are vying for your attention: "Madame, see here this shawl"--coming at you from every direction. It's hard to look amidst all the distraction.
We spent some time at a really wonderful stall with all kinds of woven and finely embroidered scarves. The two gentlemen at the stall patiently unfolded numerous scarves while several of us tried to make up our minds about what we wanted. And then there is the haggling. Luckily, we had one of the teachers at AES with us--and she has a great eye for good work and a good sense of a reasonable price to pay. So eventually we came away with our chosen scarves, leaving the two men to rearrange their wares for the next customers.
By that time, it was beginning to get really crowded. It would have been enough to just stand aside and people-watch. All the beautifully-clad women in their saris and colorful scarves. But of course--we were the people being watched as well. White people are a bit of a curiousity here--especially tall blond ones like me. Many people wanted to have their pictures taken with us, which most of us obliged--since after all, we are taking pictures of them as well.
We walked around and browsed and haggled for hours and then made our way back to the van at the appointed hour and had fun inspecting the great purchases that everyone had made. The drive home was exceedingly slow because of the unbelievable traffic. We shared the road with cars, buses, bicycles and motorized rickshaws, cows, elephants and people begging for money amidst the idling cars. The hardest to take are the little kids who play drums and do gymnastics on the median strips and in between the cars--wanting you to pay them for the entertainment. The extent of the poverty here is truly astonishing--the topic of another blog later on, I am sure. But there is also great beauty--and it is hard to reconcile the cacophony of the mix. Today, we leave for our next adventure in Jaipur!