Our tour guides brought us to two remarkable places to purchase some of India’s finest goods: One that made hand-woven (oriental style) rugs in Delhi and one that made marble inlaid items in Agra.
The store in Delhi is the result of thousands of years of families patiently toiling over what were the most beautiful rugs I’ve ever seen. They shimmered.
The host explained how painstakingly they weave the threads by hand with a special twist movement that produces a hardy rug you can keep forever. Some rugs take 3 artisans three years to create, and each family has its own special set of designs that are handed down from generation to generation. Usually a new design is created as part of a daughter’s dowry, as part of her family legacy.
The salesmen, usually two at a time, would be holding coiled up rugs and then, on command, simultaneously unfurl them with a proud stout “vrrump!” to the amazement of their audience.
After the presentation the salesmen all turned their attention to each of their visitors. The rugs were $15,000 on average, smaller ones less but you get the idea. I was not in the market for a rug.
The young salesman assigned to this little blonde American was tenacious, leading me away from the rugs and towards the pashminas that surely would catch my eye. I was so jet lagged I could barely grant him the rapt attention he deserved. I also did not purchase a pashmina that day, but it wasn’t because of his lack of effort.
He said one thing I’ll never forget, a salesman’s tool for sure, but a useful one: “I can see that you are someone who likes things that are very different.” BINGO! I simply didn’t see that something that commanded my purchase. A senior salesman tried to assist by mentioning that they had items “that are a little less expensive,” (at which I bristled) and thankfully my young salesman shooed him away explaining I simply hadn’t found what I was looking for. The young man never stopped smiling once.
The marble craftmanship in Agra was no less amazing. The men working here are the descendants of those who worked on the marble inlay at the Taj Mahal. Once again, we were treated to a demonstration not only to how the marble work is done, but as to their products’ sturdiness (he dropped a small marble table top onto the carpeted floor and, as we all gasped, he just smiled, and assured us that shipping to the US was completely free).
The salesmen were equipped with all of their tools and smiles, but alas, a $30,000 marble table top was also not on my shopping list.
My friend and colleague Partha (who also writes a great blog: Life and Money) and I took a cab ride in Mumbai from our professional symposium to a restaurant. At the traffic light (which I assumed were merely for suggestion, in fact, there’s a Bollywood movie titled “Traffic Signal”), our cab was surrounded by young children peddling all kinds of wares. We purchased several “Magic Books” (you move a lined sheet across the page and it looks as if the photo becomes animated) from a little girl.
Not 10 seconds later, a young boy approached our cab selling the same books. We held up our purchases to indicate “We got some already” and he gave us this big toothy smile I swear I’ll never forget. He smiled his “okay” to us in a way I think most adults should learn, not only in sales but in all aspects of life. His smile said “All is right in the world” and indeed, it was.