Saturday, July 10, 2010

Knock - offs

A bright sunny mid morning, an odd early shopper, the obvious out of towner, unaware of the lazy rythm of the city dawdles along the narrow, unplanned road, flanked on either sides by the three storey yet to open shops.
The sound of swift, rhythmic strokes from coconut fibre brooms sweeping the footpath outside select stores punctuates the silence, pregnant with anticipation of a busy day ahead..... while whipping up in its wake, localized clouds of dust........

"Dejyner hend baegs, Maydam?" a voice from behind the cloud suggests, with an accustomed ease of  a voracious sales person.
"Aaiye aaiye..... burrbary, coach, trussadi.......sab hain......baest daaam mein"
I hesitate as I look at the semi basement store, with its trainee of a young lad briskly dusting with a rag, the myriad couture impostors that line the walls.
The boisterous one quickly ushers me in, where a thick smell of rexine welcomes me.
I stare at the cream, black and red checkered ones arranged meticulously into one section, by the label they carry, only, in this case, the cream is paler and the red, redder.
Neighboring which, are ones  with the exaggerated Cs , which on close inspection prove to be ovals.... Then comes the turn of the brown ones with LV written all over, some even reversed, interspersed with florals that seem somewhat more flowery than they are supposed to be.

 I scan through the hypnotizing patterns that encrust the yellowing wall, straining my eyes on their individual identity that seems lost among the glut of its clones.
My eye spots a slick little one, a snake boat with a pronounced strap, vanity written all over it, for all it would have helped carry around  is a cellphone and a teeny bit  of a  wallet at the most.....stylish nevertheless.
"If I were to buy an original, I certainly wouldn't spend on something as useless as this one, I  justify my kitsch to myself.
Convinced, I order with fake, boorish confidence "Yeh wala dikhao, Bhaiyya", lest my inexperience as a haggler should come through. The bully in turn orders his trainee through his zarda spittle, to pull out the piece from the stack. He then snatches it from the lad's hand, wipes it with his hand that had previously wiped off some of that icky brown juice from the corners of his mouth, works the zip on the bag back and forth with a rough, brisk expertise, pulls out  crinkled masses of news paper that previously were stuffed within to give the bag some body, flexes and stretches the poor faux skin in an effort to demonstrate it's durability and hands it out for me to inspect.

I meekly hold the bag by its strap considering all that it had just been through , and ask "Kitne ka hai?" He impatiently replies "Dhai sow(Rs250)".......I mull over the bag's worth and decide "Do sow se zyada nahin" (not a penny more than 200)...... He frowns, mumbling under his breath, turns to me saying "Nahin price".
I look at the piece again hoping to find something to haggle about. I notice the bag is exactly what it's worth.... what should've been a shiny metallic zip is but a kitschy painted one with a hole at the top, the seams, visible and shoddy. I point out the imperfections in an effort to make my point and he mumbles again and adds with a smirk " Maydam ab dhai hazar ka maal dhai sow mein milega to yehi sab hoga na!"....... his dwindling patience giving his underlying uncouthness away....

Just then,  the swift click of heels interrupts the negotiations. I look up at the stairs leading into the store and see a pair of  neatly manicured feet donning some expensive stilettos descending.
The guy drops the handbag to the floor as he rushes over to greet the stylish woman clad in a designer salwar kameez. She would've made the cover if there existed a vogue for Desi clothes and rounded women, I think to myself.
She slides her Dolce Gabbana glares over her face to rest on her head. She enquires, through her painted auburn lips, about an order referring to it as "Maal". The man signals the trainee to go fetch the needful. He then offers her a seat, enquiring after her well being "Sab Quairiyat, Maydam?".....offers her Chai /Thanda which she carelessly dismisses with a slight wave. As all this transpires right in front me, I am as good as invisible at the scene.

The boy emerges from behind the store hidden entirely by an assorted bouquet of bags.. The woman quickly examines the lot with acquired expertise. Much to my dismay, I spot a shimmering piece of metal on a couple of them, the kind you find on the originals.....The reds as red as they are supposed to be and the exaggerated Cs refrain from merging their arms into an oval. She then pulls out a bundle of hundreds and slightly plops it onto the cashier's desk. The man, unable to contain himself goes over the bundle and smiles ....a glint in his eyes........ "Phir Aaiyega Madam" he  beams signaling the boy to carry her purchases to her waiting sedan outside the store.
"To?" he says counting his newly acquired bundle of currency, "Aapko chahiye ki nahin?" he threatens me insolently. Humiliated, I drop the bad on the chair and prepare to dash out of the store, the sound of finger flicking notes comes to a halt. Startled, as if noticing something horrible, he pulls out  a note from the bundle to hold it up against the the flickering light. His face hardens.... "Sali! nakli note de gayee " he scowls grinding his stained teeth and runs toward the stairs, shouting out to the boy to stop the car, as the engine roars pulling away. He tries chasing after the car for a short distance before he gives up and returns..... furious, red, defeated.
I smirk at him, rubbing it in, seeking cheap revenge for the way I was treated earlier. Feeling clearly exalted, I bring out from my purse two hundred rupee notes and a fifty to go with it, hand it over to him, pull out a fresh bag off of the stack, exactly like the one I had chosen before and strut right out of there as he stood lowering his head, unable to meet my gaze.

The same evening, at a friend's party, the hostess walks up to me making small talk, notices my hand bag and exclaims "Nice bag! Coach?" I reply with a seemingly modest  smile of acknowledgment as my hand glides over the kitschy zip, to cover it up.