Colaba! Colaba! Colaba! How I love Colaba, a touristy part of Mumbai that is a prized gem of South Mumbai. Every one who comes to Mumbai, young or old, Black, White or Brown, rich or poor, all of them take a gander through the bustling streets and alleys of Colaba. There are many reasons to visit this boisterous part of the city: shopping for nick-knacks and little treasures that are ubiquitous at Colaba Causeway, visiting the grand old Taj Mahal hotel (now even more famous for the terrorist shooting that occurred a few years ago), paying homage to the Gateway of India (a famous monument of Mumbai, used as a landing place for British governors since 1924), and hanging out at cafes, bars, and restaurants that line up the streets and lanes of Colaba.
As a young college gal, I would often frequent this part of the city, hunting for bargains and refining my skills and tactics of negotiations with the shop keepers that eagerly looked forward to indulging in this social game of give and take. In other words, I love bargaining and my experience shows that a lot of shop keepers get a kick out of it too!
A few weeks ago, I went to visit the art work of a friend of mine at the “Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke” in Colaba. While we were on our way, after we got out from the cab right behind the Taj Hotel, I was thrilled to be amongst the crowds, a sublime combination of tourists and locals. I happened to see a cobbler, the traditional Indian cobbler that one will always find in any part of this city. My husband needed to get his shoes polished and parts of his soles replaced, and we decided to give this cobbler a try. Of course, he quoted Rs. 20 for polishing the two shoes (which is approximately $0.40). I thought it was decent and did not make a fuss about it. When we inquired about the cost for replacing the soles of both the shoes, you should have seen the look on my face. I was alarmed! Alarmed because we were quoted Rs. 80 ($1.60) for the shoe repair. Now, this look of alarm is one of the tactics that is often used as part of the negotiation process. Rs. 80 is, in essence, peanuts to get shoes repaired where I am concerned. But, there were two reasons for me to get into the negotiation process with the cobbler:
1. The sheer thrill of bargaining, knowing that my skills are not rusty, and will probably get even better with time.
2. If I were visiting from the USA, like I used to, I would probably not bat an eye for Rs. 80. But now that I am a local, or at least trying to be one, it feels like it is in my blood to bargain at every given opportunity.
So what happened? We got the cobbler to reduce his rates from Rs. 80 to Rs. 50 ($1.00). Here are pictures of the cobbler at work:
He did a good job and we were satisfied with the shoes, and it is quite comfortable for my husband to walk in them!
Whilst I was waiting for the cobbler to do his job, I was taking in all the sights and sounds that I was surrounded by. There were vendors selling all kinds of things, right from peacock feathers, to cold drinks, to peanuts, and artificial jewellery. I was amused by the guys selling huge balloons that were as tall as me:
It was also interesting to see a cop in action, talking to a vendor selling juice/ water. Only god knows what they were chatting about:
Believe you me, everywhere I turned, there was something or someone who was exciting to watch and observe and the 20 minutes of hanging out with the cobbler was worth it. It was a thoughtful reminder of how much life and exuberance this city possesses. Right from its people to its rodents, at least this part of the city was a treat, even if it was for a short while. Here is a final picture: a decent size rat sniffing for its next meal. Even he/she has a stake in all of this!