India: Shopping

We arrived in Nagpur late on Saturday night after around 30 or so hours of travel (around 17 hours of which involved sitting in an airplane), so Sunday was a day to recover from travel and make preparations for the week. Since I am in no way a grownup, for me this meant going shopping for collared shirts to go with my three pair of long pants.

We ended up at the Nagpur Central Mall. Picture a 4-story department store with roughly infinity employees there to help you. After exploring for a bit, I ran into a snag: the largest size we could find in a male shirt was an extra-large, and even that was barely more generous than a large by my estimation.

I more or less gave up on the mission entirely. As I was busily working out n my head the complicated relationship I was going to have to adopt with the hotel laundry service, a store clerk brought over a shirt slightly larger than the largest I’d seen so far. It still clearly was not going to fit me, but it was, in fact, larger.

Now as an aside, I would like to point out that I am 100% stereotypical male when it comes to shopping. I am straight out of a cheesy 80’s standup comedy bit—I hate shopping, I don’t enjoy trying things on, and I’m not especially comfortable being waited on. I bristle at it. I don’t enjoy it. I avoid it at all costs.

So it was that I allowed myself to be convinced to step into a changing room and try on a shirt that I could tell just by holding it wasn’t going to fit. I flounced in, attempted to squeeze my body into what was essentially a button-down sports bra on me, then came out to report the poor fit.

I found myself rapidly buried in a veritable avalanche of clerks.

Upon exiting the fitting room, there were two more clerks with a few more shirts amongst them. We bantered back and forth a bit—me not wanting to try more shirts on, and them politely and firmly suggesting that I do—until I went in and tried another shirt. Upon exiting, there were several more clerks with several more shirts in a ever broadening array of styles, sizes, and patterns.

Listen; I think that it is fair to say that I am prone to humorous exaggeration in my anecdotes, so please know that I am in no way embellishing when I say that at one point I came out of this dressing room and there were no less than 8 people all with an opinion as to how I should dress. And each of these opinions were undoubtedly factually more accurate than my own.

Once I settled in, I found that I was having fun. I have been unable to adequately describe the difference between this experience and a similar one back home, but the same number of people pushing shirts at me in the US would have felt like I was being pressured relentlessly into a sale. This was not that; this was a group of people quickly and efficiently trying to figure out what will make me happy, then provide me tons of those things from which I could make my choices. For all of my disdain for the idea of shopping in general, there is something really awesome about having a group of people actively trying very hard to help you find something you’ll like.

Especially if you’re a loutish American who hasn’t a clue what he likes.

I tried on a ton of things, found several shirts that did fit (the largest size available in the store…a size 6 that could best be described as a very stylish tarp), learned that linen shirts are about a million times more comfortable in warm temperatures than my cotton shirts (as in: seriously, I might just buy a score of these things to wear back home), and found a collar style for button-down shirts that I far prefer to the very broad and annoying American style that I’m often forced to wear (narrow, low collars that remain the same size all the way around—I was told it was called a ‘short spread collar’ or ‘abbreviated spread collar’ locally).

In the end, I’m looking forward to doing some more shopping this coming weekend; a sentence I never thought I would actually say. We did not get a chance to visit the huge array of street vendors downtown, and I now find myself really looking forward to that.

But this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop buying all of my clothes on Amazon. I haven’t completely lost my mind!