This time around I did not venture into the iconic Crawford Market building. Instead, Purvashri led us down a few streets until we came to an area that was clearly the textile division. By clearly I mean it was obvious enough if you could see more than two feet in front or above you, where signage called out amid scads of trinkets, drying laundry, electrical wires, and crumbling concrete.
1. To actually shop in a stall you must remove your shoes and step up and in to a space no larger than an attic bedroom. Like everywhere else in India, there is about one worker for every four square feet of retail area. So this cranked the temp up by another few degrees.
2. The floors are covered in mattresses. Before I went into a stall I thought this was done simply out of comfort. Silly me. I learned that space is at such a premium here that the floor is used for cutting and folding fabric. Thus, the mattresses and no shoes rule.
3. When you finish shopping you step back down to the ground level and put your shoes on. Doing so exposes whatever foreigners weren’t already obvious. Why? You soon realize you're stepping on the very floor that people spit all over since their usual wall targets are covered with fabrics. I pranced around like a little girl walking on coals as I tried to get my shoes on as quickly as possible.
4. The shopkeeper told me my silk would cost 350 Rs. per meter, or about $7 a yard. This was a deal! But, I was not about to hand over my cash without a little bargaining. I despise bargaining. Loathe it. It prevents me from doing much shopping in India, overall. Yet I felt a little feisty that day and decided I was going to play the Indian shopping game to its fullest extent. First I tried 300 Rs./meter. No luck. Yet when I got the guy down to a flat 1000 Rs. Purvashri shot me a look as if to say, “Who are you? I can’t believe you just did that?” We’re not talking a 50% discount, of course, but I’ll take victories big and small.
By now we’re all covered in a fine sheen of sweat and who knows what on the soles of our feet. My companions quickly glanced at a few traditional Indian fabrics and then we all decided enough was enough. Back to the street we went and into the cooling 85* air. I let out a sigh of relief; we had survived the fabric mart inferno and I could now check another experience off my Mumbai to-do list. Joann Fabrics never looked (or felt?) so good.