J’adore Indian style from the saris and bangles right down to henna painted hands and feet. Even the most casually dressed Indian woman leaves the house wearing perfectly matched earings and a scarf thrown casually around her shoulders. It’s beautiful.

I was beautiified by our hosts in Kolhapur

As a backpacker with two pairs of pants and a black dress, it’s hard not to get caught up in the wild display of color and beauty. In every town I find myself inextricably drawn to the sari bazaar; lane upon lane of small shops selling nothing but gorgeous, brightly colored fabric.

One of many sari alleys

The stores are nothing more than small rooms. Men sit on the floor in puddles of fabric, looking out at passing shoppers. “Come in, come in. Only looking, no selling! Come look!”

Nothing in India is done without first sitting down and having a chat. You can’t simply point to a sari and ask how much. Instead you take off your shoes, climb onto the raised shop floor and join the crowd of other women on the floor.

What about this sari?

“What color you like? Red? Blue?,” and suddenly yards and and yards of fabric are thrown in the air. The fabric doesn’t even float to the ground before more saris are taken from the shelves and thrown into the air. Then the niceties begin, “Where are you from? Ahh! very nice country! You like India?” After ten minutes of chatter and looking at fabrics, you finally get to the point, how much does this damn thing cost! “Ohh! Handmade embroidery. Very nice! 600 ruppes.”

Random sari shop in Jaipur

Never pay the first price! That hand embroidery is not really hand made! First you must listen to the lies before you get to the truth.

Ten more minutes of debating colors and fabrics – most of that time spent just trying to understand what bullshit line they’re feeding you – you finally agree to a price that makes both people happy. And that’s how business is done. Sit down, chat, lie to each other, bargain and pay.

This process is the same for everything from bangles and bracelets to hotel rooms. Nothing happens quickly.  You’re always offerer a seat, you’re always fed a line and you’re always asked to pay more. Just keep calm and remember, it’s India!