Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Culture=shopping? Fine by me!

This morning, Mum and I embarked on our Laxmi Road cultural tour with Priya and Ana from Sangam. This is something organised by Sangam and everyone had been telling us what good fun we were going to have. Laxmi Road use to be the centre of Pune but as the town has expanded into a bustling city, a new centre has developed. Now, in Laxmi Road are the temples that used to be so central, the Pune Municipal museum, the vegetable market and lots and lots of shops and market stalls.

We started off in the veg market which is absolutely ginormous. I have never seen so much fresh produce in my life and it all looked absolutely amazing! It is all grown locally and brought in fresh each day. There were so many things that I have never seen before and had absolutely no idea what they were. Mum and I were both given a little card with the pronunciation of a product in Hindi and Marathi on it and were given the task of buying as much of the product as we could with 10 rupees. Mine was pronounced adrak in Hindi and aale in Marathi. I tried communicating with the local sellers and soon found out that my product was ginger. Luckily I knew what this was and looked like! I quickly found a seller who had some and found out how much I could get for 10 rupees. I attempted flirting with him to  try and get one more piece but it was lost in translation (or at least that's what I'm telling myself!) Mum had ended up trying to find some white "icicle" radishes. We both managed to buy our produce and it will be donated to the Sangam kitchens...if there are radishes at lunch tomorrow we know where from and the ginger will no doubt be used in the sweet, rich chai tea we get at 11.00 every morning!

After this we went to bangle alley. This is one of many small alleys off Laxmi that hold mini stalls. This particular street had 10s of stalls all filled with beautiful Indian bangles. The first challenge was knowing which one to pick! We ended up choosing one because Priya knew the owner and had started chatting to him! We were quickly brought stalls and served a cup of chai before being shown and trying on all manner of bangles! I ended up buying some turquoise coloured glass ones with beautiful gold glitter on them. Mine were the Indian size. When they saw Mum they all kept saying "Ah, big size, big size!" We had been warned about this beforehand. They are not being rude in any way, they are simply proud to sell bangles which are sized for Western hands which tend to be far larger than Indian hands. Mum chose some deep pinky-purply-red ones similar t mine. The whole time she was choosing the man kept  trying to push her to get green ones and when she didn't he gave them to her for free. It turns out green bangles are what all women in India wear if they are married!

Next was the Pune Municipal Museum which is a small place in a beautiful old building that tells the history of Pune. Most of it was only written in Marathi but there were some very interesting bits in English. We were also excited to see photos of some places we had visited eg Parvati Hill. At the end of the museum was a small shop which sells products that are all handmade by the ladies who work there. It is part of an NGO so all proceeds benefit the women whom the charity helps.

The final stop on our tour was Kurti's shop where they sell all manner of Sarees and Punjabis. When inside you take your shoes off, sit on padded mats and are treated like royalty as your are shown all the different products. I chose a cheap Sari that will be good to wear in Sri Lanka (It cost 170 rupees, just under 2 pounds) and Mum chose one similar and one very fancy Sari, decorated with jewels and made of silk. The sarees come with an extra bit of fabric that is used to make the traditional blouse so when we returned to Sangam, we were measured up by their tailor. She will have them ready by lunchtime tomorrow!

In the afternoon Mum and I went to the Aga Khan Palace. This is also known as . It is where Gandhi was held after he was arrested in Bombay and it is where his ashes are kept along with Samdhi's to his wife and secretary who both died at the palace. It was a very interesting visit with lots to think about. It was a very peaceful, beautiful place in lovely grounds and gardens. It seems a fitting resting place for such an inspiration.

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