Monday, July 21, 2008

The Bookshop Trick

Me walking

We went for a walk one day to Connaught Place, which is an important site for tourists who wish to look at things (such as a circular park, a bunch of imported chain stores and an unnatural thickness of honking vehicles) and is thus a magnet for touts and scammers. On the way we were accosted by one such fellow, whose game was to act as your highly-paid tour guide, whether you want a highly-paid tour guide or not.

‘Don’t you want to see the India Gate, sir?’
‘Yeah, yeah I do but I’ll find it, thanks.’
‘But the Red Fort? Don’t you want to see the Red Fort, sir?’
‘Uh, I don’t know. Yeah, but I’ve got a book, we’ll find it.’
‘Why not sir? Why do you not want to see the Red Fort?’
‘Uh, I do, but…’
‘Okay I will show you the Red Fort, sir’
‘Nah, that’s okay. I’ll be able to find it’
‘No sir, I will come with you. We go.’

This could have gone on for hours, but Angie stepped in with a few stern words (for both me and the ‘guide’)

‘You’ve just got to be tougher with them. Stand up to them a bit.‘ she told me. ‘No!’ she demonstrated, index finger gesticulating formidably ‘We just want to be alone and explore the city ourselves!’

Predictably, this had no effect whatsoever on our unwanted companion. For a while longer we tried the ‘just ignore him and he’ll go away’ tactic of getting rid of him, but Angie soon grew tired of that and started ordering him again to leave us alone!! (Her exclamation marks). Of course that didn’t work, and he began pointing out things that he thought we’d find interesting. He could tell we’d find them of interest because we were already looking at them by the time he’d worked out what they were. ‘Ah, yes’ he explained form behind. ‘This is Piccadelhi’ after he saw us scoffing at an unamusing row of English phone boxes with ‘Piccadelhi’ written on them outside some awful shop.

It all came undone in a nearby bookshop. ‘Ah, yes’, he intoned again from three steps behind, ‘This is the Jain Book Depot’ as we crossed the road towards the Jain Book Depot. We went inside, thinking we could somehow lose him in a small retail space. Perhaps the lights would confuse him. We looked at books for five minutes, every now and then surreptitiously glancing toward the door to see if he’d gone. Each time, he waved back, smiling.

A much more agreeable character we encountered near Connaught Place

We decided to make a run for it; maybe try another bookshop. As we were on our way out, Angie whispered to me: ‘I’m just going to say something to him as we leave’ I led the way, brushing nonchalantly past our companion and pushing open the door, then froze mid-stride as Angie’s clear voice boomed out from behind me, drowning out all other noise in the busy store.

DO. NOT. FOLLOW. US!’ (Her capitals, full stops and bold type).

‘Oh-kay’ he sing-songed nervously as all eyes bounced between his embarrassed face and this small white woman with an abnormally loud voice. Sure enough, it worked, and we never saw him again.

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