22 July 2009

"That is the promise?"

It doesn't matter what you do. Even if you read or doze or chat animatedly, when you lay on the beach in Anjuna, Goa you are interupted by the question“You like see my shop?” repeated again and again by passing young women, as if it is their capitalist mantra. I'm particularly good at a gentle “No didi*, but you have good luck with other people” used with varying degrees of success. Gia, however, did not take this hint and did not continue down the beach, away from me and my relaxation as I hoped she would.

The world's best salesperson.

“Yes, you see my shop. Nice things. All 50 rupees only*. What is your name?” When it gets to this point I am always weakened with an inborn Canadian politeness that prevents me from leaving posed questions unanswered lest I appear rude.
“Jessica” I responded, sighing. I knew that this exchange was going to last at least a few more minutes. The little girl proferred a tiny mehndied hand.
“Jetseeka. I am Gia. And what is your name?” Sean looked up from his book, warily. It is uncommon for me to let things get to this stage with touts and vendors, and he knew something was awry here.
“Sean.” He replied, also shaking her hand.
“Shann. Are you married?” She directed this question back at me, small eyes piercing me as she asked the most common of all questions in India. The answer would determine her level of respect for us – if we were decent human beings.

“Yes....um, no. He is my boyfriend.” I stuttered, figuring in this of all swinging liberal hippy places, that she would know what the term boyfriend meant (in a tiny village in Nepal the girls didn't. They thought I meant Sean was my brother when I said boyfriend, as that is the closest thing they could conceptualize to unmarried partners of the opposite sex. In order to save face once it was explained to them I had to tell them we were engaged. They still weren't happy.) She looked at Sean with consternation.

Working her magic on Shann

“You make marriage together soon, ok? That is the promise?” Sean, now laughing at the cheeky 9 year old, agreed. She looked at me “You too. You make marriage. That is the promise. OK?” I also agreed to keep the promise. She edged closer to me still. “You have very black hair. You are very white. Are you from England?”
“No,” I told her “we're from Canada.” She nodded approvingly.
“I like Canada people. You have very black hair. Now you see my shop? Everything 50 rupees. No buying, just looking.” Her shop turned out to be a tupperware container filled with sparkly trinkets and baubles, and she was fast opening it next to my head. I quickly tried to nip this in the bud.

“Nahee, didi. I don't want anything today. Maybe tomorrow....” I trailed off as she was already unloading her wares. She held a glittering little box up to my eye for inspection.
“See, all 50 rupees. You like this? I have pen, box, necklace, toe ring, anklet -” She stopped dead as she saw me hesitate at the mention of the anklets. Just that morning I had been admiring a Russian girl's silver ones, telling Sean that I wanted some just like them. “Anklet! See, very beautiful.” Before I could stop her, the jewelry was being fastened around my foot. “50 rupees just joking.” She said, smiling at me angelically.

I eyed her suspiciously. “What do you mean just joking? How much is this anklet?” She looked at me gravely.
“No business for me today Jetseeka, this anklet is the best quality, 250 rupees, how much you give me?” I looked back at her, deadpan.
“50 rupees.” I countered. She debated me with gusto, highlighting the quality, her lack of business and the fact she had just been joking about the price each time I told her 50 rupees only was all was I was willing to pay. We eventually settled on 100 rupees, and I was laughing openly at this point.
“You know didi, 'just joking' is the same as lying. '50 rupees only' is lying.” She looked at me nonchalantly and nodded.
“Yes. I have no business, so I say 50 rupees.”
“Also, this isn't real silver.” She giggled and shook her head.
“And I paid too much because I like you, Gia.”
“Good!” She exclaimed, and proceeded to start the whole sales process over again with “Shann” despite me having figured out her ruse. She quickly realized that it was going nowhere, and as she packed up her “shop” she looked at me and squinted.

In the end, it is a very nice anklet....

“I like your clip.” I reached up and felt my hair – I had a tiny black barrette holding back my bangs, the kind that are a dollar per dozen at home. I unclippped it.
“Here. You can have it.” I said, handing it to her. Her eyes got wide.
“Yah?” She took it from me and immediately pulled her hair back, using it to secure her wispy ponytail. “OK, bye bye. I miss you soon!” She ran down the beach, and shouted “You do the promise!”
over her shoulder.

I leaned back on my beach chair, Sean and I both laughing. Tears sprang into my eyes and I looked down into my lap and read the title of the book I was reading, an anthology of travel stories each with a common theme.

The title was The Kindness of Strangers.

It seems apt.

*didi means sister in Hindi
*50 rupees is 1.25 CAD

Fast friends. Thanks, persistent little girl...


Violet Dear said...

An Addendum - I never normally buy from Children - but she caught me off my guard!!!

Stephanie said...

That's adorable.

Heppy said...

I love this story. It's an all-time favorite for sure.

kristine said...

oh i have so been there. professional little emotional manipulators, arent they. she's a beautiful little girl.

i think i've read that book - is that the one where he picks someone to come to the states...?

Violet Dear said...

Kristine - I don't think so, this one was a Lonely Planet short story compilation. I really recommend it - it had some hilarious (and sweet) stories.

The Planner said...

What a sweet story. So glad I stumbled across your blog!

Megan said...

Definitely put a smile on my face.


i appreciate your writing down the experience.as for some it would be just some fly ruining their perfect holiday.you truly have caught the essence of india...

Anonymous said...


Stumbled across your blog and I like the way you write. Do visit more of Asia! There's much to explore and see in the area...keep up the blogging!


Free Blog Directory said...

Nice blog

LeelaBijou said...

I just read your blog for the first time and I loved the way you write your experiences. Very nice blog! :)

Indieblue said...

This is exactly what I went through in Cambodia this summer! But the kids are so sweet you can't help but buy from them, especially when you're surrounded by 10 of them! So glad I stumbled across your blog.

Jason Bourne said...

Hi Jessica!
I am from Goa, India. I happen to come across your blog on "Blogs of Note".
That was quite a story. Just a suggestion - for peace & quiet in Goa, you need to visit the southern district, South Goa. It's got the second longest beach in India, and is mostly unexplored. Visitors looking for peace & tranquility usually head that way.
Another thing, "Didi" means "Elder Sister" in Hindi. "Behen" means sister and "Behna" is "Little sister".
All the best with your travels!

And here we go again said...

Hi Jessica!

This is a bit of a co-incidence. Just like the person who wrote the previous comment, i too am from Goa. I saw the pic of the anklet you bought from the little girl. For Rs.100, it looks like a bargain. :). Do explore a bit of south Goa next time you here. You'll be back for more. Good luck!

Pat said...

Congratulations on being "Blog of Note". That's how I got to read this wonderful story. Very heart warming.

JudyD said...

Your story touched me.I really enjoyed the fact that you bought the anklet and showed it to us the reader.I too have a soft heart for strangers in a foreign country.My dad said you are no longer a stranger once you say hello and give your name.So hello to you my friend Jessica my name is Judy.Now we are no londer strangers to each other.I will remember your kindness forever.
A friend JudyD

Marjorie said...

One of my favorite of your notes. Reminded of the beach in Mexico where everything was "practically free."

psychozoe said...

It's funny, today because the Followers gadget isn't working, and the blogs I follow aren't showing up, I decided to check the tab, "Blogs of note." I came across the title of this article, and I'm so glad I read it! Thank you for sharing this delightful story. So packed with basic human interaction and wisdom from the mouths of babes. I'm going to post a link to this article! I just love it! HUGS

IndianPundit said...

Hi Jessica
Making it three in a row. i am also from India.Not from Goa though.

Loved your writing and also loved the fact that u enjoyed this interaction with Gia.

This shows what a nice human being u are.

Anyways, amazing blog and i will reading everything that u write from now on.

Cheers and enjoy ur stay in India

Susan the shoppe owner said...

I just found you via blogs of note. I just loved this post. I have a thing for Indian culture and style, so this was just beautiful for me to see.

Thanks so much for sharing your moments :O)

mq01 said...

fantastic post. the little ones always catch me by surprise as well. travel safe and enjoy!!!

Thumberlain said...

I just read your blog for the first time and I must say that it impressed ne a lot. I love the way you wrote this story.. I'll try to catch up with the previous ones.

Thank you for the good feelings you've given me while reading and good luck with the rest of the jurney.


kikkinkate said...

That little girl is so cute... and your experience is completly endearing.... i definatly would have bought it something off of her... your lucky too... i would have paid the 250 rupees!

An Open Heart said...

I love this story.

carlaT said...

I like your writing style and what I have read so far encourages me as a new blogger. This story in particular appealed to me, since I am a vendor of craft(pottery and jewellry) here in the Caribbean(St.Kitts). This happens here too...not a behaviour I like or would encourage but I definitely understand. Thanks for letting us know the exchange rate...Rupees to the CAN$...
Looking forward to reading more about your journey.

La Québécoise vaccinée said...

Hahaha ! I experimented almost the same experience, at the difference that it was in Guatemala. The little girl was adorable, and yes, we talked for a few minutes ... and she finally sold her jewel, haha. :)

blood of music said...

nice story

Dolly Daydream said...

What a fantastic story! I can't wait till it’s my turn! I go travelling in November! xx

Someone Who Writes said...

Just want to say that I like your blog! I like the way you write...
Have a great journey!!!

Anonymous said...

since i'm an indian i wud appreciate ur being kind to the girl too. They are taught this way to make money.

and btw did u keep ur promise?

Girl About Business said...

I love your blog- nice writing style... very tasteful. I, too, have a problem with the dashes and dot dot dot LOL- oh well, I guess that's for the best of us!

Very nice photos, and an interesting way to spend your time. I look forward to reading more of your documented experiences around the world. You're taking people places that they may never be able to visit. WONDERFUL!

Check me out- totally different type of blog: http://girlaboutbusiness.blogspot.com :-)

SimplySarah said...

that was adorable. the kindness of strangers from this american life broadcasted on NPR radio station. if not you would love to listen to this http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1151.

nikki said...


came across your blog n it has a nice way of narrating the entire incident in a funny way while it sometimes turns out to b too irritating..
i m also an Indian n we see sch kids begging n selling ech day..
its good that u had all the patience in the world to deal wid her n still laugh it off later...
u r really a quite intelligent prsn n an awesome writer..:)

and yes didi is for elder sister..

Brown Eyed Girl said...

I love this story and the fact that you bought the anklet. Thanks for sharing and congratulations on blogs of note!

susan said so said...

Thank you for taking us along with you.

Safe journey, wanderer!

T Lee said...

clicked in from blogs of notice...love this story!! have you kept the promise? cutie girl.

yoga ninja mama said...

this was so beautiful. what a face gia has, just like a little cherub :). you described her so vividly that i could hear her chirping her broken english in my head as i read the story.

the last photo, of you and gia together, is one for the books.

love this story. <3

me_duress said...

I am from Goa....and its so interesting to read about Goa from a traveler's point of view.
Your note makes me realize that we dont realize the beauty of things when we are too close to it...similar incident with my friends would have left them irritated and not so appreciative.
Adorable note.

aynzan said...

that was a beautiful recounting of your experience in India..I am sure you brought a smile to that little Behen Gia as much as you did to me!!


Rohan Lobo said...

Its a great way to describe an encounter

Anonymous said...

My sisters and I spent 4 months in southeast Asia (and I another month in Indonesia and a year in Australia before that), and this story really resonated with us, lol. One of our biggest challenges and frustrations was fending off cute little kid salespeople. We were pretty solid, but there were times when they were just too bright-eyed. I just stumbled upon your blog when looking for pictures of Asian squat toilets. I'm trying to explain to my friends why a university would post a sign in the toilet telling the user not to stand on the seat. Anyway, I love hearing about your adventures in a part of the world that is so facinating and meaningfun to me, and will be following your blog to hear and see more!