Since arriving in India, I’ve been dying to buy a karahi, a traditional Indian frying pan. It’s similar to a wok, but with steeper sides. Several people tried to dissuade me from purchasing an iron one, saying I should get a fancy non-stick or aluminum one instead. But I liked the look of the old blackened karahi in my Indian cookbook, so off I went to downtown Pune in search of the most authentic-looking karahi I could find.
This didn’t prove to be a difficult mission. I arrived in the heart of the downtown shopping district with Xavier, our driver, who immediately ushered me over to a row of shops that feature copper, brass, aluminum and iron pots. Within minutes I was inspecting a stack of karahis while the shopkeeper kept digging around to find me more. Xavier, speaking to the shopkeeper in the local language, Marathi, pointed out a snag along the edge of the pot I eventually selected and the shopkeeper quickly brought out a file to smooth it down.
That task finished, I felt I had to purchase it. It was easy with Xavier, who quickly bargained it down to 280 rupees, which he felt was a fair price. While we were in the middle of the transaction, another woman inquired about the price. Xavier told me the shopkeeper told her 400 rupees.
Well, I love a deal, and this one totaled $5 US. The knick in the side is now just a little dip in an otherwise perfect pan; I like it. It makes my karahi original, and I’ll always remember the man filing it.
In a city like Pune you can find almost anything you want. Diamonds or a handwoven silk saree? No problem. A BMW with leather seats and a driver? Yep, you can get it. Gold jewelry, imported foods and some of the best restaurants you’ve ever sampled? All here.
But let’s get real. I’m interested in bargains, which you can find at the huge market in downtown Pune.
On the day we went, besides the karahi at the pot shop I opted for fruits and vegetables only. There are stalls and stalls of fruits and vegetables—whatever it is you desire, with the exception of an Alaska-sized zucchini, you can find it. Here’s a video of how the vegetable wallas call out to potential buyers.
The open market is intense, jostling and crowded. I saw many things I was interested in–scarves, shoes, beautiful fabrics—so I know I’ll be back.
What a contrast to where we went the next day, the Levi’s store on Senapati Bapat Road. The boys and I jumped in an autorickshaw (54 rupees from our house, or about $1 US) to a string of swanky and uncrowded shops next to a bookstore that reminds me a little bit of Barnes and Noble, sans the café. I wasn’t interested in spending $50 US for a pair of jeans for the boys, but we did find a more reasonably priced pair that we purchased.
The contrast of these two shopping areas is a study in India itself, one example of many such differences that we see each day.