I was in the market looking for a carnival costume. It annoyed me that though this festival is advertised all over the holidaying world, not a single shop sells or rents carnival costumes. They said we have to wear proper carnival costume. Now I don’t like to shop, but when one has to get up and do a thing, I get up and do that thing.
“I want a Carnival costume,” I said firmly to one salesman.
“We don’t sell costumes,” he said dismissively, “as you can see, we sell decorations, tinsel, shiny-shiny and streamers.”
“Why don’t you sell Carnival costumes,” I asked not ready to give up so easily because, you see, when I have to do a thing, I do that thing.
“Please modom, if you do not want to buy tinsel, shiny-shiny or streamers, let other customers come in,” he was looking irritated now and added, “my shop is small,” meaning I was not and I was blocking other customers. I let other customers get in.
I went to another shop with toys and costumes of Spiderman in the window. Ah I will get something here, I thought. Happy, because I do not enjoy shopping.
“I want a Carnival costume,” I said to the disinterested salesgirl. I think salespersons have a built-in antenna when it comes to recognizing shopping infidels.
“We do not have that,” she said, refusing to make eye contact but looking scornfully at my ancient kurta.
“If you have a Spiderman costume, you could be having a carnival costume,” I said imperiously.
“Madam,” she said slowly, now making eye contact. “These are costumes for small-small childrens.”
“Children,” I said.
“Childrens,” she said.
Next stop, a large department store that catered to NRIs and foreigners. Now here the salesmen have a different rule. They take shopping infidels under their wing and exhaust their credit cards. I think here it is a mission with them to sell anything to anyone.
“Yes, and what is Madame looking for?” he said bowing smiling and giving the general impression that if he could, he would even cook lunch for me.
“A Carnival costume,” I said.
“Ah,” he said after a pregnant pause.
“You don’t have any?” I asked.
“Well it depends on what kind of costume you are looking for,” he said.
“Feathers, plumes, sequins, sequined mask, lots of shiny jewellery, and tight fitting, gown or trousers and tops,” I said.
“We have all that,” he said. “It just has to be put together.”
“No,” I said. “I don’t want to put anything together. I want it all ready to wear. Carnival is already on us. And everyone is supposed to dress up for the Carnival in order for it to be a success.”
“Madame will be on a float?” he asked.
“Madame will be in the crowd,” I said.
“Ah,” he said after another pregnant pause.
“Madame not to worry. I will get everything ready for you,” he said.
He brought gowns of brocade and georgette. Even a velvet one. He brought tights and tunics and even a swim suit. He threw a plain mask over the pile.
“Now our tailor can fix sequins and stones exactly to your design,” he said, gently touching the pile like it was King Tut’s treasure. “We don’t have readymade plumes, but we have feather dusters and even peacock feathers and they can be fashioned into headgear for you. We have silk saris and saris of the finest georgettes. We have stiff brocades, we can make cloaks and stoles and ah how could I have forgotten!” He hit his head and ran off, returning with jeweled sandals, “Footwear! Exactly like what they have in Rio.”
“How much will the outfit cost,” I asked. He pulled a calculator forwards and punched in numbers.
“Should not come to more than Rs 42,000…,” he said.
As I exited the shop with the speed of light, I heard him tell the other salespersons, “That one should not be entertained again.”
Which is why you saw me at the Carnival Parade, sitting on the pavement with coloured powder on my face, a paper hat on my head and blowing a toy whistle.