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Cushion Cover Discount

Bargaining in India is a complex, yet charming human interaction, filled to the brim with histrionics.

My wife and I arrived at Royal Furnishings, a small store on a busy street in Adyar, Madras. All we wanted were ten cushion covers stitched. The following drama ensued.

Stitching plus material, 4500 ungalukka ga, Saar,” meaning “4500 just for you,” announced a young Nepalese-looking man addressing me with “Saar” in first-class Tamil.

The other man, who appeared to be more senior, perhaps the owner, wrote on a scrappy bill and handed it to us. The bill read:

Total = Rs. 4500
Discount = Rs. 250
Final = Rs. 4250

We appeared alarmed and showed no interest in any further negotiation. My wife firmly expressed her urgency in Hindi, “We will have to settle soon for 4000 Rupees because we are hungry and we have to leave.”


Practicing his time-tested technique, the Senior shook his head firmly and declared, “No chance, Saar.” His accompanying body language was almost compelling to fool us into thinking, ”We’ve gone too low.”

My wife is no less a champion. She doesn’t fall for these cliched gimmicks.

She fought back, making a Madras-localite argument in Hindi, “Before coming here, we called Haryana Handlooms, but they are located in Anna Nagar. So, you have to stitch the cushion covers for four thousand. We don’t want to drive that far.


The Senior retorts not in Hindi, not in Tamil, not in English, but in an entirely new language – Silence. He stared at the bill for twenty good seconds without saying a word. We finally heard him, “Four-thousand-two-hundred, final price Ma’am.

We gestured to walk away. The Senior quickly grabbed the bill from us, did some button-pressing on the calculator, wrote 4000 on the bill and handed it back to us. He then added, “Today is the first day of Navratri (festive season). Four thousand for you only, Ma’am.

Despite the drama that I thought was unnecessary, I feel like we are becoming good at getting discounts. Or, so I think. Feeling accomplished, I asked my wife, “Have we arrived yet?” She casually responded,

“By the time we arrive, we’ll be ready to leave.”

Published by Arun Muthu

In 2019, I relocated to India after having lived in California for more than two decades. These scribbles attempt to capture my observations at what I call home through a foreigner's eyes.

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