Paharganj Bizarre

9:37 a.m.

A bleary morn on the Paharganj main bazaar. New hotel room here at the Hotel Shelton—or as the rooftop restaurant here says on the menu, the Hotel Sheltron. (My alter-ego, Typo Man, could spend his entire incarnation here correcting creative English spelling.) Beds here are, shall we say, firm. Which is to say, compressed, lumpy and uncomfortable. Woke up with a very stiff lower back—have to ask them about swapping either mattresses or rooms today.

Despite having stayed up the previous night until almost dawn working out some interpersonal kinks in our first big India emotional breakdown—such things are unavoidable here, somewhere along the line—Sara and I stayed up again until late last night trying to piece together the first of our planned trip videos. (It’s kind of like working in the recording studio, with better pictures.) I finally gave in at around 2 a.m. to my yearning for a night of tossing and turning; Sara kept at it until 3:30, she informed me as she grogged her way to a morning shower just now. With all the product sourcing work there is to do, adding this labor-intensive video editing project essentially invites us to a series of incredibly long days—it’s much better to log and try to edit this stuff while it’s fresh, and it takes hours to finish a 1-2 minute segment. And that’s after it takes real-time hours to download the day’s footage onto the hard drives we are editing on. Either way, we’ve had only one good night of sleep so far on the trip, so I’m waking up a little slow this morn. I thought the last years’ endless 12-16 hour days were long—they may end up looking easy compared to this.

Well, at least yesterday I got started on the real buying work: spent a couple hours with my bindi and bangle wallahs, getting my hands grubby while reviewing all my bling options and putting together a selection of goodies. These guys, two brothers Ravi and Suresh, are quite sweet with quick, natural smiles—easy to work with. Their wives kept us plied with fresh chai, and we got 80% of the work done yesterday—a few more things to pick early next week, then pay and begin to pile this year’s haul of goods in the corner of the hotel room.

Still, I feel a little like a draft horse who is spitting the bit—resisting the full onslaught of the looming buying expeditions. Still fighting the jetlag’s effect on my energy, wrapping my mind simultaneously around all my product-buying needs and financial limitations, getting clear on precisely what I need to accomplish with each of my suppliers, and realizing that yesterday was the first day of the huge gift fair here and that I really should go scope out the current offerings even while remembering the maddeningly slow three hour round-trip car ride to the Greater Noida Expo center and how little I liked the goods on offer when I’ve been there on earlier visits. Still, the market here may be offering more in the way of eco-friendly, sustainable ‘green’ goods than in previous years, and I should probably learn to love the bit and go check it out sometime in the next few days. But not today.