Kerala Blog Express Diaries: “Give me your best price, Ish”



I walked along the dusty paths at the Uday Samudra Resort in Trivandrum. It was like two separate worlds. One that held the rich glamour of the wealthy and the other, a more normal and quieter life.

My “foreigner” look was obvious, for not only was I clutching a clunky camera, but I was wearing shorts and sunglasses. Something that local Keralites wouldn’t wear.

Greeting people with a “namaskaram”, and a smile, a man soon jostled up to me with an inquisitive look in his eyes.

Where was I going? He wanted to know. How long was I here for in Trivandrum? Did I want a tour?

I politely declined and continued to weave the walkways. Drinks dangled out a shack nearby as a woman prepared tea. A dog rooted through a pile of plastic. It was oddly satisfying to simply wander in the unknown.

“Namaskaram – hello!” I repeated to curious eyes and I soon discovered that the further I went, the more curious I became.

And that’s how I ended up in Ish’s shop.

The key to shopping for clothes in India is to act as if you’re not interested in particular objects and to be as vague as possible. Though I hadn’t confirmed this theory, I had been warned by a friend to be aware in markets that shopkeepers gave different coloured bags to customers to show other shopkeepers how “easy” or “difficult” a bargainer a person was. I was ready to rumble.

Ish was handsome with a broad, welcoming smile. His stop was laden with clothes, trinkets, and jewellery. We started chatting outside and as we discussed in-depth about where I had been in Kerala, I found myself gushing about the “the mountains of Munnar”, “Alleppey’s quiet backwaters” and the “glimpses of Kumily”.

“But have you been north?” he quizzed. I admitted that I hadn’t.

“You must!” he enthused. “Snowy mountains – fresh air for the soul. It’s great. Do you mind if I show you where?”

He beckoned me towards his shop and flipping on the air conditioning (for that’s what most tourists tended to like!), he produced a well-worn book on India. “This is Kashmir where I’m from” he announced, prodding a finger at the fraying pages.

And there they were. The snow falling from the slopes, the sky exceptionally blue, lush greens and ethnic minority groups proudly clad in their outfits. It did look pretty marvellous.

“I follow you!” Ish mused when I asked him what he was doing in Kerala. 10 months of the year he told me, he spends down in southern India while his family keep a shop in the north. He follows the tourism season and the “money trail”.

Me with Ish in Trivandrum
Me with Ish in his shop!
“It’s not so bad,” he told me. “I get to fly”

We spent over half an hour shooting the breeze without a question of shopping. In truth, I liked his personality. His good nature made me want to linger and the fact that there was no pressure put my mind at ease.

I eventually picked out kaftan that I liked (even with slightly fraying edges) and tried it on.

“So tell me. What’s your best price, Ish?”

His smile broadened and a laugh escaped his lips, “HA! HA! Well 2000 rupees would be mine, but I don’t think that would be yours”

I smiled back – he knew the game and was willing to play. To-ing and fro-ing we eventually settled on a price much lower than the quote and he threw in a magnet for good luck.

Handing me over a yellow bag, I didn’t care what colour the bag was because I left with a spring in my step back through those dusty paths.

Yellow for me was healing. Yellow was joy.

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Hello! Úna-Minh is a journalist, social media consultant and virtual assistant who loves (you guessed it) TRAVEL. She also feels a bit strange writing in the third person so she'll stop that now. You can find out more about me and my Mammy in the about section of this blog!

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  1. That was well written! Sensational banter from a couple sound people 🙂

    1. Cheers Jub!! I’m actually very pleased with how it came out in the end. I love just stumbling across people… I wish we had, had more time to do that!

    1. Cheers Jackson! Had fun writing it 😉

  2. LOVE that you not only walked away with a new piece, but you also walked away with a story. I love when simple moments turn into fun memories you will cherish forever!

    1. That’s exactly it Chloe! And what I loved is that it wasn’t scheduled into my itinerary. It just happened 🙂

  3. I really like the way how you write – catching from the very first moment! Fascinating region as well obviously and last but not least the amazing Instagram shots proof everything right. Would be great to see you with your new yellow bag 🙂

    1. Haha thanks Hendrik! I really had fun writing this. I love finding the unexpected moments that aren’t scheduled into travels. Never would I have found Ish had I not been off exploring.

  4. These are the memories that will last forever! Reminds me of meeting a friend in Kyoto. I went to his ramen shop, befriended him, and was invited over for dinner. Being able to form connections opens our eyes to many new experiences.

    1. I totally agree! I love these unexpected experiences.

  5. I love that you made a connection with Ish and bought your yellow bag. I’m the worst haggler, when I find something that I want it is hard for me to act as if I’m not interested.

    1. Haha! Haggling is definitely not for everyone. You have to be pretty determined and try not to let it stress you out so much.

  6. These are the memories that will remain with you forever! You have done an amazing experience that surely will form you 🙂 You have written this article so well that is impossible to not reading it!! – Paolo

  7. What a great travel memory! Making connections like this is really what I think travel is all about.

  8. Kashmir looks almost like a dream land. I can’t wait to visit it next time i’m in India. Thanks for writing, keep traveling.

  9. This is such a gorgeous post and so true of my experience in Kerala. Absolutely stunning photos. I’m feeling very nostalgic now.

  10. Great story and travel memory .. and it sounds like the places were just as amazing! I have no experience with haggling, but it does sound like a sort-of fun game 🙂

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