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The Carpet Mahal

                                                                                                  Jaipur, India

By Michelle Cox

        I was in Jaipur, India on a Semester at Sea hosted trip when our bus dropped us off at the Carpet Mahal.  The Carpet Mahal is a carpet and textile factory where everything is hand-stamped or hand woven.  When we first got off the bus, we were shown a demonstration how they stamp the sheets and other textiles and then later the manager showed us how the workers hand weave all their carpets and add the finishing touches.  We were then led into this very large showroom with couches forming a circle around the entire room.  The manager of the factory served us all rum and coke and then proceeded to show us about fifty different carpets to try and get us to buy some.  Apparently he thought that if they fed us free alcohol, maybe our judgment would be slightly impaired and we would have no problem spending hundreds of dollars in his store.  Well it worked. 

            I saw one small carpet that had my mother's name all over it.  It was light blue with a large elephant in the center.  I knew I just had to buy this for her because it would be the perfect Christmas gift.  I couldn’t buy it just yet, though, because I realized I forgot my credit card on the bus.  As I walked outside to go get it, I saw four men sitting on a bench in the hot sun weaving a carpet.  It looked like a neat picture so I stopped to take it and one of the men spotted me and smiled.  He then motioned me over to sit next to him on the bench.  I was a little nervous to go sit with the man because nobody from my group was around and I didn’t know what he wanted.  I decided to trust my instincts and sat with him.  He held my hand, put a hook type tool in it, and then tried to show me how to weave the carpet.  When I finally got the hang of it he let me do it myself.  As I was sitting there I was thinking that he was just being nice to try and give me a little extra experience than the others.  After a few minutes, I came back to reality and told the man I had to get on the bus to get something before my group leaves.  When I handed the tool back to him, he held out his hand and said “something for me.”  I should’ve known he was going to ask me for money. 

            This had really irritated me because I had already had so many experiences in India where I thought I could trust someone and thought they were sincerely nice, when all they wanted was to use me for money.  I was so mad that I told him he “conned” me, got up and walked away.  When I got on the bus I grabbed RS 20, walked back to the bench and tossed it at the man.  I just couldn’t believe that this man actually got me to do HIS work that he was getting paid for and then had the audacity to ask me to pay him for letting me do his work for him.  This was absolutely the last straw for me and I didn’t trust any Indians from there on. 

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