We woke to greet day two strangely well rested and excited to see India in daylight. Similar to the US, there was a complimentary breakfast buffet at Ambiance Hotel. The offerings were a mix of comfortable and new. Cornflakes and milk, fresh papaya, pineapple juice and coffee along with idli (steamed rice cakes), sambar and chai tea. We gave it all a try and despite not being accustomed to the level of spice in our breakfast, we enjoyed it quite a bit.
Shortly after, we were picked up on foot by our friends and set off to hail a few autoricks to take us on a shopping excursion to find wedding clothes. We split up, Mark with Palak and me with Gautam and merged into traffic. Whoa.
We got a glimpse of the road rules the night before in Mumbai, but nothing could’ve prepared me for a Monday morning ride through the city. Cars, buses, autoricks and two-wheelers use up every available space, honking to lay claim to an opening in the chaos and alerting you to someone in your blindspot. Rarely does a scooter have only one rider, but almost always 2, almost always with no helmets. Cars marketed as seating 5 easily have 8 inside. Lane markers continue to be only a modest suggestion.
I got used to this experience by the end of the trip and was able to walk away from the experience with a great appreciation for how smooth it all works. There were no accidents or arguments. Consider it controlled chaos with an air of efficiency out of necessity.
We began with shopping for Mark. The store we entered was a few stories high. The sides of the entry floor were lined with bolts of fabric one might expect walking into JoAnn Fabrics here – full of options for shirts, suits and more. We went straight to the formalwear area a few floors up where we found walls of plastic-packaged kurtas and racks of stunning coats with beading and embroidery to rival the most gorgeous of wedding gowns. No photos were allowed inside which disappointed me greatly.
We went through many choices with Mark trying on things he liked and things he didn’t (but we did!). While he was considering his options, Gautam was having final fittings on his wedding wear. I was just wandering the racks finding the most beautiful and the most obnoxious and enjoying every minute.
The only challenge we encountered was in fitting Mark into the pajamas to go with his kurtas. Turns out his marching band calves were just too large to fit into the skinny openings. It took some time for them to find an option which would work but we met with success. He had chosen two kurtas to wear – one a copper color that reminded me a lot of the color our bridesmaids wore in our wedding, and one in a beautiful blue.
From there we landed on a floor below where the party wear was located and Mark was fitted for a new suit – a lovely grey set that he’d wear to the reception and will be able to wear to many occasions back here in the States.
Hours were spent in this store and while I was getting more excited to know it was nearly my turn to try things on, we decided a little food was in order.
I believe we were at Kalinga Restaurant – I remember seeing signs for K Lounge. Mark chose to eat outside on the patio which was covered. It was hard to resist being out in the lovely warmth of the mid-80* temps having left winter behind a few days before. Gautam did the ordering again – we had a number of appetizers which ended up turning into a feast.
We also had our first taste of Kingfisher beer, which was served with what we eventually learned was a common snack. I believe EVERY time we ordered a beer, these same two dishes showed up at the table along with it.
Turns out Mark ordered a main dish as well – and I was thankful that I had not. We shared his fish and tried hard to finish up all the other dishes before heading back to our arduous task of finding wedding wear for me!
Off to the store we went – another multi-floor establishment.
I tried on many beautiful (and fascinating I suppose) sarees – contemporary and traditional and some lehengas. Each time, I was presented with many fabrics and colors and then stood and let the professionals go to work wrapping me up well enough to decide. Given my love for patterns and many colors, it was surprising to me in the end that I chose a very simple but stunning saree as ‘the one.’
Finding clothes for the other wedding events turned out to take a great deal more time. I tried on so many things but just was not shaped like the general Indian population. In the end we found a few salwars – I think that’s what they’re called – with leggings that would do nicely after having tried on so many attempts. I think we were all exhausted when we were done.
In fact, I know we were. We went back to the hotel and agreed to get together in a few hours to maybe grab a late dinner. Turns out we all crashed for long naps and at nearly 9pm decided to skip dinner altogether. Gautam warned us before we arrived that our shopping day would be long and exhausting. And it was. But it was great fun and a wonderful way to spend our first full day in Pune.