Lifestyle & Belief

I never expected sticker shock in New Delhi


People shop for clothes during a seasonal sale at a store inside a shopping mall in Mumbai.


Danish Siddiqui/Reuters

A few days ago, my family and I flew from Chicago to the swanky international airport in New Delhi. We got a cab and drove through the evening rush hour.

Player utilities

Listen to the Story.

My daughter, who’s four, pointed out the cows, water buffaloes, goats and dogs in the street.

Soon we turned a corner and found ourselves on a street that wouldn’t be out of place in downtown Chicago. Rich-looking Indians stepped out of chauffeur-driven BMWs, Audis and Jaguars. There were tall glass buildings on both sides; beautiful women in sleeveless tops and miniskirts filled the sidewalks with perfume.

When we stopped at an indoor mall, international brands welcomed us — Gucci, Starbucks, Apple, Chicago Pizza and Krispy Kreme. It was a Tuesday evening, and there were more shoppers here than I had ever seen on any Black Friday in any mall in the US.

My daughter saw an ice cream place and pulled me toward it. It was a Häagen Dazs. I paid 290 rupees, about $5, for a single scoop.

As we walked around, feeling amazed at how busy all the stores were and how much people were spending, my daughter asked me to buy her a princess book. In the US, I usually buy her books that are on sale, but I didn’t bother to look at the price in New Delhi. I was coming from the States. I was supposed to be rich. How could I not afford a book or an ice cream cone in India? I paid 600 rupees, around $10, for the book.

The next stop was Starbucks. Another 300 rupees, or $5, bought me two cups of regular coffee.

At the end of the day, I realized that between cabs, ice cream, books and coffees, I had spent about $100 within a few hours of arriving in India.

I thought I’d better watch myself, or the brands and habits I’ve grown used to in the US will cost me dearly in India.

Maybe I should eat local here, I thought. Instead of buying mango-flavored ice cream from Häagen Dazs, I should stick to real mangoes.