I had the courage to walk into Harrod’s today. Rather silly of me, really, since I had about 250 pounds in my pocket, and was wearing an IIM-B jacket with my backpack.

As soon as I walked in, a guard came up to me and said, “I’m afraid you’ll have to carry your backpack in your hand in this store, sir.” Struck me as slightly crazy. What, is it a measure against shoplifting? Or is it like you’re supposed to wear suits in some shops? Or did he just want me to feel uncomfortable? If so, he succeeded extremely well. It’s painful to carry a backpack in your hand, even if it’s got next to nothing.

The entrance led to the perfumes section with lots of French names. I sensibly walked out, and into the men’s accessories section. The only thing in my budget was a teddy bear on display for 19.95 pounds, and I’ve promised myself not to buy any more teddy bears. Went on to the frosted foods section. Looked really nice. For the first time, I walked past meat without a revolted look on my face. I mean, pork was actually packed like a pig, but it looked so elegant. Then to the coffee and tea section. There were some coffee jugs that looked like they needed buying. But not now…

Uptil now, I had consciously avoided looking at the prices. I was window shopping, after all. But the designer jewellery section forced me. There were, of course, tiny diamond rings for 1,000 pounds. I looked around, for the first time, at the people around — who could probably afford these rings. Sure, all of them were wearing suits. The ladies were wearing some kind of sophisticated casual dress (can’t describe it — too sophisticated for me), while there I was, in Allen Solly trousers (luckily), unbranded T-shirt, IIM-B sweatshirt, torn backpack, and IIM-B hip-pack. Unshaven. It speaks volumes of my courage that I decided to explore the section rather than run away.

I began hunting for the most expensive item. Thought it would put life in perspective. I found a necklace for 45,000 pounds. That’s over Rs. 30 lakhs. Being courageous, I didn’t faint. A few rows down, there was a ring (had to be gold) with something big and red in the middle. 135,000 pounds(over Rs. 91 lakhs). Should do well as a wedding gift, I guess. But the pick of the lot was a watch. The tag said 189,000 pounds (almost Rs. 1.3 crores). It was a diamond watch. Let me explain what that means. Watches usually have a strap, right? Sometimes they’re made of steel, right? This one had one that was made of diamonds — with steel between the diamonds. You could barely see the steel. Watches also have a dial, right? That was made of diamond too. I could see it because it was cut. The hands were probably studded with diamonds too, but I couldn’t see clearly. That’s because the glass cover on the watch wasn’t glass, but diamond.

Feeling decidedly sophisticated at this point, I walked up to the Food & Wine section. Again, with the objective of determining the costliest item around. It wasn’t an exhaustive search, mine, but I figure there aren’t many wines that sell at 45 pounds for 0.375l. That was Schilfwein Halves, Wills Optiz 1994. (Don’t ask.) Of the Champagnes, Brut 1985, Savlon, Blanc de Blancs, Le Mesmil was 115 pounds for 0.75l. But the costliest piece on the floor was Montranchet Grand Cru, at 435 pounds for 0.75l. No, I have no idea what kind of beverage it was.

And this is just one floor of Harrod’s. I decided to come back to explore the other floors when I had a suit on, and did not have a backpack. So I walked down to Hyde Park, where hundreds of birds insisted that I feed them my lunch, failing which they would take it by themselves. After having escaped with a few cake crumbs, I made my way back to LBS.