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The vibe in the Indo-Himalayan air of Dharamsala was electric.

Walking back from the Dalai Lama’s temple, a large crowd was gathered around a local shop. Cellphone cameras were out clicking, digital cameras flashing… people were jumping up up to tip-toes to get a better view.

Could it be… the Dalai Lama?

A white VIP truck whizzed past me followed by excited admirers chasing after it.

Was that the Dalai Lama?

I asked a lady selling momos on the roadside.

No, a big Bollywood star she said with a star-glazed pride.

Who? Aishwarya, Priyanka, Rani…?

She was still riding high from what she’d witnessed.

No, Sushmita Sen.

She wasn’t a super-huge A-lister, but she was a former Miss Universe and a Bollywood gal, nonetheless and she was in town to visit his Holiness… and to do a bit of shopping.

The following day again, I witness another crowd gathered around another store. Again, I was curious…

Even monks wait to catch a glimpse of former Ms Universe, Ms Sen.

How do Bollywood stars shop in India?

Everyone is not equal in India.

There’s seldom a fixed price in Indian shops. As a tourist, I’m quoted at least 3-5x more than the local price and much of this is then, followed by shoppers protocol– the haggle dance! If I’m shelling out several rupees more than a local for some souvenir trinket, then how much do Bollywood stars have to pay.

Surely, they’d know they were getting a jacked up deal. Would they get charged a tourist rate or a local one?

Fortunately, a nearby shop owner was there to answer my queries.

Yesterday, Sushmita spent 40,000 rupees in one of the shops!  These Bollywood stars have lots of money! he said thrilled with star-struck awe.

What price do they get– a tourist price?

Noo. If a tourist pays 100 rupees, then a Bollywood star is charged 1,000 or 10,000.

Do they have to haggle?

No, nooo… he said with a jovial laugh.

They have no choice but pay the price! That is the way it goes. Everyone already knows what kind of money they make and that they live like kings in mansions!

And there you have it. If you ever felt cheated by the fact you’re paying an inflated for being a tourist, it could be worse.

You could be a Bollywood star, paying 10x the tourist cost for the same trinket!

Video of Sushmita and crowd

Unable to view the video? Click here

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