Saraswathipuram II

The second of a three part account of a day trip to Mysore and the Saraswathipuram area of town in order to buy furniture.

After the four of us had an enjoyed a leisurely and very tasty lunch at the Shree Devi Andhra Style restaurant in the middle of Mysore we were all back in the Mahindra Scorpio driving across town in the direction of Saraswathipuram to again hunt out some more furniture.

On the way and just as were passing the city bus station in the centre of town, I spotted an ICICI Bank ATM so I got Sonam Tashi to pull over in order for me to try to take out some money with my debit card, the one which had been declined not so long ago at Laavish. This time it happened to be the case that I could not get my card to work at this ATM for neither love nor money, something which needless to say caused me a fair bit of agitation. I kept sliding the plastic into slot only for it to keep getting rejected and squirted back out again, enough for me to feel quietly enraged over the whole situation if truth be told. It was most mightily frustrating and even the guard who was sitting on a stool in the corner of the ATM booth could not get it to work either. This was after he took my card, inserted it into the slot before very quickly taking it out again, telling me by way of sign language and gestures that this somewhat rough and ready method was sometimes able to do the trick.

After half a dozen or so futile attempts by both me and the guard to use his suggested method, we had to accept defeat and so I had to walk back to the car empty handed. My head was now full of doubt and frustration over whether our finances were going to get stiffed by a dodgy ICICI debit card that I now seemed to be in possession of. I really hoped that this was not going to be the case as it would quite simply completely fuck up a lot of the plans we had to buy new furniture for our new first floor in our house back in Bylakuppe. Yes I know, in so many ways I could look upon myself as being extremely lucky to be in a position to have those problems in the first place, but all things are relative and I couldn’t help but feel a little bummed out.   

Things went from bad to worse when I got back to the others in car because Sonam Tashi was unable to get the Mahindra started after he stopped to wait for me whilst I was getting nowhere at the ATM. It meant we were stuck in the road quite close to the bus station entrance which was not the best place in the world to be as things were decidedly busy, we were more or less slap bang in the middle of Mysore in the bright afternoon heat. After a good few minutes fruitlessly trying to get the Mahindra roaring back into life Sonam Tashi had to take the advice of one of the rickshaw drivers hanging around close by who had come over to try to help us. He told Sonam Tashi that he would have to get one of them to take him to the nearest car workshop in order to pick up a mechanic and bring him back to the stationary Mahindra in the hope that he would be able to work out what the problem was.

This is indeed what Sonam Tashi did, soon disappearing off up the road in the back of an auto rickshaw. It meant that Dawa Dolkar, Passang Dawa and myself had a good 30 minute wait, just standing there on the pavement next to the broken down Mahindra as all the city traffic sped past us. After a little while we just sat on some concrete blocks that had been somewhat arbitrarily placed against a wall of the bus station compound. From there we were able to watch the world go by, all of us feeling pretty subdued, wondering how the day was now going to turn out and whether we would get back to Bylakuppe under our own steam. My anxiety of course, was compounded by the fact I was still worrying over my goddamn bloody ICICI debit card and whether I would be able to get the thing to work again for the rest of the trip.

When Sonam Tashi eventually returned he had a mechanic with him who was holding a big car battery and it did not take him long to get the car started again once this battery was plugged in and wired up to the engine. The mechanic said that it looked like there were problems with the Mahindra starter motor which meant that we would almost certainly have the same issues again unless the car was properly seen to by a Mahindra mechanic. All we could do in the current circumstances was blindly hope we would somehow get through the rest of the day unscathed and make it back to the settlement before it broke down again, however we realised the chances of that happening were not very high. After paying the mechanic 100 rupees for getting the Mahindra started up again we headed back across Mysore to Saraswathipuram, to the furniture shop part of town in order to now look for a sofa set and chairs for the living room.

After checking out a couple of places with little to offer by way of any kind of extensive selection, we came across the showroom for a company by the name of AANCO Industries who manufactured and imported a whole range of what seemed to be decent looking furniture for the home. This indeed did look promising so we therefore had a good check around AANCO, spending at least an hour trying to decide what it was we wanted, before we settled on a sofa set comprising one three seat sofa and a couple of two seat sofas. The colour we chose for the sofa covering was a darkish grey and very attractive it was too, with the sofas having the potential to look really stunning in the new living room. Along with the sofas we ordered a whole bunch of orange cushions to contrast against the dark grey and we also chose a large dark wood low lying coffee table. All in all it felt like it was a job well done and that we had indeed found what we were looking for.

There was then the inevitable bargaining session that had to be undertaken with the guys in the showroom, who happened to be the AANCO owners, Mr Ahmed Riaz and Mr Abdul Khader Sait, both pretty laid back Muslims who had a relaxed air about them. Negotiations were of course undertaken by Dawa Dolkar and Sonam Tashi, allowing me to sit back on one of the showroom sofas and read through a copy of the Deccan Herald, checking out the news both domestic and international. In the end everyone agreed that we would pay a total price of 60,500 rupess for the three sofas – the three seater and the couple of two seaters along with all the cushions, plus a price of 11,500 rupees for the dark wood coffee table. This came to a grand total of 71,500 rupees and from this we made an advance payment to AANCO of 44,500 rupees leaving balance due to pay of 27,000 rupees, which we were told could be paid on delivery of the furniture to the house in Bylakuppe.

A delivery date was set for just over a week later on the 26th February and for us it was very important that the AANCO boys stuck to that. We tried our best to impress upon them that it really was vital the sofas were delivered by the 26th, as we needed to have them installed in our spacious new first floor living room by the 27th, as that was the first day of the Tibetan New Year. Fortunately Dawa Dolkar had brought enough cash with her to pay the rather substantial advance payment, which we hoped would work in our favour with the AANCO boys in regard to making sure everything was delivered on time. Got to say that although I was pretty much in the background as far as the negotiations were concerned, I felt confident about things and that we were in fact going to get what we wanted. The guys seemed sincere, honest, efficient and if they said we would get everything by the 26th then we would, simple as that, and we would not have to worry about getting shafted.

By the time we got out of the AANCO showroom it was pretty late in the day, almost early evening in fact and with the light beginning to fade. We then had a hell of a job getting the Mahindra started up again, in fact after numerous attempts, we failed to do so. This was even after me and a couple of the AANCO boys pushed it down the middle of the street in Saraswathipuram whilst Sonam Tashi sat behind the wheel desperately trying to fire it up. It meant another trip to a mechanics and another battery start, only this time it cost 200 rupees instead of 100 rupees, as the guy with the battery was a pretty mean looking bastard who wasn’t in the mood to cut us any favours. He did tell us however that we would now have to keep the motor running continually, unless we wanted to go through the same hassles all over again. That seemed like quite a daunting task as we still had a couple of jobs to do in Mysore before we hit the open road out the west side of town back to Bylakuppe, so it was most definitely now going to be touch and go as to whether we were going to get away without having another breakdown.

Nevertheless we set off to do our remaining business once the car was up and running again. In regard to that, our first stop was an office of Blue Dart couriers where we had to send off to the United States a couple of important documents on behalf of Sonam Tashi. This took quite a long time to sort out due to the fact that various forms of ID had to be presented and copied before finally being handed back. The whole process seemed to go on for ages but eventually we managed to do it, all the time keeping the motor of the Mahindra running outside and all things considered it was a little bit of a minor miracle that we managed to do so. Straight after this prolonged stop at Blue Dart we then went back into the centre of Mysore and to a pharmacy store which was just around the corner from Shree Devi restaurant where we had eaten lunch. This visit to the pharmacy was in order to pick up the medicines for Phuntsok Gyatso who was Dawa Dolkar’s uncle and a Tibetan Buddhist monk who was now 80 years old. We also managed to complete this task without coming to any grief as far as the Mahindra was concerned, as it sat outside the pharmacy gently purring away whilst we got the medicine business done. By the time all this was completed it was now coming up to 7 in the evening and the light of the day was by now fast fading, meaning it was time at last to hit the road back to Bylakuppe.

The header image for this article is a photograph of a street scene in Mysore and taken by the writer.

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