Saraswathipuram III

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

After that second battery charge in Saraswathipuram our luck finally ran out on one of the main roads out of town, the Hunsur road, just opposite the offices of the Mysore Deputy Police Commissioner. The Mahindra simply died on us and we came to a complete halt on what was a very busy road, so busy in fact that it soon became apparent that it was quite a dangerous spot to have broken down. This was compounded by the fact it was now Mysore rush hour time and the traffic was heavy, full on relentless as a matter of fact. It was now dark and there were plenty of vehicles trying to move along at speed, shining their bright lights directly at us as we stood about feeling like sitting ducks on the roadside next to the Mahindra. After trying for quite a long time, Sonam Tashi somehow managed to get through to the Mahindra garage in Mysore which was still open despite the fact it was now gone 7 on a Saturday evening. The good news was they told him they would send round a Mahindra recovery truck, which would be painted a bright yellow and red, and that it would take about 45 minutes to reach us. There was then little else that we could do after Sonam Tashi’s phone call but continue to stand there by the side of the road, hoping like hell nothing crashed into the back of the Mahindra and took out a couple of us in the process.

To try to minimize the possibility of that happening Sonam Tashi broke a branch off a tree and stuck it behind the back window screen wiper. This was a method commonly used in India in order to serve as a form of warning to other drivers that something was wrong with the car and that it was best avoided. It really did seem like time begun to crawl as the four of us stood there waiting by the side of the busy road, hoping for the recovery truck to come along as soon as possible. The traffic was relentless, there were more than one or two occasions when vehicles looked for all the world like they were going to plough right into the back of the Mahindra only to somehow avoid it right at the very last minute. After what was the best part of an hour and still with no tow truck in sight Sonam Tashi put in a call to the owner of a Tibetan restaurant in Mysore. They knew each other quite well as Sonam Tashi often dropped in there for either a plate of Tibetan momos or a bowl of hot thukpa. He now asked the restaurant owner to send a taxi out to us, a taxi strong enough to be able to tow the Mahindra, as now we felt we had no choice but to try to get the car to the Mahindra showroom ourselves.

It only took around 15 minutes or so for the taxi to turn up from the centre of town and its calm and polite Muslim driver soon set about tying pull ropes together between the two cars so that one could be towed safely by the other. As we were in the middle of doing all this right on the edge of the busy road, the big bright red and yellow Mahindra tow truck turned up as if right on cue. Sonam Tashi had to tell them that there no point in us undoing all the ropes that we had now attached and secured to the back of the taxi and that we would continue on to the showroom being towed by the taxi. Somehow it seemed inevitable that things were going to end this way, that the tow truck would not be needed.

Dawa Dolkar, Passang Dawa and I sat in the taxi with the driver whilst Sonam Tashi steered the Mahindra behind us as he was being towed along. It was a little bit of good fortune that the Mahindra showroom also happened to be on the Hunsur road and it was about 10 minutes away from where we had broken down. This meant although it was a little bit scary because of all the heavy traffic, the towing of the Mahindra was at least relatively straight forward as it did not involve too many twists and turns, something which was not to be underestimated.

Once we pulled into the showroom, opposite a large furniture store by the name of Livin’ Style, which from past visits we knew didn’t have anything we were looking for in the way of kit for the new first floor, we were directed to service area at the back of the building. Perhaps not too surprisingly things were now winding up in the service area for the night as it was now past 8 in the evening. We were able to get a cursory check made on the vehicle however and we were told by the mechanic that we would have to leave the car with service in order to get it further seen to the next day. This all took quite a while to sort out, things dragged on as Sonam Tashi and the mechanic went into the finer details as to what the possible causes might be of the starter motor failure. In the middle of all this, whilst the checking and the talking was going on, mainly between Sonam Tashi and the Mahindra mechanic, I suddenly had a wave of stomach cramps and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would have to find a toilet somewhere.

As luck would have it the showroom offices were still open although they were now deserted, so after wandering inside I came across a nice clean bathroom which even had some toilet paper, so I closed the door on it without any further delay. Soon I felt a hell of a lot better as it could quickly have turned into a really tricky situation if I hadn’t found that toilet. In fact, whilst sitting on the can I had the chance to do some tap, tap, tap into the memo pad of my mobile phone. I was writing a bunch of words that came to me as if from out of the blue, words which pretty much summed up my experiences of the day so far.

that sucker punch
sunlight grief
that could see me
bending down
to touch the dust
of a midday street
right in sight
of blinding heat
to have me beat
to take me raw,
but I chose to lose
the chance to jump
and munch instead
that sucker punch
in steaming bowls
of trouble crunch

By around 8.30 or so we had left the Mahindra at the service workshop and were now heading back in the taxi to the settlement, having struck a deal with our friendly and chilled out Muslim driver who seemed like the kind of guy who took things in his stride. On the way back we stopped at a Kerala style restaurant just before Hunsur in order have our evening meal as by now it was just past 9 in the evening and we were all pretty damn starving. The food turned out to very good indeed which was a bit of a bonus if truth be told, because by that time you were taking your chances somewhat when you pulled into roadside stops to eat. We all had fresh chappatis and vegetables, and with the exception of Dawa Dolkar, a couple of pieces each of local Bagra fish each, the Bagra were somewhat small and bony but there were very tasty and really hit the spot.

We finally got back to the settlement at around 11 in the evening and we soon learned that the wardrobes from Laavish which of course we had ordered earlier in the day, had been delivered at around 9.30 and that the lads who had brought them from Mysore were still trying to put them together. If truth be told I had completely forgotten about the wardrobes after all the hassles we had been experiencing with the Mahindra. The wardrobe which was for the guest room in which Anita was staying had been completed and the Laavish lads were now in our room with everything spread out on the floor surrounding them. By the looks of things I knew they were going to be there for some considerable time, if truth be told they looked none too pleased about it as well. No doubt it had been a long day for them, the chances were that when they had arrived for work at Laavish that morning they hadn’t realised they would be heading off on a long trip from Mysore down to Bylakuppe and then back again that same evening.

All the wrapping from the flat packs was strewn about the place and there were loads of nuts, bolts, nails and pieces of wood lying on the floor whilst the three guys sat there in the middle of it all, moodily studying the instruction booklet, quietly muttering things to each other in Kannada. It was best just to leave them to it as there was nothing else we were going to be able to do to make things better for them or help them get the job completed sooner. It was not until around 12.30 at night before they got it all done. Their collective mood had hardly improved, despite them having had a couple of glasses of fruit juice each, nice and chilled from out of our new Samsung fridge. Not only that we also gave them all a 300 rupee tip on top of the 1500 rupees delivery charge, a tip which they accepted without so much as a smile between them.

As the sound of their delivery truck was making off into the night for the 2 -3 hour return ride back to Mysore I sat on my bed and took a good look at the wardrobe opposite and realised that the guys had put one of the doors on upside down. It seemed to sum up the day perfectly, far more accurately than those words I’d tapped into my phone on the toilet in the back of the Mahindra showroom earlier that evening, well, possibly. The strange thing was that even though the door was upside down and with the handles ever so slightly mis-aligned, it didn’t really make that much difference. The wardrobe was still functional, not perfect maybe but the doors worked fine as far as opening and closing them was concerned. In my mind I just settled for that, even though I did regret being so generous with the 300 rupee tip that I had given them. If I had made a closer inspection of their handiwork whilst they were still there they would have been able to take it off and put it all on the right way round. But the fact of the matter was that it was now pretty late, coming up to 1 in the morning and it was too late to have any regrets. It had been long, long day down in South India, now it was time to go to bed and forget about those wardrobes, the sofas and that broken down Mahindra.  

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

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