Doing business in India can be an interesting experience. If one is patient.
I have been in Varkala for 42 days and my sole purpose of coming here was to finish a project I started one year ago. And to get rid of the tan lights on my feet from the stripes on my flip-flops. I wanted and needed quiet time, sun and an ocean to dip my toes on from time to time.
Every day I walk the beach promenade on Varkala Cliff. On one side of the promenade is this spectacular viewer the beach and the sea. Food for the soul. The other side is packed with shops and restaurants. Anything to please and entertain the tourists. After spending that many days here, the shop owners have come to know me as the lady that doesn’t do shopping. I told them that is the case. Now they know and when I pass we grea without wasting each other’s time.
A few of the shops sell drums. Beautiful, handmade by skilled men. The thought on perhaps getting a smaller one to gift my best friends one year son grew on me. Ten days ago I spoke with one of these drum makers, told him what I wanted, he guided me in what sort of drum I should get for the little boy , we agreed on the price and I told him I would get back to him the next day with the design I wanted him to make on this special drum.
Next day I gave him the very detailed drawing and before I left the shop he said:
– Can you give me some money, for good luck?
I gave him 500 rupees which he took with his right hand, touched his forehead with the note, kissed it and touched the heart area with it three times. Standard procedure for some businessmen here.
Five days ago he asked me for some clarifications about the design, which I gave and three days ago he again asked me if would please come to the shop. Now he shows me that there is a crack on the base of the drum. One could clearly see there had been an attempt to mend it so it wouldn’t be easy to spot. I told him I wanted another one, one without a crack and he told me it would cost more. To which I disagreed.
The day after I decided not to go through with buying a drum from him, went back to the shop and told him about my decision. Now I wanted my money back.
– I don’t have money, he said. My brother has the money.
– When is your brother coming back?
– In an hour.
– Look, I have been in India for quite a while now. Five minutes in never five minutes and one hour is definitely never just one hour. You have your phone in your hand. Call him.
The guy calls his brother and afterward lets me know that his brother will come around 2-3 pm with the guys lunch. He will bring the money then. At 2.30 still no brother nor money. By 4 pm nothing new but I decide to go and have my dinner and sort this thing afterwords. Next time I arrive to the shop the brother and the money are still nowhere to find.
– Have you had your lunch, I ask the guy.
– Yes, I have, he says touching his belly in a content gesture.
That means that the brother has been there but doesn’t want to give me my money.
– Ok, this is how we are going to do. I will go into your shop, pick one drum and take it with me. When you have my money you can call me and we can exchange my money for your drum.
The guy is clearly taken by surprise, numb. I notice people are gathering around us and to be sure everyone will know what is happening I now repeat wat I told the guy loud and clear. Then I enter the shop, take a beautiful drum under my arm, walk out and again repeat my message for everyone to hear.
I slowly, without any hesitation but with a confident posture, walk away.
Thirty minutes later I get a call. Brother and money have arrived. I walk back with same calm confident posture, we exchange drum and money and I go back. From experience I know that when we meet tomorrow there will be no hard feelings, no looking away. We will greet and continue as if nothing has happened.
The only thing I have to figure out now is what to gift the beautiful one-year-old boy I am so longing to see.