Saturday, February 12, 2005

Ransom Paid

So ends the saga of the box...

Yesterday, while I was busy on the computer, the shipping company was phoning the hotel with its ransom demands. Arriving back at reception, Mr. Rajoo handed me a phone number. "They've got your package. You should call them."

Calling the number, a woman's voice told me the package could be dropped off as soon as I paid government duties levied against the contents. No problem, how much? "Well Madame, It will be 5800 rupees."

Oh my god.

Five-thousand eight hundred Indian rupees is $132.66 USD.

To put 5800 rupees into local perspective. A meal at an all-you-can-eat South Indian thali restaurant costs between 20-50 rupees. One night in a basic hotel is 150 rupees. A hotel with hot water, room service and a TV is about 400. Riding an interstate sleeper bus for 14 hours is 350 rupees. Taking a local city bus for half an hour costs around 4 rupees. A cup of good chai is 5 rupees (23 rupees at swanky Barrista). Groups like SEWA are campaigning to raise minimum wages to 125 rupees a day. If people worked at that minimum wage 365 days a year, their monthly incomes would be 3802 rupees. 5800 is a lot of money. Here.

Mr. Rajoo told me to fight. "Offer them half. See what they tell you." I tried, but haggling over government imposed duty is time consuming. The goal is to get out of Pune! Since I'm not from here and don't earn local wages I can afford to pay the ransom. Grudgingly. Had to wait a couple of hours until the electricity came back on so that a bank machine could dispense the necessary funds. I finally called the captors and told them the money was ready. "All our couriers have gone home for the day so you will have to wait till tomorrow for us to deliver your package."

Insult to injury. Went to the "delivery" headquarters to pay the ransom and pick it up my self.

My dog friend stood me up too.

But there is a happy ending. I have a functioning camera. I have the documents necessary to get the other one fixed. Whoohoo! And I have a little tin of wasabi. My head is feeling much better. I don't want to pull it off and chuck it into the wastebin anymore. Thanks Ma and Pa.

Tonight I'm on the sleeper bus to Goa and looking forward to waking up someplace else.


Blogger Stephen said...

I'll give you 50 rupees if you tell me what "Washi Waxwing" means?I love your blog, I have it in my favorite column. Homesick yet?

February 18, 2005 6:09 PM  

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