Saturday, 6 June 2009

Post Offices and Pink Temples

If I'm ever having one of those afternoons when I'm thinking how on earth am I going to pass these long, hot hours before evening falls without Maya or Lily or me or all three of us losing the plot, sometimes we go to the post office. I know this may sound like a strange afternoon activity for two small girls and whilst it may not always be 'fun', one thing I can be guaranteed of is that it will be lengthy. Which has its benefits. Plus there's the bonus that it's situated right next to the 'pink temple'...(more of that later)

Maya quite enjoys these trips to the post office. For a start, she gets to sit on the high counter top and indiscriminately comment on whatever takes her fancy in the way that only small children can get away with (Last time, she pointed to one of the employees and shrieked at the top of her lungs 'Mummy! Look at that man's beard!' So I did, and so did everybody else in the post office, including all the poor man's colleagues who stared and stared at his rather splendid wizardesque beard as though for the first time). Secondly, Maya enjoys this outing because she invariably gets to see Mummy in a complete flap which must, admittedly, be pretty entertaining. It is never a straightforward matter going to the post office. Never. Ever. Here is what happened about a week ago which typifies my general experience there:

Me: Please can I post these cards to England?
Post Office Employee: Certainly. That'll be fifteen rupees for each postcard.
Me: Oh. But last week I came it was eight rupees and....
POE: No madam, it's fifteen rupees.
ME: I've just put about ten postcards in the postbox outside with eight rupee stamps on them.
POE: But Madam, it's fifteen rupees. Who told you it was eight?
Me: (I look at her hard. Names, I must admit I'm pretty useless at but faces I rarely forget). You did.
POE: No, Madam.
Me: Yes, Madam.

I can see we're getting nowhere in a hurry, the queue behind me is growing and I'm pretty sure it was at this point that Maya interjected with her beard observation which didn't much help to speed things along. So I try another tack.

Me: Right, so it's fifteen rupees. Fine. I need five fifteen rupee stamps please for these cards.
POE: Certainly.

Brilliant, half the problem solved. But I still need to get my postcards back and I take a deep breath.

Me: Please can somebody unlock the postbox for me?
POE: Why?
Me: Because I just posted lots of cards in there with eight rupees on them.
POE: Oh, no problem Madam, no problem. They will get there.

Right. Now I'm confused. Very confused. And hot and sweaty and Lily is doing a wriggling eel impression in the sling and Maya is doing a noisy rendition of Little Bo Peep on the counter. And my nerves are starting to seriously fray. I put on my best pleading voice.

Me: Please can you open it? Please? Please? Do you have a key? Does anyone have a key?

The lady yells something in Kannada over her shoulder and motions for me to wait to one side whilst she starts serving other people. About ten minutes later, a man appears behind her who looks like he's just been woken up from his afternoon snooze and can barely keep his eyes open. A lengthy explanation ensues from the lady I was dealing with and eventually he slouches out then shortly after, returns with the most enormous sack of post from the postbox which he now needs to sort through to find my postcards. Please let me look! I want to cry. Please, or if not, could somebodyd kindly give this man a hearty injection of caffeine? But he's gone, off round the corner, dragging his sack behind him like some reluctant Father Christmas.

Approximately twenty minutes later, he re-emerges triumphantly with eight postcards. I can't remember how many I posted but I was fairly sure it was about ten. . By this stage, we've been regaled with one man's photos of his granddaughters in America, Maya and Lily have had their cheeks pinched about fifty times and Maya has hit one man who squeezed too hard. So I'm not about to send the man back to look for the other two. All I want to do is get these accursed cards in the post and get out of here.

I wait in the queue again, get to the front, ask for more stamps to make up the difference and then, only then does the lady say these words to me:

Madam, the cost of postcards has risen this last week.

What? What?? Why on earth didn't she just say that to me in the first place?! I know this wouldn't have changed the fact I'd still posted my cards in the postbox but knowing this may well have kept my blood pressure low. Some things I shall never, ever understand.

By now, I've lost several pints of water in my sweating and we're all pretty dehydrated so we go next door to the 'Pink Temple'. Now, as you'll see from the picture above, it's not particularly accurate to call it pink. But the fact that it has any pink in it at all is good enough for Maya, so pink it is. It is a Sai Baba Hindu temple, built for the devotees of the living Sai Baba, a South Indian guru, Hindu mystic and orator who also sports the most amazing afro ever (I mean no disrespect - it really is quite something). We love going to the temple as it is a cool, peaceful haven which smells of incense, sandalwood and jasmine. Everyone takes their shoes off and sits on the floor praying or in quiet cotemplation but last time a group of women were chanting and singing which I found wonderfully calming and restorative. Maya knows that this is not the place to belt out Little Bo Peep or any other song for that matter, and nobody seems to mind if Lily crawls around.

Whoever built the post office next to the pink temple (or vice versa) could not have possibly known that one day, a hot sweaty English woman with one child on her chest and another at her side would not be suffering a nervous breakdown as a result of this happy accident in town planning. Phew.


  1. Ah, small children and complicated conversations in shops. I remember it all very well. Sounds like you coped admirably!

  2. Becks, this had us in stitches! Love, love, love it..! Especially the man with the wizardesque beard;-)Pat,Faye, May & Gxxx