chitta chatter

fear and loathing in Mysore

Posted in India, photos, things that make you say "whaaa?" by Nancy on January 28, 2010

First, the fear. It didn’t spring from any death-defying rickshaw ride or parasitic infection. Not even the Indian retail experience could bring it on.  No, this fear was 100% made in America.

I had the hair-brained idea today that I ought to check my credit card balance online to make sure everything was copascetic. I had used the card to get some cash several days ago at an HSBC Bank ATM and I wanted to see if I had been charged any kind of international bullshit fee. Having heard certain people who pass themselves off as Mysore travel experts say that it’s not safe to use ATMs in India—and doubting that line almost entirely, but not quite—I figured I’d be plenty safe using an ATM at a major international bank like HSBC. So I was none too pleased when I saw that the “recent activity” report listed not one but two 7000-rupee cash advances (one a slightly higher amount in US dollars than the other due to the different conversion rates at the times they posted).

Since we don’t have a cellie (thanks, Airtel), D and I scurried off to find a landline phone. Mysore’s yellow public phones are everywhere—even hanging from tree trunks—outnumbered only by yellow cows. So it didn’t seem like a big hairy deal. But even the most insignificant task becomes a major undertaking here. We soon learned that the yellow phones are for local calls only. For anything else, you have to use the ISD phones. Which are harder to find and, of course, require electricity… in a city with round-the-clock power outages.

So after trudging around under the hot midday sun and slicing my foot open on a sharp rock sticking out of the busted up sidewalk, we finally found an ISD phone at the Apollo Pharmacy (where they speak great English and you can get some serious antibiotics—or most any prescription drug you want—without a prescription, and at a sixteenth of the price we pay in the US). But time was not on our side: “No power,” they told us.

We headed home, comforted by the fact that we at least knew where we could make the call once the power came back on. When we got back, our neighbor Dennis offered us the use of his Skype account and I was finally able to contact the bank. They told me that “pending” charges still appear on the recent activity report even after they’ve posted (and are no longer pending). They only purge them once a week, so it only LOOKS like a duplicate charge. But it isn’t.

So it wasn’t a rogue Indian bank employee that caused all this injury and upheaval. Just good old American incompetence.

I am relieved now, though, and about to fill my belly with Aunty’s food. The loathing will have to wait for another post.

In the meantime, here’s a gratuitous monkey pic:

“Let’s get down to brass tacks… how much for the ape?”


4 Responses

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  1. Lora Glazer said, on January 29, 2010 at 6:47 am

    Oy Vey…But At least It Sounds Like all Will be Well, Well Maybe!;)
    Love The Monkeys!!!! =D

  2. Nancy said, on January 29, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Yeah, the card people actually responded to my panicked email, too, and told me the same thing the rep on the phone said. So all’s well.

    Yeah, monkeys rule! Seriously. They take what they want, do what they want and answer to no one. But then, they have hands for feet and prehensile tails, so they have a bit of a jump on us already.

  3. sara said, on January 30, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    “Oy vey” is right! How’s your foot?
    Can you bring a monkey back for me? I could use such a crafty little friend.

  4. Nancy said, on January 31, 2010 at 4:28 am

    Foot’s fine… wasn’t as bad as it looked. I could bring back a monkey, but I think they’re way too self-involved to make good friends. And their personal hygiene leaves a lot to be desired.

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