When you move to a new city, the most common dilemma is how to get things done.  You need to change your driver’s license, buy and register a home and car.  The list goes on.  How easy or difficult is it to do this in Bangalore? And do you need to grease the wheels as it were?

The answer to both is yes, but it is not in the way that you might imagine. When my husband went to register his company, for example, the killer app that he discovered for all negotiations was numerology.  He didn’t want to pay a bribe.  When the government official senses this, he or she has only one choice: to make life difficult by prolonging the time or posing obstacles.  To both, a good answer is numerology.  

When the officer behind the desk said that the name of the company had to be changed because it didn’t conform to the rules (a blatant lie), my husband’s response was, “Sir, but my astrologer said that this is numerologically correct.” To his shock, the officer accepted the explanation.  

Similarly, when a female officer said that she couldn’t sign the files because she needed more documents.  “Return next week,” she ordered. His reply? “Madam, today is a shubha muhurtha (auspicious day).  I will ask my colleague to bring the documents now itself and will wait however long for you to sign.”  Again, she was stymied and had no response.  After a few hours of waiting, she did sign the papers.  

How to negotiate in Bangalore 2

The next question is about bribing officials for approvals.  In this, there is a fork.  Some people are philosophically against bribes, and perhaps we all should be.  Some are pragmatic and believe that this is the only way to get things done in India.  How about a compromise? How about a gift package containing an educational book, chocolates, and a metre of fabric? A friend does this.  The rationale is that this is a donation towards a good cause.  The educational book will, well educate a child– specifically the RTO officer’s child.  The chocolates? Well, they can be shared by all the peons in the office. As for the fabric? That is a multi-purpose solution to many problems.  It could, for example be used to cover the dusty files in the RTO office.  In that sense, my friend’s gift is a service to the country.  It conforms to American President Kennedy’s famous question: “Ask not what your country can do for you.  Ask what you can do for you country.”  Is it a bribe? Yes and No.  Does it get your license re-registered to Karnataka? Yes.

Once you settle down, then you need a steady supply of things which today are easy to find because social media knows more about your likes and dislikes than even your mother does.  Its algorithms curate a list of delectable objects and things you can buy, ranging from clothes, makeup and footwear to organic strawberries, composting pots and vegan handbags.  All you need to do is click on what you see, order and buy.

There is one area where social media will not help at all and that is tailoring.  If you, like me, believe that the pleasure of living in India is access to bespoke tailoring, you need to find a tailor fast and one who will work with you.  Find one within your area.  That is easiest.  But I know women who come all the way to Commercial Street to stitch their clothes because it contains a concentration of talent and fabric material.  How to work with these busy folks particular in the festive season, because ladies, you know this.  Come Diwali, Christmas or Ramadan, the most important man in your life is not the spouse who stuns you with flowers, or the secret lover who sizzles in bed, or the son who cajoles you with puppy-eyes or the boss who is your card to that promotion.  It is the tailor who will stitch a “katori-cut” blouse that will make you look like Tabu. So how to find the right tailor?

First of all, the question is wrong.  You don’t need a right tailor.  You need ten right tailors because the sad truth is that they will all fail you at some point, and you need an out.  The trick with negotiating with tailors is that you need to be able to threaten and follow through.  There is no point saying, “Give it a week before Ramadan or I will go elsewhere,” if you have no backup.  The second thing to realise is that these are temperamental artisans who you should not threaten.  Instead, you should cajole.  You should do some drama, tell them stories about how a wedding is happening in the family and you want, no need, to wear the blouse that he has stitched because it is the only thing that works in your life.  Shed a few tears and watch the magic happen.

The same thing applies for every repair person who enters your home to fix toilet flushes, curtains or loose doors.  Sure, you have to negotiate for the price and try to get them to deliver within a certain time, but at some point, you have to call it.  “This does not work for me. Let me find someone else,” you have to say.  And mean it.

That is when things will happen.  Indians you see, are masters of brinksmanship.  You see it in our roads where the truck will come straight at you, expecting you to get out of the way.  In such situations, you cannot blink and fall for the threat.  You too have to go full blast and straight ahead till either he or you swerves in the last minute and hope that you don’t hit the nearby cyclist who is doing his own version of brinksmanship.

So what's your tip about how to get things done in Bangalore?

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