Thursday, November 2, 2006

Business at Sangam

The drive to Srirangapatna, on Wednesday the 18th, was my first on the Bangalore-Mysore road after the new one was laid. It was a relief to see such a good, smooth, wide road. It left me wondering why we take so long to get such good things. My friend, Mr Whitfield, commented: “Such scenic, lush greenery beside a main highway is a real treat!”

It’s quite a few years since I made the last trip to the 18th century capital of Tipu Sultan’s Mysore. Some 125 km from Bangalore, around 11 am, as we slowed the car down near an expansive junction, wondering which way to turn, a man came rushing in. After telling us to take a left turn, he suggested that we could have him as a guide. He showed us an identity card, which didn’t excite us much. He quoted Rs 300. That was much less interesting.

Then he pointed to the road to the right of the main highway and said the ruins of the fort, temple, etc lie on that side. “You can’t enter the road this way since it’s one way. And the fine for violation is Rs 300. I shall take you around. Give me just Rs 200.” Mr Henry Whitfield said it was better we go on our own. As I told him that we weren’t interested, the guide reduced the fee to Rs 100.

To be fair to that guy, I must credit him for being very polite and he bore no regrets, at least publicly, for having his offer turned down. “Okay sir; wish you a very good time here.”

We tured left and took the road that leads one to the Gumbaz and a little ahead of that to the Sangam. We first went to the latter. As we parked the car and made our way towards the Sangam, Mr Whitfield told us how he regards guides with some amount of caution. “My experience is that they don’t give us any more information that what we already know. The worst bit is that they hurry you though and don’t let us soak in the beauty of the tourist places. Instead I would’ve liked some literature here on this place.”

Srirangapatna, derives its name from a 1,000-year-old temple of Lord Sriranganatha, and so obviously there is some religious significance attached to it. So, not surprisingly, as one approached the Sangam, there was a notice not to have non-vegetarian food.

Sangam, or the confluence, is the place where the river Cauvery and its two tributaries, Lokapavani and Paschima Vahini, meet. The place was moderately populated, rhe rivers had a gentle flow and there was good greenery on either sides of the river.

The moment my friend saw the coracles, he immediately took a liking to it, and fancied being taken around a good stretch on the river. We checked out the rate: Rs 200 for a round around the Nandi atop a rock. We were told that one coracle can seat up to 10. When we told an operator that were just 3, he said irrespective of the number, the fare was the same. That was quite understandable, but not his reluctance to put together a group of 10 people for one trip. He expected tourists themselves to come in a group of 10.

(Left top: View from the bank; and left below: view of
the bank)

Anyway, with a little patience the fare came
Rs150, but we couldn’t find anyone to come along with us. Not wanting to waste time, we decided to pay that amount for just 3 of us. (Probably the operators know from experience that it makes better business sense this way.) And, just as we stepped onto the coracle, two 13-year-old children also got in. Wondering if they were enjoying a free trip with our Rs 150, we asked them how much they are paying: Rs 40 each. The economics was getting clearer. The guy made a total of Rs 230! And we just spent less than 10 minutes in the water.

Forget the management gurus, these illiterate people know what's a win-win situation! At the end of it all, we had no complaints, for we had a good time.


  1. Well yes, on the face of it, Win-win situation is how it looks. But then, these guides and these corcle operators make money only during the season. Off-season they find it tough to even make ends meet.

    They are fighting for a life of basic needs. Not luxuries like management gurus. So, there's a vast difference.

    And they generally quote a higher rate because they know we'll negotiate with them. Try talking to them empathisingly along the way and see the way they add value to that trip of yours! They might not reduce the price, but they will surely richen your experience with interesting anecdotes and snippets of information. They are not people solely looking at profit (they have no other go though considering that they are living under tight conditions) like management gurus, but they value the experience they give to their tourists.

  2. Srirangapatna was a favourite destination during our university days in Mysore. On the way back, we would relish the roadside dhaba food.

  3. Mysorean.....:Fully agree. Neither I nor my foreign friend had any complaints. That guy who rowed the coracle was damn friendly. He did so much explaining about the place. Even that guide was so decent. A win-win approach is precisely what they must have. And my point was they didn't need a management guru's seminar for that! Hats off to these guys with whom lies my heart always.

    Kishore.....: My British friend actually relishes the dhaba food. But we missed having food there.

  4. I really cherish my college days where we commuted between Mysore and Mandya (engg college) and sometimes in between, we wud alight at Srirangapatna and make a trip to Nimishamba temple, on the banks of Cauvery!
    Real nice place with nice temple and powerful goddess inside!

    Hope you been there...

  5. Deeps.....: Saw a couple of temples, don't know if its the one u are refering to

  6. Really an interesting experience.