There are a couple of services that even Bangalore's yuppiedom can't render any more ludicrous: government tours and the post office.
I decided that I wanted to try out one of those crazy break-neck Indian tours, and where better than the temple towns of Belur, Halebid and Sravanabelagola, three classic architectural sites that are apparently worth visiting, but which can take quite some time to reach by public transport? I say 'apparently' because I never got to see them.
I'd originally tried to book a tour from Mysore, but a lack of interest meant that the companies couldn't guarantee the tours would go, and indeed every company I tried eventually cancelled their 'daily' tours due to a lack of numbers. 'Never mind,' I thought, 'I'll try in Bangalore where there are more tourists,' and sure enough the state tourist department said they had a tour, it was going every day and yes, it would definitely leave. This, by the way, is a use of the word 'definitely' that doesn't appear in the Oxford English Dictionary.
So I turned up at the state tourism offices at 7am on Friday morning, only to discover that I was the only person actually booked on the tour, and that it was therefore cancelled, quite within the bounds of the small print which I had read and assumed didn't apply, seeing as I'd been told the tour would definitely be going. But there was absolutely no point in getting annoyed, so I took my refund with a good-natured shrug and walked back to my hotel; it amused me later to note that my refund was too much by Rs100, a little bit of divine justice if ever I've seen it.
I wasn't that bothered, to be honest, because I'd just had ten rolls of film back from the local developing studio, most of which seemed to be pictures of temples. I was in danger of being completely templed-out, so in retrospect it was probably a good thing that the tour had fallen through, or I'd have been wading through yet more of the things...
But I was still left with ten sets of photographs to send back home, which struck me as a pretty easy job: shove them in a jiffy bag, nip down the post office and send them off. If only it was that easy; in India there's no such thing as a jiffy bag, and using a normal envelope is just asking for trouble, so it's back to basics again. The solution is to nip down to the local tailor, who will stitch up your precious memories in cheap linen, which is tougher than any jiffy bag; this you can then take to the post office for mailing.
This can take forever. There's Book Post Surface Mail, Book Post Air Mail, Registered Sea Mail, Registered Air Mail, Ordinary Surface Mail, Ordinary Air Mail and a different counter for parcels and letters (the difference between which isn't clear), as well as a separate counter for stamps and a separate information counter for discovering which counter you need. I wanted to send a parcel (which turned out to be the kind of parcel that needed to be dealt with by the letter people), post a letter (for which I needed stamps from the stamp man before handing it in at the letter counter) and buy some aerogrammes (from yet another counter), so by the time I'd finished my business with the philatelic equivalent of the civil service I was pretty exhausted and not a little confused. But at least it was cheap and, eventually, my films made it home, so I can't really complain.