Unlocking a secret

WHEN SOMETHING GOES WRONG with a product in the UK, it is usually simpler and cheaper to discard it and buy a new one. In my experience of visiting India many times since 1994, I have discovered that there is often someone, who can mend what would normally be thrown away in the UK. Only recently, I spotted a poorly dressed man sitting by the side of MG Road (in Bangalore). He was painstakingly repairing what looked like totally decrepit umbrellas.

We use combination locks (‘number locks’ in Indian English) to secure our baggage whilst travelling. In December 2022 when we were in Panjim (Goa), we found one of ours, which would not open, even when using the correct combination. It looked as if it had become corroded.

Because we have great faith in the ingenuity of Indian craftsmen, we took it to a locksmith in Panjim. He was unwilling to work on our lock, and another lock seller advised us to throw it away. Undeterred, we carried the defective item to Bangalore.

In the Commercial Street district of Bangalore we approached a couple of locksmiths, who were unwilling to spend time on our lock. A third one accepted it, and said he would have a go. We told him the combination, and left him whilst he fiddled with the lock as if it were as enjoyable as a Rubik Cube. On the 2nd of January 2023, we set off on a long trip, returning to Bangalore on the 15th of February 2023.

A few days later, we visited the locksmith, who remembered us and fetched our lock from a glass-fronted cupboard. He had managed to open the lock, but could not remember which combination allowed him to unlock it. He said:
“You take it home and try a few numbers.”
He refused to accept any payment for his efforts.

Back at our accommodation, I tried what I remembered had been the lock’s combination, and discovered that the locksmith had rendered the once useless lock fully functional. As the tourist board slogan (Incredible!ndia) suggests, the country is truly incredible.

PS These locks are cheap to buy new in India. It was not to save money that we visited so many locksmiths, but it was for the enjoyment of the challenge to find someone to do the job that we spent the time going from one to another. Some people enjoy passing time playing games on their phones. We choose to have our timepass (Indian English) in other ways