“500 Rupee.” Barks the stern faced jewellery wallah.
“50!” I squeak. Bartering grates me. I know how it works. I know its normal procedure in many places all over the world… but I just can’t shake the sour sensation that I’m trying to rip someone off. There are many techniques used by salesmen, from boasting the silver content of a clearly plastic bracelet, to heart-breaking tal
es of sick children and dying wives. Buyer’s techniques include the classic ‘walk away’ façade, the “I literally only have 50 Rupees!” line, and a million other dance steps. I’ve tried them all.
“250 – Last offer!”
“… Ok, Ok… last offer: 200, and a song?”
Introducing, the Ukulele technique.
Reason No. 1:
This has genuinely worked for me on multiple occasions. From silk saris to fresh coconuts, whipping out the Ukulele card might just throw your salesman for enough time to agree to your price. It also totally changes the atmosphere from battle ground to sing along; making a fool of yourself in the middle of a busy market place with your out of tune rendition of ‘Hey Soul Sister’ is enough to crack a smile on even the hardiest hagglers.
Reason No. 2:
You will learn to play it. We’ve all experienced this: You meet your instrument in the form of a Christmas present, a whim charity shop find, or a determined new years resolution. It promptly goes on a high shelf and somehow life just ‘gets in the way’ of ever picking it up. It’s not until your sat on the floor of some forgotten train station for three hours waiting for your questionably timetabled transport that your boredom bends you in the right direction. And trust me, you will learn quickly. One thing you have in abundance whilst on the road is time. Time to think, time to read, time to do nothing… and given enough time your brain starts to want more. You stop wanting to do nothing, and start wanting to do … everything! To make something, to draw something, to write something… and to play. This is when you are most ready to absorb a new skill; when your mind has the freedom to slip into creative flow, free from the blockages of obligation, to-do-lists, and work.
Reason No. 3:
Hug-able is not Mugg-able.
Carrying an instrument immediately marks you out as a peace bringer. You could be meeting a new gang of hostel dwellers, sharing a train compartment with huddle of wary locals, or rocking up solo to a campfire circle; lone travel doesn’t need to be lonely if you’ve got an excellent crowd pleaser to break the ice.
Friend-making aside, I feel safer on the streets when I’m Ukulele laden. Its like I have a sign round my neck saying ‘look! I’m a person! I have hobbies and interests!’. That tiny little glimpse of personality, of relatability, might be just what it takes to make someone with negative intentions think twice.
Here’s the final secret: It doesn’t have to be a Ukulele. It doesn’t even have to be a musical instrument. All it needs to be is some kind of shareable skill – something to connect you with people wherever you go. Here are some suggestions for travel handy props for peace and prosperity on your adventures:
- Flute (or any small wind instrument!)
- Juggling balls
- A magic trick
- Playing Cards
… the list is endless. Pick one.
Peace and Popadoms,