A cautionary tale about shipping a sitar from India

#46 Apr 29th, 2011, 09:20
Join Date:
Jun 2007
  • SomPan is offline
Fuller - It is nice of you to post the status - it proves that your shipping company was not a fraud but incompetent. You will find many small businesses in India not wanting to say "no". I guess in your case they just assumed a cost based on the weight of the thing and may be not considered the dimensions...

Now getting someone to volunteer to carry the Sitar for you is the next challenge - all the best
#47 Apr 29th, 2011, 09:44
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Sep 2008
Varies, currently in D.C.
  • dillichaat is offline
Fuller - It is nice of you to post the status - it proves that your shipping company was not a fraud but incompetent.
The distinction is moot. What would they have done? Probably nothing and the result would have been no sitar and no money for the buyer. One of the problems here in India is indeed that everyone thinks they're experts in anything, be it shipping a package or repairing a car. I've long learned to treat any advice I get as worthless unless proven otherwise.
"It is preferable to have a criminal for a servant rather than a fool because a criminal's actions are predictable and you can protect yourself against them, whereas there is no telling what a fool's next move will be.
#48 Apr 29th, 2011, 13:09
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  • nycank is offline
Originally Posted by dillichaat View Post
My FedEx guy quoted me a price between 17 and 18k Rs for shipping, this is the price for a walk-in

Morale of the story: if you purchase a sitar in India, take it home in your checked in luggage and mail any other excess baggage to yourself via the post.
A few years ago on a flight from NY to South America, 1A was a largish musical instrument, 2A a was famous musician, its owner. (1A being bulkhead, and appropriate place for the equipment) A discounted fare in front of the bus at that time (without Prem-Elite status) was USD 3,700+ so, Go-Figure the value

Odd shaped/Oversized checked baggages are not cheap. If it was a Defense Contractor they'd charged for unforeseen snafu and 18K would become 180K

Moral of the story: Buy local, or carry with you !!!
#49 Apr 29th, 2011, 17:36
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Hyderabad, india
  • narendra.d is offline
I had also read some thing similar to what @nycanc has said above about the big indian musicians as well. They always carry their large musical instruments with them on an extra seat.

Looks like an expensive way to take your sitar/veena or similar.
#50 Apr 29th, 2011, 18:27
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Oct 2004
Chennai, India
  • Nick-H is offline
Double bass? Cello? Guitar even?

Not just Indian musicians!
#51 Apr 29th, 2011, 22:38
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Austin, Texas
  • professorm is offline
The cost of proper packaging cannot be overlooked.

Allow me to muddy the water a bit more. As a carry on luggage or shipping, a sitar must be properly packed/packaged. Its own casing, if it has one, may not protect it from damage. To my knowledge, US companies do an excellent job of packing/packaing, the cost of packing a sitar may be prohibitive not to mention the cost of shipping. In addition, one must buy shipping insurance adding to the overall cost.

Shipping a sitar is expensive!

In this special case, the shipping company did not know how to handle these problems.

Kudos to Dillichaat for taking the bull by the horns.
#52 Oct 26th, 2011, 10:29
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Oct 2008
Daegu, South Korea
  • JFullerUCSB is offline

Don't ever ship a sitar from India

Making this as a follow-up to my "Just lost a sitar..." thread.

If anyone traveling through India decides to buy a sitar and searches online for information about how to get it home, I hope they come across this post.

The long and the short of it is: shipping a sitar to your home country is a losing proposition.

First, regardless of what any merchant or packaging service will tell you, India Post will not ship one in 2011. After what happened in the initial thread, dillichaat was able to recover the sitar and take it to India Post himself. They refused to send it. Apparently they won't send any package that is over a meter long, and most sitars exceed that length. Maybe you could bribe someone to do it, but I'm not sure. Anyway, what this means is that you'll have to hire a private courier to do it.

Because of a sitar's length, the volumetric weight they calculate (which determines what you pay) is ridiculous. Don't believe any sitar merchant who tells you they can ship it to you for around 5,000 rupees. You will pay 2-4x that amount. The quoted price for mine was 21,000 rupees. Even if you could do it for half of that, that's probably more than the sitar actually costs.

They will make you sign a damage waiver. What this means is that you have absolutely no recourse if the sitar is damaged in transit, which is very possible. When I finally received mine, it had a huge crack down the middle of the gourd. While this damage can be repaired, it will never look the same, and it may never sound the same. Sitar gourds are fairly delicate, and can easily be broken during the shipping process.

TL;DR version: if you buy a sitar in India, take it home with you as checked baggage. Pay whatever oversize baggage fee applies. That fee is probably much less than what the shipping would cost, and there's much less of a chance of it breaking in transit.

I'd also like to express a huge amount of appreciation to dillichaat for helping me out with this, even though the end result wasn't ideal.
#53 Oct 26th, 2011, 12:39
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Sep 2001
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  • edwardseco is offline
Hats off to DC.
And I completely agree with the recommendation..
#54 Oct 26th, 2011, 17:41
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Jan 2006
  • JuliaF is offline
Thankyou for coming back with your update and advice JFuller. This will be very useful for anyone else considering buying a sitar and wondering how to get it home.

I have merged the two threads so that all the information is in one place, and adjusted the title.
#55 Dec 11th, 2011, 17:37
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Nov 2011
  • TamilTraveller is offline
Well, I'll contact him...heading up to Delhi in a week or so.

I'm very glad I read this thread. I am looking at buying a sitar at the moment and was one of things to do whilst in Delhi.

I am semi-surprised by the high cost of the shipping. I took my guitar and cello on a flight with British Airways for 50 British pounds. I know they're not as big as a sitar but still, it does seem a very steep extrapolation.

Hmm, accidently missed out a page of posts. It seems the sitar has made it to the States, albeit damaged?

I sympathise with you, and thank you for the warnings.
#56 Feb 5th, 2012, 13:57
Join Date:
Dec 2009
  • mahakali is offline
My girlfriend bought a Sitar in Delhi and we brought it back a few days ago as checked luggage and it arrived badly smashed. She can claim on insurance of course, but whether you courier/post or bring back with you, they are delicate and easily broken :-(
PS It was put in special section for instruments etc. and marked fragile, none the less. If trying yourself, get the sitar and sitar case too wrapped generously (about half a metre at least all around with bubble or padding then place inside another larger box for extra protection, hers was wrapped in bubble wrap, then placed in case then case lightly wrapped, it wasn't enough protection)
#57 Mar 1st, 2012, 01:17
Join Date:
Jan 2012
  • getbusyliving is offline
Wow. That sounds real rough. Thanks for sharing! Now I know to be extra careful while I am over there and trying to send out packages! I hope you were able to get the sitar back in the end.

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