Lately, people keep drilling me about India.
Is there dysentery, floating ashes, dust or monsoons that could drown a buffalo?
Well, all of the above.
Mostly, though, there are men. Lots of them. I liken my luck to three things, which somehow leads me to some interesting situations.
Yesterday I boarded a train from Delhi, landed in Jaipur four hours later and was guaranteed a pick up at the train station.
How nice, I thought. Zaffa showed up on behalf of the guesthouse that I never even booked.
My Delhi savior, Dr. Malik, arranged a hotel for me in Jaipur due to some credit card snags. Otherwise, I usually do coordination myself. It’s funny what happens when you let go.
The only information I had was the name, address and mobile number scrawled on the back of my train confirmation.
Zaffa was a gem, making sure to negotiate a decent taxi price to the guesthouse. Good thing, because it wasn’t even remotely in Jaipur city, but outside.
I arrived and the room is nice for 700 RS. Not to mention my own bathroom, with shower. I felt like a princess. In the lobby, there was a crew of men, not abnormal for India, because friends usually hang together for hours on end.
Everything seemed hunky dory except the staring is intense this time. Laser focused on my every twitch or uttered word. They come in clusters to watch my conversations with the front desk guy, glued to us, like they are witnessing a car crash.
Last night I came back from sight seeing and got aroused into conversation with two cheeky guys who plan to ditch work and escape to Goa for a week. They showed me the rooftop of the guesthouse where you can see the surrounding hills and elevations of Garh Ganesh Temple. I could tell they hoped I stayed longer.
Then, today I noticed something. I rambled in late afternoon and saw my neighbor’s door open. Three guys were inside. One was shirtless. They were all watching a Hindi film channel. It was obvious they were sharing the room.
Guy number one from last night is reasonably cute, two rebellious earrings jabbed in his lobes, saw me and approached, starting a conversation. He’s keen to engage me in chatter, always taking the lead over the others. All the other blokes just watched the show. Had to be six or seven in the lobby at once.
First, he wants to know if I plan on walking by the water palace at night, it’s supposed to be a “catch in your throat” kind of view. I begged off. Then, he asked if I would like a drink on the rooftop this evening. I told him no beer, but a soda, maybe. Does ‘maybe’ usually mean ‘no’?
I find it takes Indians a while to spill what they’re really thinking.
“We like to talk to you, because… because no foreigner stay here before.”
Finally, it dawned on me. I saw a man in a turban coming out of his room last night. Men do all the cooking. Only men pin me with their gaze in the lobby. Oh. It’s not just my foreignness. It’s my womaness, too.
Here I am, in one of my situations. Should I settle for Coca-Cola or Sprite?
And no, I’m not wanted on credit card fraud. Just a little missed payment. That’s another peril, remembering to pay your bills.
Photo: Carol Mitchell