A Rat Ate My Contact Lenses: My Pre-Wedding Adventures in India
I land in Mumbai and am bombarded by coolies wanting to ‘help’ me with my bags. At first I say ‘sure’ but then after I realize I have no Indian currency. So I hoist my two 70 lb bags onto a trolley and head over to customs…where an immigration officer decides he wants me to tell him the value of everything I was carrying. Seriously? How the hell am I supposed to know how much my clothes cost?
“Why don’t you wait there on the side and think about it,” he says.
I’m dumbfounded. What do I do? It didn’t occur to me that he was expecting me to bribe him like everyone else – stupid him, he picked an ABCD traveling alone who didn’t know better. He finally makes me open my smallest bag and examines it while saying ‘Hmm…ladies clothing.’ (Yeah no shit dude, that’s what I TOL’ you) and then sends me on my way (or at least I think he does) with a dismissive wave. I turn tail and don’t look back.
My cousin Chintu and her fiancée, Jay meet me out side the airport, and Chintu whips off to get a pre-paid taxi while I hang out with Jay. When we get to the taxi Jay and Chintu get into an argument with the taxi driver (he started it with some smart ass comment) and it escalates to the point where my cousin and her fiancée go over to the police station (and of course that doesn’t do any good).
We finally get in the taxi and get to the apartment my parents rented for the time we planned to be in Mumbai – about two months. Unfortunately its 4am right now so there is no assistance with carrying these 70 lb bags up two flights of stairs…so Chintu, Jay, and I have to do it ourselves. No problem for me because I had hired a personal trainer for two months prior to my India trip. . . says my dad to Jay. As I get the last bag up the last step, I sigh in relief…and then promptly fall forward into the door – I had missed the last step. I got some awesome looking bruises on my knees and my arm hurt for a couple of days after that. That was pretty bride-like, no? I hadn’t been in India for 24 hours yet, but little did I know that was just the beginning. . .
“I’ll help you with your bags,” says one coolie to my dad in Hindi.
“If you carry my bags, what am I going to do?” says my dad.
“Come ON, Pop, lets GO!” I frantically say, trying to encourage him to please cease witty conversations with the coolies and walk towards our train.
Meanwhile my mom has charged ahead, in a rush to find the right car, as our train is already at the platform. So my mom is walking WAY ahead, my dad is sauntering slowly behind like a tourist, and I’m in the middle, trying to keep both of them insight (and while also carrying luggage!!). Finally I decide my mom can handle herself and I decide to wait for my dad. We start to examine a document we noticed posted on each of the cars – it looks like names of the passengers–when all of a sudden I hear a bloodcurdling scream.
My dad and I, startled, both look up and to the left, where TWO train cars ahead is the tiny figure of my mom, screaming ‘Pankaaaaaaaj!’ so shrilly that her whole body is shaking. My dad and I both look at each other and laugh. As I retold the story to other family members (and believe me this story is WAY funnier when it’s told out loud with my sound effects and facial expressions) I realized that my mom never yelled for me… interesting. . . .
So of course, my mom has loaded up a duffle bag full of snacks to tide us over on the five hour journey…wait, what’s that mom? You mean it’s a FIFTEEN hour journey???? Ah well. We had sleeping berths so I was nice and cozy and went to sleep and watched the scenery outside (a lot of which consisted of people using the bathroom, welcome to India!!).
I wake up a few hours before our arrival and my mom had gotten tea and was serving us theplas that her sister had made. I decided to have one, but declined more. Later I changed my mind (I guess it was tasty!) and picked up the bag to get another…. “Um..why is there a hole in this bag?” I wondered aloud. Perhaps it got caught on the zipper of the duffle bag? No such luck…upon closer examination I found a nice clean round bite taken out of the stack of theplas. I KNEW I had seen a mouse earlier….but had dismissed it as my imagination, old age, etc.
My mom didn’t want to throw any of the food away (even though I had just eaten after a mouse). She insisted everything else was fine….and as she pulled bag after ziploc bag of food out…there were identical bites taken out of each food item…figs, cookies. Sigh. Nice little buffet lunch Mousie had though.
Excerpt from the to be written memoir of Paypar.