>Sunday, April 1
The tears finally began around 4 pm. By 4:15, I was rocking back and forth with sobs, undoubtedly due in part to sheer exhaustion. For eight days, I trudged around in a hot, alien country, for the most part completely unable to comprehend the culture. Each time I thought I figured it out, I was surprised and unsure again. Definitely I should have gone back with my friends the night before, but even now at the airport lounge, I am on the verge of crying.
My trip to India literally wound down with a bang. That was the sound my foot made as it connected with the leg of the bed in my foofy hotel room last night. I figured that I just stubbed it, but when I woke up this morning, the poor little toe on my right foot was swollen and hurt. This is my second brush with foot injury, as I stepped on a rusty nail on Friday while I was at the Amber Fort. (In that case, it did not go through my shoe, and I only noticed I had stepping on something when my stride was strange. Looking down, I saw a metal plate stuck to my foot. Damn, I was lucky that I stepped on it with the thickest part of my shoe's sole.) Still, I didn't think that I broke it, and even if I had, I wanted to go do some shopping for last minute items around the hotel, so I ate breakfast and set out. Before I left, I realized that I had no sunscreen. Fie.
It was hot, even at 10:30 am. The blazing sunlight proved my prior's night's observation about no sidewalks to be 100% incorrect, I was pleased to find. Still, I was hassled a little bit by auto rickshaw drivers who kept following me and offering to take me to a mall, but I ignored them. (I did get good at that while I was here.) My big plan was to hit the Cottage Industries, which is a multilevel artists' collective shop with handicrafts from around India. Luck was running low for me, and thus when I arrived I learned that it was closed on March 31 and April 1 for inventory. Fuck fuck fuck. At least I could head over to the open air market I visited last Sunday (Monday?) with the group.
The market was still being set up at 10:45, so I headed over to a hotel lobby to pee and wait for a while. My pits were pools of sweat. I couldn't imagine wandering around in weather like this and pondered how I might spend the rest of my last day. Studying my map yielded the insight that the Central Museum of India was not far from the hotel, so I reformed my day's events accordingly. My toe hurt and I didn't want to walk far, heat or no heat, and I was not keen on the idea of getting in an auto rickshaw alone.
At 11:00, I went back to the market. I got two more tank tops like the one I bought on my prior trip. My first purchase was for 300 rupees. This morning the guy asked for 500.
"No, I'll give you 300," I said, crabby from the heat and the sticker that apparently said "sucker" on my forehead.
"450," he countered, smiling and trying to charm me.
"300 or nothing," I replied. I've never been a good haggler, and I credit this entirely to my annoyance that he'd try and charge me more this time. Had I not bought one before, I doubt I would not have known that 500 was too much.
"400 – my best offer," he came back.
"No thanks," I said and walked away.
Suddenly, he was calling after me. "Miss! Miss! 350!"
I walked back. "300 or nothing."
"OK, 300." I gave him a 500 rupee bill. They didn't have change, so he asked if I wanted another. I got one in black and one in blue. The first one I bought is hot pink, and fits me perfectly. If anyone is about my size, email me, and I'll give you the black one. I don't really need three of them… I also picked up some beads for Des, although they are not quite what I was looking for, they were the only ones I saw. They are cute.
My shopping was semi-successful, so I headed back to the hotel. I needed more water and wanted to drop my purchases off before going to the museum. By that point, my toe was not only swollen, but purple with bruising. I tried to find a sundries seller in the hotel, but they had nothing but overpriced jewelry, scarves, and carpets. Oh well. At least I had my hat to protect my face, and I resolved to walk in as much shade as possible.
It was about a ten minute walk to the museum. I swear I felt the flesh frying off my arms. Further, I realized that there was no fucking way that I could wear the same outfit for a 16 hour flight. I had basically sweat through my undies, my jeans were sticky, and my shirt had an enormous wet sweat spot under each arm. I'd also require a second shower.
The museum was unintentionally kitschy, just how I like it. It was only air conditioned in select parts. (If Husband had been with me today as originally planned, he would have dissolved in a salty pool of his own sweat.) I really wished that Rachel, John, and Brian were with me. I knew they would have also enjoyed it. The randomness reminded me of the fun we had at the City Palace museum in Jaipur on Friday. The Central Museum has a fascinating display of arms and weapons, coins throughout the history of India, and many sculptures. Best of all, it has a huge collection of what they call "miniature" paintings. They didn't seem very diminutive to me, but the detail and colors are incredible. Each one is like an illuminated manuscript. Fantastic!
I bought a present for my parents at the gift shop. Unfortunately, they forgot to give me a receipt, which caused some issues when I tried to leave the museum. After detaining me over lack of "papers" for a few minutes, security finally sent me back to the shop to produce evidence that I bought the damn thing. My luck did hold out, and they fished it out of the trash, and upon presenting my "paper" to the security guy, he let me leave.
I was back in the hotel by 3 pm and in the shower soon after. However, I didn't notice that the shower door didn't fully close until I had flooded the floor. Good thing that Indians put drains in the floor for people to wash themselves after using the toilet. Then I puttered about and re-packed my suitcase so that I would not have to check it. I was quite proud of the condensing I did, but ultimately I had to check it anyway. I think I'll get away with carrying it on from Chicago to New York, though, assuming that it arrives with me tomorrow morning.
After all my crying, I checked out of the hotel at 5. The heat (and my toe and lack of sunscreen) dissuaded me from leaving my bags with the bell man and setting out one last time, so I thought I would head over to the airport and sit around for a few hours. What I didn't know was that I would not be allowed into the terminal until 8 pm, so when I arrived at 5:45, I was directed to a special visitor's lounge across the street to wait.
I had to buy a ticket to get in, but this took me some time to figure out. While I was trying to understand what was going on, some guy kept trying to convince me to go to a hotel to wait. He was most annoying, although the last guy to harangue me and easily ignored. I paid my 30 rupees (about 75 cents) to get into the lounge, where I read Julie and Julia, a book by a woman who escaped the drudgery of her day job by challenging herself to cook all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking (or whatever the Julia Child book is called that I can't recall now and am not bothering to look up) and blogging about it. I'm not into the cooking so much, but it is a great book and I identify with it a little too closely. (Woman hates job and uses blog as release? Anyone?)
I'm writing this up from an overcrowded welcome lounge for business class passengers from various airlines. While I definitely enjoy the comforts of a wider seat and better food, I have always felt a little weird in business class. I know full well that I belong with the peons on the back, and I also know that when I am where I belong, I glare at the business class passengers as I get on the plane, seething with class issues. Today, I feel even more pretentious and obnoxious knowing that I will be reclining in comfort while extremely hard working people struggle to scratch out a living driving a bus 12-15 hours a day and not enjoying any of the comforts that his charges take for granted, like eating in a restaurant we stop at. I know life's not fair, blah blah blah, but it still stings a little bit more now that it is closer than ever.
Anyway, phir milege (see you!), I'm off to the boarding area.