After my touristy tryst of a morning, I was all set to go back to the hotel, have a nap (NOT anal for those who saw my FB status; blasted auto correct is all I can say for those who didn’t), go for a jig of a jog, do some yoga then curl up to write and read. Bliss. 

Mahi had said if I wanted to go anywhere to message him and he would drop by and retrieve me. He’d issued an invitation to go and wish his nephew happy birthday, as he was turning six. I thanked him and said I’d see how I felt later; I was honoured by the invite, but I didn’t really have any intention of following it up. 

As usual I got immersed in writing and three hours passed before I knew it. Cuddled up in the couch in the lobby, I had my water (in the ever-present Powerade Zero bottle of course), my diary and a hunk of papaya. 
Imagine my astonishment when I clocked on (oh yes) that it was 4pm. Madness! I needed to get a run in and a good yoga session, before having dinner (I was adamant that I’d be having dinner tonight) and filling in my scrapbook (a few days behind on this and it was getting me antsy). 

I was about to go upstairs and get on my running gear and hiking boots (man I love those beasts; I feel they shall be my go-to choice of shoe from now, forevermore), when I suddenly stopped (it’s becoming a regular occurrence). Was I really going to spend the night holled up in my hotel room? It was time to take the plunge. 

I whipped out my phone and what’s app-ed Mahi. “Does the offer still stand? Ok if no!” He replied instantly and said he’d swing by at 6pm. 

Off I trotted for my run. The boys at reception were most amused. Instead of deviating from my street, I just did lengths; thirty minutes of up and down, up and down the cobble stone road (that sounds picturesque and cottage-y, which wasn’t the case at all. Let’s change that to rugged and pot-holed). On return to my room I saw a sign shouting: “Swimming Pool, out back.” 

I exclaimed and the boys enthusiastically explained how to get there (out the door, turn right, there we go). Because of their excitement in my interest I thought it would be rude to not have a little looksie. 

Obviously they’d called ahead in the 20 seconds it took me to get to the gate because a porter was waiting with a towel. “Oh no no,” I shook my head. “Just looking dhanyavaad.” 

Once again I stopped and pondered. The going against: I had nothing dry to put on. I wanted to run again in the morning and the gear I had on was all I had; it wouldn’t dry overnight. I wanted to get a good 45 minutes of yoga in before Mahi arrived. I…. 
Shut the fuck up Pop.

I cleared my mind, whipped off my boots and in I dove. Symbolic or what? 

(I don’t think the pool gets utilised too often. At the end of my third lap, a little crowd had gathered to watch me freestyle. It was a good stroke –  I’m sorry, I just had to – for my ego).

Shit it felt good to have a swim. 

I raced upstairs (dripping all over the show in the lobby, the boys loved it), motored though some dynamic sun salutations, and ’twas in the lobby ready to roll at 5.53pm. I’d stopped off at the wee stall at the top of my street and selected a few toffee lollies and a pack of Oreo-like bikkies for Mahi’s nephew. Pretty crap birthday present but I wanted to give him something little at least. 


Mahi arrived and escorted me to his sisters’ (yes, that use of apsosrophe is correct; his two sisters live together) house, a mere seven-minute walk away. It was a nice neighbourhood and I couldn’t help thinking of its contrast to Anil’s dismal dwelling. 

(Insertation: previous post about why all signage is so dank and dull? The dust. So much sense, no? I knew the ozone here didn’t let in intensive UV’s like NZ so I had suspected sunlight wasn’t the cause. And Mahi showed me that rather than a printed placard, signage is usually just a slim sheet of plastic. They fade fast on account of the dust particles settling in which is why all the shops have such sad signs. Query solved!). 

We walked up the stairs to their second floor home, and once again I was given prime spot on the couch. Athi thee tevo bhav – guests are like God. 

I am so, so glad I went. It was so special. 

I was such novelty. The three kids – Ahaan whose birthday it was, and four-year-old twins, Zara and Rumy -danced around doing concerts, singing nursery rhymes and counting to 100. We sung Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, Humpty Dumpty, and Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill. I was amazed at their English speaking skills.


Then Mahi took out his camera, clicking to capture me with all three kids, then each in turn. Then a couple with each sister. Then again from the top, to get a few more on the cellphone. 

I was there about an hour and it whizzed by. No thoughts of outdated scrapbooks, scheduled sit ups or lingering lists entered my mind once; it was all teddies, lullabies and laughter. Mahi told me it was the first time that his family had properly met a foreigner, with me being the first one out of his hundreds on his tours that he’d taken home. He said that because I couldn’t be with my own brother whose birthday it also was today, I could use Ahaan as a surrogate. I was so touched I had to turn away. 
On leaving, the whole family crowded on the balony to wave me off. Mahi and his friend took me back to my hotel where we had our goodbyes. 

I went to the restaurant to have gobhi masala – cauliflower and cabbage. Three waitstaff in turn came to ask me if I wanted rice or roti; they were perplexed when I refused. Just the cauliflower and cabbage? What on earth was this white girl thinking? 

I was midway through my vege medley when one came back with a silver tray sporting some paratha. “Compliments,” he smiled. 

I pushed down the qualm of fear that was starting to stir in my stomach. I ripped a small corner off the offending flat bread and mopped up some cauliflower on my plate. 

And I ate it. 

When in India, right? 

Then instead of going up to my room, I sat in the lobby with the two receptionist men for an hour or so. Just writing this, filling in my scrapbook, enjoying their company (with Green Day busting out in the background). 
One of the desk bound boys said to me, “You are so very happy all the time. I like it. We are all saying you are always happy and smiling. It’s such a change from the usual foreigners.” It was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received. Is “smiley” superseding “skinny” as the ultimate appraisal?

Today was a truly special day.
Metaphorically and physically, sometimes you need to just dive in the deep end. 

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