In the morning, I turn on the geyser (pronounced “geezer”, the hot water heater). Todd and I drink chai and eat toast with garlic butter and by the time we’re done the water is hot. I run the hot water into a bucket, and then pour it over myself, just like I did when we lived in the yurt in the woods. With the exception of the international hotel next to the Delhi airport, the bathrooms I’ve seen here are all “wet rooms”. A sink, toilet, and shower all in the same room, with a drain in the floor to let the shower water out. I like the wet room – if we had one at home our bathroom floor would be WAY cleaner.
We ask Nitin for a good place to have coffee and he recommends the Brown Bites cafe. We walk there. It’s just opened and we’re the only patrons. The barista immediately changes the music from Hindi to Michael Jackson singing “Billie Jean”. We ask for the Hindi music back, but this is the playlist they always play when there are customers here so no luck. The English music reminds me of a book I read about Japan, and how some people there like to vacation by travelling to, for example, Russia, and then staying in Japanese hotels and riding Japanese tour buses and eating Japanese food.
MY bad habit when travelling is to hole up with a book and pass my leisure time in, you know, Narnia instead of the amazing place I actually AM IN, which is why I’m writing up every day here. I wanted a solid reason to walk out the door and experience new things every day, and WOWIE KAPOWIE! I mean, sorry Narnia, India has you beat.
We eat masala Maggi noodles and drink two Americanos each and I write about India while Todd reads his book. Eventually the server asks if we’re going to order any more food, and since we’re not we pack up and head back to the apartment. S. (who’s four years old) asks me to read another story from the Gods and Demons book, and I offer to tell him a story instead. S. scrinches his nose. G. (who’s nine) assures S. that it’s worth it and S. reluctantly agrees. I tell them both the story of the bird who stubbed her toe and cried and the tiger who thought the bird was singing and made the bird teach him her song. S. listens with big eyes and joins in on the singing – “Ahoooo, ahoooo, ahoooo, ahoooo…”
G. goes off to do her homework and S. asks if we can play Scrabble. As he takes the game out of the box we think fast to figure out a version that will be fun for four year olds, and Todd says, “Can you find a C?” S. finds a C. “Can you find an A?” S. finds an A and celebrates with a little dance. “Can you find a T?”
“I KNOW THAT WORD,” says S., “THAT WORD IS CAT!” (These kids! So sweet, SO SMART!)
Todd and I decide to walk over to the supermarket. Inside, everything is just familiar enough to feel dreamlike. Woosh sponges, Lyzol, Mr. Muscle bathroom cleaner. We stock up on snacks – ginger cookies, KurKure Chilli Chatka. At the door the security guard is checking receipts against the grocery bags. We stand in line and I offer the receipt and the backpack but they wave us through instead.
On the way home I see a Jockey store and remember that my bare bones packing technique (we have a small suitcase and a massive one – everyone assumes mine is the big one, but that one belongs to Todd – my small suitcase is filled with 60% storytelling workshop materials and 40% clothes) has left me with almost no underwear. We go inside and a salesman follows us over to the underwear section. I stand there feeling excruciated for him – poor guy, he didn’t sign up to have to stand over a tourist endlessly purusing underwear in an attempt to find something plain and made of 100% cotton – and then laugh in my head when I finally find what I’m looking for and turn to see that he’s silently switched places with a saleswoman.
I pick up the underwear and an extra sweatshirt and we continue walking home. We see a girl, around twelve years old, scrounging for grapes someone’s dropped on the ground. She asks us for money. We’re not supposed to give her any, but we do. As we continue walking I remind myself again and again of all of the people we have met in India who are helping, who are making a difference every single day.
When we get back G. and S. ask for a scary story, so we turn the lights down low and I tell them a folktale about a little girl who battles monsters. S. keeps interrupting to say, “But make it scary! Like scary movie!” but he’s only four and so I do the opposite, I turn the last monster into a silly creature only three inches high. At the end of the story, S. whispers, “That was too scary story,” and – to ward off nightmares – I turn the lights up bright and tell them about Anansi the Spider and his six children: See Trouble, Road Builder, River Drinker, Game Skinner, and Stone Thrower. By the end S. seems to feel better.
Todd and I go to sleep, and at two a.m. I wake up from one of the worst nightmares I’ve ever had, the kind that requires lying still even after you’ve woken up so the monsters don’t see you.
I lie there in the dark, hopeful that I ate S.’s Too Scary Story nightmare, and that he is sleeping peacefully.