Guest Post: India Adventures Day 16 (part 2) and 17 (part 1) – Sage

In our previous episode, 10 Tylenol and 12 antibiotics cost 90 cents and Todd was achey and feverish so he and Sage went for a 40 minute walk. And now, today!

Today I am teaching the improv format “Armando”. One person tells a story, and then the improv troupe plays with the elements of the story to make scenes. I produce an Armando show in Toronto called Plundercats: Comedians Hijack True Stories. Todd and I arrive at the venue and I get set up. The students arrive. Some have signed up for both classes, and I’m happy to see familiar faces. Because the temptation with an Armando is to re-create the story (which is boring for the audience since they already know the story), we work together to find the characters, the details, places, and themes that result in fantastic scenes. To practice finding the elements, I ask my students to tell small stories that the rest of the class can play with. And what stories!

Chivalry that resulted in one (but just one) glove being given to a cold young woman on a mountain. Switching the contents of every classmate’s backpack with every other classmate’s backpack and watching chaos ensue. The autorickshaw driver who forgot to pick up the little girl from school during a roaring thunderstorm.

And the improv that follows is delightful. There is a fearlessness, a willingness to explore the real topics – like a love for orange popsicles resulting in a scene skewering conservative blowhards.

At the end of the class I tell my own story about leaving MURRCA for Canada, and the class does a full Armando set. So many of the scenes are fantastic, but it’s the wickedly funny one that takes place in a Fundamentalist Christian church that I love the best.

We say thank you to each other, we hug and hug and hug and Todd and I hop in an autorickshaw and head back to the hotel and to sleep.

In the morning, we go to the free hotel breakfast. It’s in a lovely stand-alone building outside. Three of the walls are floor to ceiling windows that slide open. We’re the only humans in sight. Underneath the silver bufet covers we find idly, sambar, vada, pancakes, french toast, and corn flakes. But no butter, jam, syrup, or milk. I often wonder when I’m in a Toronto grocery store and looking at the “international” aisle if it’s like this for new Canadians. Like the Jaipur supermarket with the European shelf that sold cookies, anchovy paste, and taco shells.

Because we’re the only people in this light-filled room with the silver dishes we both feel like we’ve found the house in Ray Bradbury’s “There Will Come Soft Rains” and half expect to hear a voice whispering, “robins will wear their feathery fire, whistling their whims on a low fence-wire…”

After breakfast we go on a hunt for coffee. The internet says that a nearby outdoor Cafe Coffee Day is open, but when we arrive it’s quiet. I spy a foot and peek over the counter. The owner shifts under his blanket and pulls it tighter around himself and we tiptoe away.

Todd has co-workers in Bangalore, so he leaves to meet with them. I catch up on my writing in the hotel rom. Outside I suddenly hear an angry voice booming out of a truck via a loudspeaker. It’s not English, so I can only guess what’s happening.

On the bed of the truck three middle-aged men dressed in blue are standing. When the truck stops, they hop out and lift up a scooter and put it in the truck bed. More angry yelling from the loudspeaker. I imagine it’s saying, “HEY! THE OWNER OF THE SCOOTER LICENSE PLATE X95-243 HAS NOT PAID HIS BILL! WE ARE REPOSESSING IT! HA HA ON YOU, OWNER OF X95-243!”

The middle aged scooter kidnappers look pleased. The truck begins to move. A man runs out of the nearest building in slacks and a white button down shirt. He hollers something at Blue Shirts. In my head, it’s, “Oh no! My scooter! Stop!”

Then he follows the truck, right there in the middle of the road, and he is just walking because it is ALWAYS RUSH HOUR NEVER CHRISTMAS.

The three Blue Shirts turn their backs like they’ve rehearsed it, and soon the truck turns a corner, Button Down Shirt still following in the middle of the road at a walking pace.

(About an hour later the truck comes again and there’s more angry shouting and I see a young man fly out of the building and get on his scooter seconds before Blue Shirts can grab it and zoom away so it must have been about parking all along. But I still love that it’s parking violations with a sporting chance – they could just take the scooters silently, after all.)

Todd gets back from work and his fever is back too. He has a business call and I have a storytelling show, so I look at the map and decide to walk a different route than is suggested because, “Hey! Fewer road crossings this way.”

I set off down the sidewalk. I see two teenage girls whispering and looking at me. The taller one comes towards me and says, “Hi, I’m so sorry to bother you, but we are fashion college students and our assignment is to take photos of fashionable people. Would it be okay if we took a photo of you?” Very amused, I say of course and she takes a few photos with her DSLR camera and we wave to each other and I walk on.

It’s hot and I realize that I’ve forgotten to bring water but it’s only a forty minute walk and I don’t want to go back. I take my first turn, going the wrong way (I could get lost in my own living room) and a young man sees me looking confused. “Where are you going?” he asks.

“Ulsoor Lake.”

“Oh, that’s a tuk tuk ride,” he says.

“I walked it yesterday, I just got turned around, I think.”

“Oh!” he says, “Well. It’s that way, then.”

Feeling invigorated, I follow his directions and am soon back on the right path. I stride past snack sellers and hungry commuters and am gaining confidence with every step until –


I arrive at the intersection of Dickenson and MG Road. Imagine that you are standing on one side of the 401, and on the other side is your destination. You do not own a helicopter.

The first part is easy. The eastbound traffic stops when the northbound traffic goes. So I zip across and immediately climb the 3 feet high median and stand there and laugh and laugh. Here’s where it gets hard. The southbound traffic is turning left into the westbound lane. There is never a time when they are not turning left into the westbound lane, which means crossing is an impossibility. I stand on the median and watch four long traffic cycles go by. The Don’t Walk sign, which, like it’s a dream, never ever changes, ever, and I am wondering if I should get out my book and have a nice read while I wait for 2 AM and The Time When People Are Not Turning Left and just then I see a group of elderly men crossing with absolute impunity and and I scramble off the median and stick to my new grandpas like glue and make it at long last to the other side.

I walk and walk. Ahead I see two young men holding hands as they amble down the sidewalk. It might be romantic, it might be friendship, but it makes me feel happy. I haven’t seen anyone holding hands for a month. I continue towards the venue as dusk falls. It’s getting hotter and I’m walking faster, trying to beat the sunset. I suddenly tilt to the left and grab a cement pole and close my eyes, dizzy and disoriented. Within a few seconds I feel fine again. This time, kicking myself for not bringing water, I walk more slowly, whispering things like, “You can do it! You’re almost there!”

I pass snack vendors surrounded by big crowds of scooter commuters – imagine the PATH system at lunch on a Tuesday, except it’s outside and there are hopeful street dogs too. After fifty minutes of walking I can see Lake Ulsoor. The sun setting gently as I arrive at my destination.

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