Imaginative Traveller – Farewell dinner and the speech that said it all

After an impromptu day of running around Connaught centre in Karol Bagh, Delhi on a mission to find a cheap good quality sitar, Sam and I arrive at the Imaginative Traveller final farewell dinner 30 minutes late.
Being Delhi traffic rookies, we completely underestimated peak time.

When we finally arrive at the restaurant, we apologised profusely to Apji, our tour leader, and the group for being late. Everyone seemed cool with it, telling us not to worry and that they too had just arrived. Apji, however had a definite angry vibe about him and was not speaking.

A bit of background as to why I was positive Apji thought I was a royal pain.

– When Sam and I went to the Bollywood movie it ran for 3 hours, an hour over what we had expected, and when we returned to the hotel late after dark, Apji was waiting for us, worried sick.

– There was the time when we had the henna done before dinner and couldn’t use our hands to eat.

– Our hotel room in Varanasi had bed bugs, so we asked to be moved to a new room, and again due to a dirty bathroom.

– When I fell in cow shit on the way to the Ganges, I told Apji that I would need a shower before dinner. He gave a reluctant yes. Then after the arati he asked the group what they wanted to do, go straight to dinner or go back to the hotel room first to freshen up. ‘Hello, I’m covered in cow dung, shower first please!’ He ignores me and asks the question to the group again. Everyone agrees hotel first. Lucky for me, and them.

– After freshening up in the room before dinner, as Sam and I were taking the lift to the lobby to meet everyone, I sprayed bug repellant on my arm and it bounced off into my right eye. I instantly went blind from the stinging and high concentration of DEET. Sam went straight into action and led me back to our room, into the bathroom and helped splash cold water in my eye. We end up being late for dinner, and I turn up with a terminator red-eye. Everyone asked what had happened, except for Apji.

– The following afternoon, Sam and I had made an appointment with the palm reader who was running late. I don’t know why, but everyone else, who were not seeing the palm reader, waited with us for over an hour.

– And finally, I had a stomach bug that put me out for half a day, and when people asked how I was, I would joke that I did have an upset tummy but I’ve taken so many ammonium’s (thanks Sam!) that I wouldn’t need a toilet for weeks!

So back to the farewell dinner – Apji’s speech.

Apji, standing – ‘I’d like to thank Scott and Jason, I’ve especially loved the conversations I’ve had with Scott’ pats him on the back ‘And Jason, you always kept the group together, I’ve been watching and there were times of separation and division but you always kept everyone together. Miriam, you never complained, even though you were sick, you never complained’

I started to feel a little apprehensive about Apji’s speech. I never felt the group separation, and I did let everyone know about my upset tummy – what’s he going to say about us?

Apji went on to have a private joke with Dave that I didn’t understand.

‘Sam and Tiara, you should thank everyone for having to wait for you, every morning and evening. It has been difficult’ Pauses, an at that moment Sam starts crying (the timing was immaculate) Apji continues ‘but I’m glad you were part of the group’

You know that moment when your insecurities of thinking you’re a pain in the ass come true? Here it was – the public nightmare. I sat there feeling a mixture of emotions, shock, anger, embarrassment, confusion,wondering if Sam was crying because it was a sad moment or because Apji had called us difficult? All the while keeping a polite smile on my face. The group had gone silent, as Sam dabbed the tears away. It was an awkward moment.

We were all getting ready to leave and I asked Sam if she was ok.

Sam – ‘Yeah, did we get back our change?’

T, turns the question to the table – ‘Did our change come back?’

I didn’t get a reply, but Apji gave Jason a knowing look, and I realised that we had been labeled stingy as well. (This could have been due to my now acute state of paranoia)

Note – I understand Apji felt bad for the group, and he was a terrific tour leader – We all had a great time! Though I would have prefered a private chat to the public humiliation.

When in India one must see a Bollywood movie – Tales from Agra

Both Sam and I agreed that when in India, it would be simply shameful to miss out on watching a Bollywood movie, so while everyone else took off to see another fort, we opted for the cinemas.

We chose a movie called Anjaana & Anjaani, a modern-day romantic comedy about intercommunal love between a couple of strangers who seemed to have very similar names… or so I thought from looking at the posters. (Anjaana /Anjaani actually means male stranger/female stranger.)

We arrive at the cinemas in time to be checked through the metal detector, have our bags searched and to be frisked. The security was tighter than New Zealands border security! And, unfortunately, they found something – Sam’s full packet of smokes and a lighter.

Security – ‘you can’t take this in, no smoking’

Sam, pleading – ‘But I’m not going to smoke it!’

Security, unmoved – ‘you can’t take this in. this must be checked into the storage.’

To check an item into storage was 200 rupees, and it looked dodgy enough for us to question whether there would be any cigarettes in the packet on our return. On principal, we decided it best to say that we were going to pass the ciggies onto some friends, and instead hide the pack in an empty, unfinished department store (renovations were still being done throughout the mall and there were many unfinished cement rubble rooms). We walk away from the theatre with the security watching us like a hawk, and about 200m away, I quickly duck into an empty store and hide the ciggies behind a brick. When I pop out of the store I notice other shoppers watching us (all men) but they were at a safe enough distance.

The security doesn’t bother to search us when we return to the cinema’s.

We had been warned that there would be plenty of men in the theatre, but were pleasantly surprised to find it mainly occupied with families and non sleazy boys, who were friendly but only had eyes for the movie.

The Bollywood movie experience was terrific! Yes, the movie was full of cheese. The opening scene was in a new york wall street office when the stock market plummeted and these 5 indian men, who I think were responsible, were arguing in the office in Hindi in front of all these white dumb looking westerners, (totally believable). The power cut at least once. There were no subtitles, but the movie was simplistic enough and filled with plenty of over-emotional acting that we got it. And I have to admit that there were times when I would let out an involuntary loud sigh or groan over ‘the obvious’, and the music was so catchy that it got stuck in our heads for days. Yet, it was happy, fun, and the actors were beautiful to watch through the occasional cringe.

We walk out of the cinemas all smiles. Sam, a highly active smoker, was keen to pick up her pack of well hidden ciggies.

Sam retrieves the smokes from behind the brick of our chosen empty store.

Sam – ‘Take a look at this!’

T, viewing the pack of cigarettes which had been full a couple of hours ago and now only had 2 cigarettes left -‘Unbelievable, they could have taken the whole pack but at least they’ve left you a couple’
Sam, laughing – ‘yeah, they saw us hide the cigarettes, stole them, but left one for you and one for me.’

T – ‘cheeky. and sweet.’