India: Third time’s a charm

I’ve just returned from what felt like a month but was in fact eight days in Gujarat, Ahmedabad, India. I wasn’t in the least excited for this arbitration because the two prior times I went to India for work, it was a total disaster. My first trip there was to Mumbai for some depositions regarding something pharmaceutical-related. I remember because listening to an Indian doctor rattle off five-syllable words, expecting me to not only get it down but get it down accurately for the realtime, scarred me for life. And that wasn’t even the part that was the disaster!

Funny thing I just remembered – the deposing attorney was from New York, fantastic dresser, really nice guy. On the day off we had while we were there he told me he went to a spinning class, as spinning is his “thing.” He said that he was the only guy in the class, and that the teacher stood at a podium in front of the class, not on a bike, but instead drinking tea and eating a sandwich while calling out commands to the spin class participants. Can you imagine?! EATING A SANDWICH! Haha!

So anyway, India is an incredibly conservative place. Women wear long saris or pants under “shorter” saris (which still go to just below the knee) and generally keep covered up, many women also wearing hijabs. On this first trip of mine to India I didn’t know that tourists should dress very modestly as well. I had a day off there and hired a driver to take me around Mumbai for some sightseeing. I remember it being blazing hot, definitely in the high 90s, so I wore a little sundress and flipflops and sunglasses.

Big mistake. Huge.

I had my driver drop me off next to The Gate of India. From there I had planned to take a little boat to an island allegedly inhabited by monkeys. This was a few years ago now so I can’t remember what else, if anything, was on this island.

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I quickly realize that I am being stared at. A lot. One man asked me if I needed a ticket for the boat and I said yes. He ran somewhere to fetch me one, and I paid him. Apparently this was him doing me a favor and he wanted me to follow him to his store to shop. I wanted nothing to do with this and said “no thanks” politely several times, but he kept literally following a few feet behind me wherever I walked. It was around this time that someone asked to take a photo with me. Kind of weird, but okay, sure. Then another person. Then another. Quickly I see a line form of probably 5-7 people. I finally had to just say “Sorry, I have to go,” and walked away. Of course Mr Ticket Man followed me still.

Now, at this point I had been outside for all of ten minutes and I was ready to call the driver and have him pick me up and take me back to the safety of the five-star hotel I was staying in, but I had told him to pick me up in a number of hours. I finally had to tell this ticket guy to fuck off and leave me alone (using those words exactly) and stormed off the other direction.

There was no boat that day, no island. Most importantly, no monkeys.

The day actually ended up turning around. I was still using OkCupid at that time and messaged a couple people who looked normal and who lived in the area, hoping to find someone Indian to hang out with, basically lol. Well, it worked, and one guy, who I would come to know as Dhiraj, came to meet me later that afternoon and he was SO NICE. Such a gentleman, so polite and so kind. We walked around the area and got some dinner that evening. We’re still Facebook and Instagram friends to this day! I could not thank him enough for saving me and actually salvaging my day that had started off with a damn near anxiety attack.

My second India trip was to Pune. If you’ve seen the (awesome) documentary Wild Wild Country, that’s where the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was from! I got there a couple days early for the one-day deposition I was there for, and on the actual day I had to work, I had started to feel sick in the morning. You know that feeling in your throat? That one. The deposition started at 5:00 pm and the attorneys were appearing via videoconference from the USA, morning for them, so we were preparing ourselves to be in this depo all night.

By the time I arrived at the depo venue, I was feeling all sorts of awful. It must’ve been about 8 or 9 pm when I had to ask for a break where I informed the attorneys I was about to keel over. Knowing me, I probably literally said that. Luckily I was on some sort of tech campus that had a doctor’s office, so someone escorted me there and I saw a doctor who gave me a bunch of crap to help me make it through the night. I can’t remember when we actually ended, but it was LATE and I had a 6am flight to Vietnam for my Chinese New Year solo holiday. I had a layover in Dehli and a layover in Bangkok, and by the time I got to Vietnam I seriously thought about going straight to a hospital. I was THAT sick.

Except, because of course, no one would exchange my Indian rupees for Vietnamese currency, and at the time I didn’t have a debit card. I had booked a car to the hotel beforehand, thank god, so with not a cent to my name I headed to my hotel in the Hanoi Old Quarter on the first day of Tet (Vietnamese New Year). Everyone was out eating and drinking and walking around having presumably an amazing time. My amazing time was spent on the floor of the shower because I couldn’t bear to stand. I then sweated and shivered with a fever all night and woke up feeling even worse, if that’s possible.

With no money, no doctors’ offices open due to the holiday, I cut my losses and changed my flight back to Hong Kong to that night. I’ve yet to go back to Vietnam, but that one fever-induced shaky walk I took around the block sure did look cool!

Turns out I had strep throat, so it was nice to get that validation that I was not, in fact, being a little bitch about a cold or something.

Now that I’ve laid the groundwork for why India wasn’t exactly on my top 10 list, in my next post I’ll tell you how India managed the unthinkable: it redeemed itself.

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