New Delhi, India | December, 2003
Khokher's car was not stolen - it was just towed. We managed to find it, but how I have no idea since the way India organizes itself perpetually confounds me. I guess the diplomatic neighbhorhood in town is just ultra- paranoid and towed it even though it was in a seemingly legitimate spot. I was much more distraught than Khokher about the whole thing because I felt very responsible -- I had kept us hanging around a lethargic and useless Afghan embassy for a full two hours this afternoon, about 90 minutes longer than he was originally bargaining for. But he was such a prince about the whole thing...trying to refuse my funds to pay for the tow lot and all that and trying to cheer me up during the whole episode (I remain a chronic panic merchant to this day). Oh and the Afghans.....oh God. More of the same to remind me of my abuse at the hands of the Ministry of Commerce when they turned around and asked for $5000 for a business license I didn’t even need. I had managed to be so persuasive about getting a 6 month visa (something they don't ever issue from this embassy) that the Consul guy actually agreed to give me one. But then he turns around and multiplies the price of a one month visa by 6 and says, "Maam, your total is $360." Another little vignette of the primitive and childlike financial calculations of an incompetent and 5-minute old bureaucracy where everyone is making it up as they go along.
I am so tired today because I had to wake up early for a private yoga session with this Sivananda yoga guy -- he was very good and the most interesting thing was that he wasn't at all some yoga dude, but a well-educated business guy with a passion for the teachings of his guru - Mr. Sivananda – so he did it as a kind of community service thing (Khokher had arranged it). It wasn't Ashtanga, but it was satisfactorily rigorous to have me groaning in pain by the end.
And the reason it was so hard waking up was because the Khokhers took me to that bloody wedding last night and kept me there for hours longer than promised. I tried to keep myself busy surveying the food spread, but the overall affair was a nightmare --- nouveaux-riche peasants (essentially) throwing a wedding where guests stared at me as if they'd never seen a foreigner in their lives. It was like going to the village, except that I was not in the mood or dressed the part. But the food was quite a lot of fun I have to say. These people were strict vegetarians I would never come across in the upper class Delhi society environment -- all kinds of delicious veggie stews, 6 different kinds of chappatis stone baked right before your eyes, spiced steamed milk for dessert, fresh blended salted and lemoned fruit drinks, and literally dozens of things I couldn't identify or had never before seen in any India restaurant or home. I needed the loo and discovered there wasn't really one-- people normally pee in the yard or something. What I did manage to find was a toilet in the bride's father's half-constructed and rather fancy new house -- filthy and lacking toilet paper! That's not weird overall for India, but aren't weddings like special or something? And all these VIPS showed up, like the head of an entire ministry, which is no small deal. But UGH, they came with bodyguards who showed up fully outfitted in khakis and donning machine guns...at a wedding! That was the ultimate in gross-ness. I gently asked Khokher about what I noticed was a difference between those people and him -- he said that the bride's father was a lower caste Indian for sure, but that everybody kissed up to him because he had a big job in the industrial part of some ministry, and that lower caste folks are getting all the promotions in the new order of India (the BJP was in power that year). But don't get me wrong -- I was SO good natured, so sweet and friendly and talkative, you'd never guess how miserable I was. I knew Khokher would get some cache for taking a foreigner to a shindig, so I thought, to hell with it. And then I proceeded with my Oscar-winning performance as the jolly and easily-pleased foreigner (I know you don't believe me, B)