By Nihal Mirza
I met Bebe from Florida on an internet dating site; she too loved travelling and had visited a lot more places than me, and being an America was far richer. Since I love the Himalayas more than any other place, I convinced her to accompany me on a trip to Ladakh. A few months later she flew down to Mumbai.
But when we got to Delhi, Bebe dropped a bombshell. She told me that she needed to go to Deradun where she had booked herself in for some cosmetic surgery. This was scheduled the very next morning, so we hired a taxi to Deradun, which is just 120 miles away. The following day I spent reading Bill Bryson’s American travelogue ‘The lost Continent,’ laying next to a sedated Bebe. Any firsthand, hands-on experience about American women, I now realized, had to be postponed indefinitely.
And a day after her surgery, Bebe told the doctor she was leaving for Delhi. The doctor wasn’t too pleased but she was adamant. Bebe now wore dark glasses to conceal the stitches and the swelling around her eyes. But now, we also had another problem; we couldn’t leave for the mountains because Bebe had to have her stitches removed in a weeks’ time. So after doing the Red fort, Juma Masjid, etc. in Delhi, we decided to visit the Taj in Agra.
Never a spendthrift (i.e. cheap) I left her in the hotel room and got the cheapest available bus tickets. These were half the priced as they targeted poor Hindu pilgrims as captive consumers( which I didn’t know). The bus took a roundabout route, stopped at all places of significance to Hindu pilgrims and as an added bonus, stopped at shops setup as tourists traps. Salesmen would also board the bus and solicit donations for hospices for aged cows; devout overseas Hindus could donate $$ to temples, earn merit and receive blessed offerings by post. Toothpowders that could help grannies grow new sets of teeth; Kashmiri shops offered ‘silicone on sillick’ carpets, i.e ‘Silk on silk’ or 100% silk carpets. An ordinary bus to Agra takes about 4 hours from Delhi, ours took twice as long to get there.
Back in Delhi, we went to the doctor suggested by her cosmetic surgeon; he got Bebe’s stitches out. Only he didn’t get all of them. He missed a few; quite a lot more than a few.
Bebe was in pain when she discovered this in Manali; a small town high in the Himalayas, so I bought a pair of tweezers. As we travelled to Srinagar and then on to Leh, it became a kind of ritual looking for these missed stitches.
Next year I got married but Bebe and I are still good friends.