The clerk told me the closest book shop was two blocks away in the Orchid hotel. Walking there, I dodged the requisite wandering livestock, scooters, and auto-rickshaws apparently attempting to bowl me over, recalling that a friend had warned me that foreigners were worth more points. I’m pretty sure he just said that to make me more careful when crossing the street … but not 100% sure. I walked into the Hotel and froze, staring at a huge waterfall Icicle sculpture in the middle of a reflecting pool beside a spotless glass elevator.
The clerk had failed to mention that the Orchid was a five start eco-hotel with a dress code. I glanced down at my dirty, wrinkled Khan suit and ran a hand over my unshaven face. The closest group of people sitting in the lounge area seemed to be two families discussing an arranged marriage contract. They were dressed to the hilt for this first meeting of the bride and groom. The contrast made me reconsider my rash entrance.
With an awkward smile on my face I managed to convince the doorman not to kick me out on my rear but rather send me in the direction of the book store, despite looking like a vagabond.
A young, shop owner ran out of a nearby craft store and intercepted me.
“Yes? Can I help you?”
“I couldn’t help but notice your cloths …”
My eyes took in his perfectly tailored slacks, shirt and jacket. Perfect, I was going to be kicked out on my rear after all … this was such a bad idea.
“… would you mind telling me where you got them?”
Long story short, It turned out that this shop owner was from the same area that I had spent most of my time in. He had recognized the style of my cloths and was incredibly homesick. We had chai and talked for hours about people we both new, justice issues and having integrity with romantic relationships. At the end we traded email addresses and he gave me a 60% discount on a hand embroidered shawl that was softer than down. It was the perfect Christmas gift for my mother and came to exactly 800 rupees.
The next morning I headed to the airport 2 hours early. The taxi took longer then I expected but no problem. I already had a boarding pass, and I didn’t have any checked baggage to worry about. Unfortunately the Indian Airlines staff didn’t see it the same way. They kept sending me from one place to another. The time was slipping away and I was really starting to worry about missing my flight. Finally, I was talking to a manager. He came over, looked at my boarding pass and then handed it back pointing at the date. Sunday, December 12th. Desperately hoping I was wrong, I flipped my wrist to see my watch. Monday, December 13th.
I had missed my plane.
Thanks for reading part 3! I’d love to read bits of any of any similar stories in the comments. Times when everything seemed to be going perfectly only to hit an unexpected seemingly impossible roadblock.