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With less than two weeks to go in India, it was time for us to pack in the tourism. But before we arrived in Bombay or drove up high into the mountains, we had some smaller bits to deal with first. This involved a day full of shopping in the city of Chandigarh, which in 1995 was the leader in variety of shops, quality of living and modern eats.
The drive to Chandigarh took a full three hours from where we were staying. This threw a little wrench in my mom’s excited plans to run through the shops in a state of immediate ecstasy. No mother. Food would have to come first.
For three and a half weeks, we’d been filling up our bellies with more Indian food than you could ever imagine. Or maybe you can imagine it, if you picture three weeks of a constant buffet. It sounds like a dream, but back then we were kids and we wanted some damn fast food.
In an age before India was ripe with McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut, we still found a place that could meet our needs. I wish I could remember the name of the place, and I doubt if it’s still in existence, but to us it simply seemed like McDonald’s: The Indian Edition.
My ten-year old brother immediately ordered the signature burger, which he must’ve been craving for weeks. At the time no one thought to remind him that cows are sacred in India, and that Indian “burgers” aren’t made of beef. But anyway I’ll get to that later…
A few minutes later the family was scarfing down some chicken burgers, while my brother sat still with the oddest little look on his face.
“What’s the matter?” asked my mother.
“This hamburger tastes really weird. It’s all rubbery,” he replied.
“Well of course it’s going to taste different. It’s made out of mutton.”
“WHAT? What is that?” asked my brother with a greenish face.
“It’s like lamb. But it’s from a sheep that’s much more mature. So it’s called mutton.”
Our family had never eaten lamb. Or sheep of any kind. For this reason, I couldn’t decide why my parents hadn’t urged him to go with the chicken option. Maybe they wanted him to have a little food adventure.
If that was the case it was mission accomplished, since he puked all over his plate. Ha. Live ‘n learn kid.
My brother refused to eat another bite from that fast food place, but as we walked across the square to all the shops, we spotted a soft-serve ice cream stand. For this my brother was immediately ready to partake. I decided to have one too, not realizing though that homeless Indian kids have a strong nose for icy treats. In fact the second we had our cones we were ambushed, with the saddest faces and loudest wails I’d ever heard. I was literally being pushed by little children as they clawed for my yummy ice cream. My current self would’ve felt really bad for the kids. But then I was a grungy teen, and only seconds away from smacking up those little brats.
My dad got them off our scent when he tossed a bunch of rupees in the other direction. They went after them like hungry pigeons. I don’t mean to compare India’s homeless to hungry pigeons, but I’m simply playing back the memory from age fourteen. Ahem.
From the ice cream stand we strolled into the Indian shop. I couldn’t really place what sort of shop it was, except that it carried almost everything. Home decorations, trinkets, cassettes, and lots and lots of kitchen gadgets. It was my mom’s little heaven, and already she’d picked up twenty different items made of stainless steel. By the way, what is with Indians and stainless steel products? They love that stuff, but I’m not sure why. Is is superior performance? Durability? I’m not too sure…
As my dad took his spot by the Indian cassettes, us children roamed around with nothing to do. For me that is always a bad thing, since “nothing to do” tends to spring my bowels into action. This time I was hopping to and fro in the kitchen gadget aisle, trying to discourage whatever was pushing through. It was my scariest moment of the trip. Like what do you do if you poop in our pants when you’re a teenager?
At last my dad turned around and he saw rocking back and forth in the corner, with my face now dripping with sweat. Since my mom was still all drugged by the stainless steel, my dad walked me back to the fast food place for a poop.
As the sun began to set on our food and shopping day, my parents took the driver to a nearby village. I had no idea why we were there, until I overheard my parents utter “fortune teller”. Huh?
They didn’t confirm or deny, but they told us to wait in the van.
This waiting turned out to be an hour and a half of siblings in violent heat. We yelled, smacked and punched each other out in our upper arms (faces were off limits). We took a little break in between to eat some melted Oh Henry! chocolate bars, but after it was back to the fighting.
It was nightfall by the time my parents returned, and they didn’t say a word about the fortune teller. How mysterious. I did however catch both my mother and father shooting me suspicious looks from the review mirror.
So what on earth did that fortune teller say in 1995? And did any of it come true? Hmm…I never did find out, but the trip continues…
[This post was another in the series of my first family trip to India in ’95. Here is the first installment]
You should definitely ask your parents what the fortune teller said. That would be so sweet if they still remembered, and it was like some big mystery thing, and the rest of your life unbeknownst to you revolved around what the fortune teller said.
Oo, intriguing! I wonder what was said!! You’re gonna ask them, right?!
I really hope you ask your parents about the fortune teller. You certainly do have your poop problems. 😉
I just have to start my comment by saying Chandigarh sounds much like the fictional village of Chandrapore from the film A Passage to India. It’s based on a book from 1924. I recommend it! Anyway… god I hate the shit shivers and the sweats. Awful feeling. Sometimes it would almost feel better to deal with the shame of crapping yourself then go through the booty clench and the internal prayers of “please don’t come out!!” I am also curious now about this fortune teller. Perhaps it has something to do with you becoming a famous writer one day and publishing a book. Hmmmmmm…. what do you think about that?!
lol i know more about your bowels than i ever thought i would! not that i mind, keep the stories a comin!!! As for pooping as a teenager, in 8th grade there was a kid who had diarhhea in his pants, I just felt bad for him though =/ had we been same gen, I’d of still been your friend!!
You definitely need to find out what the fortune teller said! I’m glad your dad recognized the poop situation before it turned into something worse. That really is sad about the kids wanting the ice cream like that. Even sadder that they would go for the money when it was thrown – just shows how poor they really are that they could recognize money was more important than the ice cream that they wanted.
“At the time, no one thought to remind him that cows are sacred in India, and that Indian “burgers” aren’t made of beef.”
Mmmmmmmmmm…Mutton. The other ground beef. Venison is fantastic, too 😉
Grr…my (evil chuckle) was lost after the quote, above.
And I, too, am a big fan of stainless steel. Why? It’s…STAINLESS, heh heh heh. Durable and easy to clean, what’s not to love?
A mutton burger that sounds awful 😦 I’d probably eat it though hahahaha! Did you happen to partake in a mutton burger as well?
I recently acquired a cooking knife that is not stainless steel. The big deal: Rust.
Maybe the fortune teller told them you’d someday write a humorous blog about them, and they were none too pleased!
I also wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed these stories from your trip to India. I may be going to Turkey soon, and I’m kind of looking forward to the culture shock, the food…maybe not the toilets. I need more skirts for the ‘hole-in-the-ground’ variety.
Thanks for this wonderfully sustained and matter-of-fact travelogue Romi. It was a fun read with your nicely rendered imagery. I admire your perseverance and your ability to remember such detail. It was kinda cool of your folks to take you all on such a long trip.
We knew there would be poop in the story too. Have you ever seen Me and You and Everyone We Know? I think you would like it a lot. Do you think that the arranged marriage tradition is connected to high level of promiscuity famously attributed to Indian society?
I inherited my dad’s love of all things stainless steel. I wish they made cars out of it.
Kerplar: I’m so scared to ask them what the fortune teller said as I fear it’s something about my rebellious non-Indian tendencies, which will instead turn their attention to arranged marriage profiles
Simonne: I did not ask them and won’t do so (see explanation above, haha 😉 )
joanharvest: between my poop problems and your ass problems, what will become of us?!?!?! Hahaha… 😉
PS: hope your ass is feeling better, really!
Justin: was that book made into a movie? Because I have a vague recollection of my dad getting us to watch the movie, but since it’s so vague, I should really read the book, good call! 🙂
PS: if THAT is what the fortune teller was thinking, then that bitch better be right, ’cause I’m WAITING!! 🙂
PPS: oh my gosh, the booty-clench…AHHH….hate it!! lol..
Shweta: poo problems are really tough, and it means a lot that you’d stick it out and be my friend, haha, really! 😉
teeni: yeah that ice cream/money scene was pretty sad, but at the time I was mostly concerned for my ice cream cone…horrible right? lol..but I promise I’ve gained perspective since then! 😉
B Smith: I’ve never had mutton but I’ve heard bad things…I shouldn’t judge right? 😉
PS: yes, I suppose the name implies its benefits, I just wonder why it’s not such a big deal around the rest of the world…have they not caught on?
sammy25: I went no where near that mutton burger, no would I ever…especially after watching that puke fest, hahaha 😉
Allison: ahhh…I see. Well rust sucks, so I guess my mom was on to something 😉
Jen512: hahaha…thanks for visiting and I can assure you they would be none to pleased about this blog…so why did I use my real name? lol..moron alert! 😉
PS: I’m glad you’ve enjoyed these, and it looks like you’re well prepared for Turkey! 😉
David: Yeah, I’d never been on such a long trip and haven’t since, and for the last 13 and a half years I had no idea it had affected me so much…until I started writing all this out…my memory surprised me! 😉
PS: I haven’t seen “Me, You and Everyone We Know” but it sounds familiar and now I’m really curious!
PS: WAIT…Indians as promiscuous? Is that really a famous attribution?? Are you pulling my leg?…lol…I’m intrigued and vexed all at once, haha 😉
When I was that same age, I snubbed my mom’s wonderful meals. I wanted McDonalds and Burger King. I was led by TV ads into believing that shit tasted good! I wish to God I would have realized how delicious my mom’s cooking was. But as Mark Twain said, “It’s too bad youth is wasted on the young.”
Now I never eat that shit. The only places I eat cheeseburgers are nice restaurants that specialize in them.
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