The experience of being in India, seeing the sights I was witnessing and learning life lessons through submersion in a foreign culture was an uncomfortable challenge. I didn’t regret deciding to go, even when I was sick to my stomach, sweating through my clothes and barely making it to the toilet – even the second, third or fourth time this occurred. One moment that was really hard for me was calling home on my birthday.
My boyfriend (now husband) didn’t answer his cell phone the first time. After several attempts I finally got connected to hear he had just gotten off the boat with our friends at Lake of the Ozarks. My friends hollered in their “hello’s” and “happy birthdays,” then they got off the phone to drinks and card games while I hung up the phone to cry. The previous few years and the years following I spent with those friends at the Ozarks on or near my birthday, and at that moment in my humble Indian room all I wanted was to be at the Lazy Days in Condo with my friends.
Lucky for me the lonely feeling passed as I shared my 25th birthday with 7 new friends and created some unique birthday memories I, nor they, will forget. It was no secret to the group, my instructor and I had some issues the week prior to my birthday. Seemed the heat and stress of organizing the travels had gotten to her and somehow I became a target. I will give her credit for making me feel special on my birthday, even if it was sort of as an apology.
Monday, June 11th, 2007 was a break in classes. Our instructor took our group to a mall – a seven story dizzying paradise of shoes, perfumes, sunglasses, candy and jewelry. Our agenda was not to shop, we were on a mission to catch a Bollywood film in the afternoon. The movie theater was on the top floor of this westernized oasis; at the concession stand they offered egg rolls, veggie burgers, ice cream and more. We had assigned seats like you would going to a concert or sporting event. The movie was called Chenni Kum and starred Amitabh Bachchan, it was a taboo love story about an older man falling for a younger woman. The movie was easy to follow even in Hindi, and maybe we didn’t catch all the same jokes, though we were laughing the whole time.
Following the movie we ate at a restaurant in the mall appropriately named Starstruck. We were able to order pasta and garlic bread for lunch then devoured Baskin Robbins ice cream, resemblance from home which was much needed then. My instructor even bought a cake for after dinner, I brought my own candle (a scented, stress relieving one I brought from home) down to the cafeteria.
This is the fifth post in my series about my adventures in Kolkata, India five years ago. Feel free to look back on previous posts or check back for on-going recollections from places visited and lessons learned from this trip.