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Posts Tagged ‘Fair and lovely’

When I googled "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed," this is the first image that came up (it's from http://www.idiomsbykids.com)

When I arrived at Mumbai’s international airport in July 2006, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Wait, scratch the “bright-eyed” bit.  Before leaving home, I somehow decided that half of my books were “too precious” for check-in luggage, leaving me to run through the airport with the weight of a baby camel on my back (don’t you love short layovers that force you to sprint down endless corridors?). On the first leg (New York-London), I was seated next to a loud and pungent Russian woman, and on the second (London-Mumbai), in the middle of a rambunctious Punjabi family.  I don’t remember exactly what happened, but there was definitely some bad singing and spiked orange juice involved.  In any case, I arrived at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport anything but bright-eyed.

But oh, was I bushy-tailed.

I had big plans for India.  I was so earnest about living and working in the Motherland, I get embarrassed just thinking about it.  Over my proposed two-year stint in management consulting, I was planning to “develop the toolkit” required to “address the most pressing social issues of our generation.”  I would learn everything about economic development from the private sector, after which I would infiltrate the social justice world with orgasmic insights.  Basically, I came to India to solve poverty.  And maybe injustice too, if I decided to work weekends sometimes.  And in the process, I was going to love and cherish India like no one ever had.  I was going to become one with with my surroundings — and not in the leathery hippie kind of way.

Well, we all know what they say about the best-laid plans.  Anyway.  Back to the airport.

It was 3am Indian time, and I had finally gone through immigration and found my bags.  It was time to search for the Auntie and Uncle who were to be my hosts for the next three days.

Ordinarily, I would have stayed in my company’s guesthouse, but for some reason, it was fully booked for the first three days I arrived.  In retrospect, I should have just rebooked my ticket.  But no, at the time, I was adamant about coming on the day I had decided in my head.  I boldly told HR that I would “figure something out” for those initial three days.  I don’t really know what I was thinking, since I had no family or friends in Mumbai.  Hell, I had never even been there!  My family tried to talk sense into me, but I wouldn’t hear any of it.  “But-but-but,” I whined, “don’t make me start my new life three days later than planned!”

Several frantic phone calls later, my parents found someone to take me in.  I’m still not sure what the connection to this family was — I think they were my aunt’s father-in-law’s college roommate’s best friend’s dogwalker’s niece, or something — but I was grateful that these perfect strangers had an extra sofa where I could sleep.

As soon as I met them, I got the sense that they weren’t quite normal, but I was so tired that I let the feeling pass.  At any rate, I was concentrating more on how overwhelming my new surroundings were.  The pre-monsoon air was sticky and thick, and I had forgotten what a shock India can be on your olfactory nerves.  Taxi drivers were energetically vying for our attention with an out-of-tune chorus of, “Madam, madam, madam.”  I felt like everyone was staring at me (which, in retrospect, they probably were, since Indians love to stare).  I just needed a moment for it all to sink in.

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