“Nothing any problem” is the mantra of my driver. Yes, I have a driver. Apparently it’s a pretty common option for sucker tourists in India.
“Madame, you will walk around this bazaar area and not talk to any persons. Nothing any problem.”
“The gypsies will make you goat milk chai tea. You go into their village. Nothing any problem.”
“Now you go to this one lake, there are 23 crocodiles. Nothing any problem.”
Obviously, I’m hesitant to believe that there is truly nothing ANY problem. I took a hike in Ranakpur , leaving the hotel at 10 am (you don’t go too early, the leopard is out. Nothing any problem.) It is 8 km to a temple and then back (meaning 16 km) during the hottest time of the day. Some Germans asked “are you sure you want to hike 16 kilometers?” 16 kilometers is but 24 flaps of a unicorn’s wings (imaginary units. I deal in miles and miles alone.) So, nothing any problem. I’ll do your gypsy hike for some unknown distance.
It was long and hot (I feel like the word “hot” is inadequate here). I thought I was going to die by the end. About halfway through I was really, really hungry and super excited for some crackers and like a stupid rookie I set my crackers down to pack something in my backpack and a monkey stole them. We saw a cobra along the way and let me just say that I do NOT do snakes. Not in any form, on any level or in any circumstance, but a cobra in the Indian desert is pretty much worse case scenario for me.
Once I got back the driver asked
“How was trek? Is good?”
“Um. Cobra. Not cool.”
“He attacked you?”
“No! Are you serious!?”
“Ok. Nothing any problem.”
So obviously I didn’t sleep at all until I got the H out of that town and knew the cobra was gone. Nothing any problem.
A ten hour drive with my driver is pretty exhausting. I struggle to understand his accent, so I find myself squinting to understand him. I know that squinting doesn’t help; I am aware. Nevertheless, I find myself squinting, trying to understand him and I have a headache after spending too much time with him. I’ve also found that I start to pick up his accent “Liz, you should visit this India” or “I have different, different spicy foods. Is ok” and the words “Nothing any problem” echo in my head all the time, even slip out of my mouth sometimes.
There are a lot of tourist traps and there is no hiding the fact that you’re a tourist here. In my first stop of Pushkar, a group of three gypsies said “Hello, where are you from?” and one put out her hand to shake mine. I shook her hand, being a proper and not rude person and she flipped my hand over and put a big brown blob of what looked like, and very well may have been, cow manure on my hand. I panicked and they said “No, no, no! It’s henna! It’s henna!” and started drawing a design. I said “No! My husband is waiting for me, I have to go.” (Lying for fun and purpose this time) and they said “OK, we take it off, one minute.” one fully henna’d hand later, they did take off the excess “mud” leaving a dark design on my pail, pail skin and requested 1000 rupees for their unsolicited services. I gave them 30, told them my husband holds the rest of the money and hustled away. I was left with a semi-pertinent reminder of the fact that I fell for a gypsy trick glaring at me for a week every-time I looked at my hand. This and other tricks get tiring and can wear on a person.
I have met many other tourists along the way. We each have shared stories of getting duped by hotels, street kids, gypsies, monkeys and vendors. We compare driver stories. We warn each other of the hazards of other cities and give advice for the places we’ve been. And we all, without fail, have the same story of arriving in Delhi and feeling frightened and regretful immediately.
I know some of you might get emails or phone calls from me sounding exasperated because there are times when I’m not sure I can handle it. Honestly though, I have had so many enriching experiences, seen more beauty than I ever imagined and I’m getting a little bit more street smart. It’s fun talking with other tourists and laughing at the troubles. The peaks and troughs alike are part of the charm of traveling in India. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but seriously: nothing any problem.