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Blond around the world ot I did it my way

Blond around the world or I did it my way

 

 

Таких две жизни за одну,

Но только полную тревог,

Я променял бы, если б смог

М. Лермонтов

 

 

 

(Two lifes like that for only one,

But only full of alarm,

I would exchange if I can

M. Lermontov)

 

 

Beginning and trouble time

 

So, I decided to write a book… about myself. Without being modest. Without caring that almost the fifth part of the book takes place in India, the country which is already enlightened as much as possible. And still I will do it. I have my own India and my own travels, and I will not repeat others. For example, there will not be any ashrams, neither gurus, no searching for my own religion, nor talking about positive vibrations and energies of the Universe.

“Shame!” – You might say. – “Four years in India and no single vipasana, no single ashram!”

I am OK with the shame. Doesn’t it make the Indian part of the book special? I am not a spiritual person. I doubt everything. I do not believe in anything and do not deny anything. I don’t know what I am looking for… Lie. I know. I am looking, or rather was looking for the Promised Land or maybe just was running away from the conveyor of the slushy, gray reality. I didn’t want to become its humble little screw.

And why shouldn’t I write? People do write books about their little pleasures and joys. For example, how some quite wealthy lady was eating pasta in Italy, unsuccessfully tried to focus on her inner space in India and just rested in Bali, financially encouraging local charlatans. There was, therefore, money in her pocket. This lady wouldn’t travel “without a penny”, carrying the backpack, the laptop and the guitar.

By the way, even after eight years of incessant drudgery I do not look like a hidebound traveler with the experience and the guitar. I have a discrepancy of the form and the content. The appearance of a child-woman, no dreadlocks, no tattoos and my nails are clean. And clean nails is a supernatural phenomenon among calloused travelers. Any conqueror of the dusty roads will tell you the same. Just a “blonde on her weekend”. Just a fresh little secretary, looking like a doll with fair ringlets. She would perfectly fit into an ashram in searching for the spiritual truth. I didn’t write a diary and now will be writing by heart.

In general, I do not belong to any category of the common classifications. So I am not ashamed of myself! I did it my way!

 

Ones upon a time, in my previous life, I rented an apartment. It was ridiculously cheap, so I could afford it. Yet for the hungry student of University of Fine Arts that was still expensive. So in order to earn some little penny I had to sweat in the middle summer hit, jumping ten hours in row, wearing a foam rubber doll. Also I happened to work as a club greeter, standing up all night until the morning, on the street. All is fine but it was about minus twenty degrees of Celsius (-4 F), and my shining evening dress on narrow straps didn’t warm me up at all.

I happened to sing in little stashes, where local criminal authorities would request songs about prison, threaten other visitors with guns and undertook fights with knives and broken bottles. The “marshal art venues” would move sometimes directly to a little cornice, serving me as a scene. How I can forget: I am singing “I was caring my troubles” (popular Russian chanson song), and they are running around me after each other, with swearing in their mouths and scissors in their hands. However, they treated me well and tried to protect from each other. Which actually also might have caused troubles.

It was the small apartment on the fifth floor, near the River Station. After death of its previous owner, I was its first dweller. I remember how I got to see this apartment. By that time I had been so seek of being homeless! Late in the evening, twilight, massive velvet upholstered blue chair under a blue fringed lampshade, old carved wardrobe, old birch bursting its branches through the kitchen window. The flat was very calm. Despite the fact that I liked this place, I wasn’t sure I could accurately pay for it every month. So I left, got to a bus stop … and turned back. I had no bed linen and that night, slept right on the bedspread. And the next morning I announced to the current owner, that I am taking the flat.

There were some old cereals in the kitchen buffet, so I had something to eat. I felt the presence of the old landlady and I knew that she accepted me here with the joy and the warmth. It was like to come back to my beloved grandmother. Hmm, at the beginning I said, I was not a spiritual person…

While cleaning the apartment, I found the old lady’s drafts letters to Stalin. She was telling the leader her life story. Her name was Wanda. She and her husband were Polish revolutionaries… She was asking Stalin to reconsider the case of her husband… But the husband perished in camps as an enemy of Working people, and the Grandmother Wanda until her very death lived alone and worked as a cleaner at the Moscow River Station.

I remember that year I got a job in a musical comedy theater. We, the actors of the theater, were not up to the comedy. The salary we had was barely enough to pay the rent and not enough for food and the local transport. I injected myself with vitamins, fleeing from beriberi. I still remember that New Year Eve with three mandarins and two hundred grams of pickled sardines as the main dish. That birthday – with a small cabbage pie, with a single candle sticking out of it. I and my friend cut the pie into two little halves and ate them to my health. The friend had a few jobs, as a designer and decorator in my theater and as a teacher in a college. Her hungry infant daughter was waiting for her at home. Harsh times. Crisis in the country. The ones who didn’t have merchant talents could easily starve to death, no one would have prevented. So the good she-director of my new theater sometimes gave to the actors bones that she bought for her dog in veterinary shops, so the actors could have some broth. The she-director loved to come to my apartment to get drunk. I could not refuse, “boss is always right”. Well at least she-director and not he-director. You know what I mean. I already had happened to leave a theater because of a lascivious boss. Sometimes the she-director appeared in my absence. The door of the apartment barely hung on its hinges and could open after a single hit of a hip. The she-director would finish vodka leftovers together with my perfume and then would fall asleep, fiercely snoring in the velvet armchair of Grandmother Wanda. The same she-director addicted into my apartment a choreographer of our theater. The choreographer loved drinking not any less than the she-director. I remember how she had been hiding my food from me and when hungry times would come, she, secretly from me, devoured it. Once I found her in my bed together with a man of a really marginal appearance. She picked him up on a train station. I was furious. I just had took the bed linen from the drying rope. The landlord didn’t provide a washing machine, I washed clothes by hands and laundry always was turning into a serious event.

That time the she-choreographer was rolling down to the delirium tremens. She was “catching flies” in front of her eyes, enjoyed infernal hallucinations and generally behaved very characteristically. In a few months she moved out without paying for a single day of staying. Very soon I left the theater without the salary and with a little scandal. After some time I heard news: the she-choreographer got nine years sentence for killing her new landlord. Eight hammer blows and sixteen knife stabs… But I knew, nothing would happen to me while the good spirit of Grandmother Wanda was living there.

The dark past had passed. I didn’t have any shortage in any essentials anymore, and I was confidently stepping into my gray, a little bit touched with black streaks, future. I was taking my place on the conveyor of the slushy reality. And I repeated like mantra: “This is not my life. This is not my life … Two lives likes that for only one, but only full of alarm, I would exchange if I can”.

In 2005, I was offered a contract job in India, to sing in a five stars hotel disco club. Three hours every evening, one day off per week, full board in the same hotel, plus salary.

Everybody tried to discourage me:

- You’ll run away from there within a week…

- Something will happen to you…

- You will be kidnapped…

But I went … and “something” happened, and I was “kidnapped”. My life changed beyond recognition, ultimately and irrevocably. It had been monotonous and gloomy “Two lives like that for only one, but only full of alarm, I will exchange if I can”. It seemed that everything that could have happened, had already happened. And anything more than that simply cannot be anticipated. This is the uncomfortable place where I am going to live for the rest of my life. These are the unhappy, sad people I am going to see for the rest of my life. This is the slushy conveyor, a cog of which I am going to be till the rest of my life. The screws were tightening. It is said: “The older the people, the less the chance of changing their lives they have”.

And I went. And it was the beginning of my life. And I don’t hesitate to say this. I just wanted to see the world. To see how it feels – lying in the sun with a cocktail while there is winter. Simply not to wrap up into a coat, but to expand the chest, proudly enjoying the wind, instead of hating it. To become interesting for myself, to go by night taxi into the peradventure, to meet people from other dimensions and to be what I am. And if I wish, pretend to be what I am not.

To pretend that I never happened to live in a communal “slam” apartment, full of stinky, mooing alcoholics, shitting themselves and chopping off at the entrance of my room, alcoholics, smearing snot with their filthy muzzle on the dyeing parquet, stealing “Kitiket” from the yard cats and vomiting into the sink in the kitchen.

I just wanted to pretend that I did not happen to chew empty, cooked on water, semolina and after a few weeks of such a diet, choking with it, since it was not tasty at all. Or even to chew tea leafs when the semolina finished.

Just wanted to pretend that I never happened to live illegally in a dirty student hostel, hiding into wardrobes during the police raids. The wardrobes of the most disgusting hostel of all times and places, where unfortunate cleaners, every morning, had to scoop up shit with a ladle from blocked for years toilets. To scoop it into buckets and splash it out on the nearest garbage hole.

To pretend that I have never happened to take a shower in the flooded basement of the hostel, carefully jumping from one brick to another, in order to avoid the slimy walls and the rotting sewage waters, full of spitting, hairs and personal care items, floating on the surface of it. I never saw such a mess in any squat of Latin America, any bunkhouse of India, I happened to visit subsequently. I heard that similar description occurs in some of the Third World prisons… and in our Fine Art Hostel #2.

So, back to the story, I wanted to pretend not having to freeze to necrosis at bus stops and feel like a small insignificant cog in the dirty, slushy conveyor.

I’ll notify; there is not going to be the Hollywood happy end in this story. My life never became comfortable, but I managed to make it damn interesting. And I do not regret it. I accept it!

The first flight to India was very successful. My hotel forked over the place in business class! A very good start to feel a little bit more than a cog… How should I write? Maybe, in the style of a school composition “How I spent the last summer?”

Let’s start!

 

Mumbai or Bombay, first contract

November[]

 

Here it is, the peculiar smell, which had been sung many times long before me. This is the first thing you notice, stepping off a plane. No, it’s not a smell of spices; the smell of spices will come later. And it’s not the smell of incense. It’s rather smell of an opened sewage and garbage weeping, and then it mixes with the grace. Soon it becomes your native.

The hotel is situated just ten minutes away from the international airport. Therefore, it hosts pilots and flight attendants from different airlines and countries. The hotel is surrounded by a propel Bombay slam. A five-star hotel in India is an oasis of satiated luxury on a pile of debris. Giant rats, bald dogs and skinny people in colorful clothes are roaming around it. The first glance at India shocks even such a mistreated by the stepmother-life person, like me.

The festival of light was fully on. Diwali is one of the most important Indian festivals. The celebration of the last harvest of year, symbolizing end of summer. Indians lit oil lamps and open doors of their houses, hoping to let in Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and luxury. Colorful paper lanterns and decorations hung all over the messy mega polis.

The name of the hotel’s luggage deliverer was Krishna. Here in Russia, children are not named as God. A little too indiscreet and pretensions for us. But in India the name of Krishna, and in Latin America – Jesus, are very common. But that time everything was surprising for me and I was being surprised…

On the next day, Krishna offered to show me around, even promised crocodiles. We rode half-Bombay on a motorcycle in search for crocodiles. The crocodiles were not available. It was my birthday and we stopped at Sheraton for a glass of whiskey to my health. Krishna complained about back pain, hinting at massage. Talked about Indian film, telling love story of a Russian circus gymnast, who came on tour to India, and a simple Indian guy, acted by Raj Kapoor (a very famous Indian actor). This childish Indian stealth is very touching. I didn’t watch the movie Krishna was talking about, so I imagined one old Soviet film called “The Circus”, a simple mustachioed tanned guy and a lot of mass Bollywood dancing on a green lawn. In order not to irritate the imagination of Krishna, I had to cut back further communication with him. Subordination and again subordination.

I sang at the club every day before disco. Administration of the hotel issued small handbills with my name on them. The handbills depicted an owl and me, next to it, with open mouth and rolled eyes, wearing a red dress with a deep neckline. I sang to a sound recording; the hotel did not want to shell out for musicians. Explaining that the blonde on the stage, wearing an evening dress is quite enough and I don’t even have to sing “Just walk back and forth…”

By the way, in Russia, I am not considered as a blonde. For Russians I am rusi, a shade of hair which is in other countries called sandy blond or brown blond. So for the rest of the world, whether it is India, USA, Mexico, or England, people ask me in bewilderment:

- Not blond? But who are you then, if you have blonde hair?

And in my hotel they jokingly added:

- So don’t you strain! Just walk back and forth…

The Russians have other requirements for blondes. But I will not rename the book because of this fact. Let’s assume that “blonde” is a state of mind or the way I am seen by others.

The guests didn’t give me flowers, probably considering it as irrational. But sometimes they would send to the scene underwear “Victoria’s Secret”, a peace of soap or red wine, as soon as I started singing ‘Red, red wine’. If underwear was too big for me, I would send it to my sister.

On the first week of my contract, I learned that here, in India a women should refuse flatly and without trying to be polite. Politeness is considered here, especially by a man, as an invitation for further actions. The fact that you are quite obviously trying to get rid of him is not considered at all. I learned it immediately after I was “blessed” with a visit of a young Indian Sikh. A young fashionable Sikh, instead of turbans might wear something like a special style wool hat. Such a young man looks like a cool MC. So he came to me wearing a wool hat on his hair beam. Fashionable black T-shirt, beard neatly plastered with something looking like egg yolk. Very white skin, which reflects his noble origin, plump body, which reflects how much food he can afford. He brought expensive whiskey and a very sugary perfume, which later I used as CD wiper.

After a few polite hints that I have to start getting ready for my performance, that it is not good for a man to stay in my innocent cubicula, he decided to take an action in the Bollywood style. He asked me to use a toilet and after sometime he came back wearing a white fishnet thong, the same black wool hat and black socks. White, plump and sexy as overcooked dumpling, with the dramatic expression in his eyes.

- What a f..k? – I’m asking the legitimate question.

- I did not want – he explained – the water itself splashed on me!.. What to do now? – inquired he, dramatically clutching his “hat”.

- To go home – I explained – I need to work.

- How can I go in wet clothes?

- What a problem? – I asked. – We’re not in Siberia. It’s twice as hotter outside then inside the hotel. You are not in danger.

- I cannot go out wearing wet clothes! What might people say?!

- OK – I said, and brought him an iron flat.

Without sticking it into a socket, he placed it with its side site on the wet spot of his T-shirt.

- Have you never happened to iron? – I was getting mad.

- No, never.

- Who does your ironing then? – I asked, trying to catch him.

- Servants…

Good response in the same old good Indian style.

In short, that day, I had to iron the rich Indian guy’s T-shirt before expelling him out and going to my performance. Being expelled with the wet spot he flatly refused. Useful advice: be careful with politeness in India. Should I have immediately expelled him, should I have not let him into the toilet – wouldn’t I have to iron the T-shirt. So… I was getting familiar with India and its customs.

 

I was invited to birthday party by a young Indian family, with income above-average. We ate lam bone marrow curry and other fiery Indian dishes. Now I love Indian food, but then I didn’t like it much. I mean, I always loved bone marrow, but curry – only after two years spent in India. So during the whole birthday party I was just suffering and waiting till I can slip away. The hosts, a cute young couple, struggled to show themselves as liberals and boasted with the fact that the food in their house is not spicy. Not spicy food is relative.

The piquancy of Oriental cuisine is logically caused by the hot climate. Spicy food lasts longer. Burning spices prevent the development of bacteria. For many millenniums, the whole nations got accustomed to such a diet. One Indian man told me that in a few days of eating non spicy food he starts getting serious digestion problems.

Once again, in anguish, I went to the kitchen and saw two girls in saris holding books. The servant-girls were doing their homework, examining each other and learning how to read between serving the plates. Evidence of thirst for knowledge through the thorns of obstructions makes me sentimental. In the sensitivity fit I almost busted into tears and gave to each of them for five hundred rupees…

After I was asked, “Why?!”

After I asked myself, “Why?!”

I also came here to work. I do not have servants. I finished University for free, by passing entrance exams with a good score. Otherwise I also would have to “learn how to read between plates serving” and ironing of spoilt plump guys’ T-shirts. But however, I’m not that far away from these girls; I am having financial problems all the time, my dreams don’t come true, etc, etc… And now I find myself distributing money as if I printed it at home.

But the rewards came instantly. The next day when I was singing on the scene, an envelope with my name on it and a convincing sum of money in it came out of nowhere. India has a direct connection to the Universe. Do good, people!

After that birthday party I, tipsy and sentimental, drove one Indian pilot’s car. The car with the right-hand drive, a flashback remained from the British colonial time. And I was getting a thrill.

India is well-known for its “Brownian” motion on the streets. Everything that moves, rushes under the wheels, constantly beeps and suddenly turns up from neighboring lines and adjacent areas.

Hardly anyone here even heard about the existence of safety and road rules. Nobody ever shows turns. Headlights are blinding with high beam, even in cities. Sometimes a car has only one headlight, and on an unlit road, you can easily drive into it, confusing it with a motorcycle. Some cars do not have any headlights at all. And the drivers illuminate their way, holding a flashlight in their mouths. I will have to come across with it when I get my own bike.

India is a country where everything emits strong noise and smell. The streets are teeming with merchants and buyers. Jewelry shops are located in every second dark hole. Internet facilities can be found in every other rat hole. Here and there, they sell lassie and squeeze juices, adding to them mountains of sugar and spices. Pure product is considered as tasteless. Waiters don’t take seriously the request not to put in too much spices and bring you a “light” version; four table spoons of sugar instead of six. They believe; this is for your own good. If you send such a glass back and ask for another, after a few minutes you get back the same glass. They hope you are not going to notice it. In a couple of weeks of taking such drinks a western person begins having phobia of diabetes. Indeed, this disease is extremely common in India.

Foreigners attracts lots of attention in India, the locals try to be seen with them or to take pictures with them. Indian guys show the pictures to each other and say, “This is me and my girlfriend”. If there is a male foreigner on a photo, they might say, “This is me and my best friend”. Indian women and children are not far behind. Foreigners are exotica for them, especially blond foreigners.

At first I was sightseeing. Elephant Island is located about ten kilometers from the coast. The ferry departs from the Gates of India, a large arch situated in the central historical district of Mumbai, called Colaba.

The Elephant caves, along with all the sculptures are carved inside the rock formation, something between the fifth and eighth millenniums. In the sixteenth century the caves were severely ruined by the Portuguese, arrived to this area. It’s pleasantly cool here, in the ancient caves, full of Hindu sculptures.

Another attraction of Bombay – The Big Laundry. This truly large open air laundry is located, under one of the bridges. From that bridge you can see numerous of cement bath cells full of swarming people with cankered, by hard work, hands. They soak, bleach and rinse. Nearby, on the clotheslines, huge white sails of laundered sheets fluttering on the wind. Probably, this is an order of one of the big hotels. India is a country of contrasts…

I am invited to Indian wedding taking place in our hotel! Indian wedding is something! Rich Indian wedding is something in the cube! Everything bursts with beauty and buzzes with excess. Excess is one of the elements of Indian culture.

A tremendous amount of Indian food is being prepared. Food here has a value of decoration and of cause is not going to be eaten. A white silk tent is stretched over the pool. The bride will be sitting there. The guests, luxuriously dressed in national costumes, start coming. Women are wrapped in saris – five meters of non-cut fabric. Their necks, years, arms and ankles are tinkling with golden rings, chains and bracelets. Their palms are painted with henna patterns. The men wear very narrow, almost skin-tight, white pants and something resembling long white jackets. Their shoes with upturned noses are made of light rawhide.

Rich Indian wedding can be celebrated in expensive hotels in several cities. For example, a few days in Bombay and a few days in Delhi. The parents of the spouses pay not only for food but for all the guests’ accommodation. I am afraid to think how much such a wedding might cost.

The groom in a brocade turban appears under umbrella on a white horse. The bride is dressed in red sari, sheathed in beads made of pure Indian gold. Pure gold is soft, almost like plastic, and has unnaturally yellow color. A wedding sari might cost more than hundred thousand dollars. Heavy golden jewelries; anklets, bracelets, necklaces. Gold is everywhere. India loves gold.

One wealthy Indian trader ordered a shirt made of pure golden thread. This shirt weights about 5 kilos (about 10 pounds). On the interview on the occasion of its obtaining, he said, that he is going to feel more confident on business meetings, wearing it. And on a body of a rich bride there can be up to 40 kilos (about 80 pounds) of gold!

And now crazy dancing is starting. In India, mostly men dance. Women prefer sitting on sidelines.

Inspired by the wedding, I buy an inexpensive red chiffon sari for myself. In my opinion, sari is the most beautiful national costume in the world. Our laundresses are giving me lessons of “putting” it on. They are happy to help. Indians incredibly touched by foreigners wearing Indian clothes. This is one of the most pleasant things for them. Sari is supposed to be fastened on a belt of underwear skirt.

I use a simple tape, instead of the whole skirt. It seems Ok. Two days I walk in the sari and even sing in it. Everyone, foreigners and Indians like my clothes.

What can I say about my new experience? Sari flounders in the legs, I step on its edge, the shoulder part constantly falls into food and sink. I admire Indian woman who in sari wash floors, dig ditches, haul bricks and look as if they have just come out of a boutique! There is something to learn from them.

Christmas is coming with all that it involves. Every New Year time my role has always been remained unchanged – Snegurochka or Snow Maiden for both, children and adults. That was my favorite role. Also I succeeded a role of sexy nurse at corporate parties and anniversaries: in one hand – a fake syringe in the other – a real huge enema, the breasts enlarged with inflated balloons. At the end of party, the balloons could be pierced with a needle, to the general laughter of the guests. Here I will be a Christmas angel. I am learning «Ave Maria». Soon, according to the FNB manager’s order, I’ll sing it. I’ll be standing in a beam of light on the upper balcony of the lobby. I will be wearing a garland of white orchids on the head and a silver cloak.

At night, I continue singing my three sets on the club scene. The local “godfathers” love that club. They make the money fly here, competing in it with each other.

My relations with German management of our hotel folded perfectly. India no longer bothers me. I’ve melted on the five-star sun. Basically my life consists of lying by the pool of the hotel, eating lobster, oysters and drinking “Dom Perignon”. Also, somehow I am mired to gold and diamonds rush. I like to hunt for diamonds in the local jewelry shops. Never have I been craving for diamonds, but here I am. The excesses of the rich Indian caste acts on me. I like to show up in my new toilets in the lobby, arrogantly unmindful of enthusiastic glances of the hotel guests. The management is proud of me and I live very different life. I do not want to even think about the past. Will it be erased!

Once a rich Middle East family comes to the pool; husband and two wives. The husband swims in the pool next to me and shows his butterfly to all of us. Two of his wives sit on stools, completely rolled up into the black material. It’s time to say, “Money cannot buy freedom!”

There are two other musicians in the hotel; it’s a couple from the Philippines. We are all invited for Christmas dinner to the apartments of one retired elderly Scottish chef.

Chef is a lonely, bored person, living in Bombay for several years and having some business here. He is a frequenter of our hotel. They say that in his best years he happened to work in the kitchen of the Queen, and he constantly criticizes our restaurants.

We eat Philippine Sea Food soup, red snapper baked in salt, and the drawing card of the evening: steaks of wild deer, which was shot by the chef in the Highlands of Scotland, and brought to Mumbai in the thermos. I am not a supporter of hunting, by the way… The deer was grilled on chef’s balcony. That balcony, on the twenty-something floor, shows the great view to the lake and the outskirts of Bombay. The Filipino girl for some reason makes burgers from store meat mince. All the evening we drink old Scotch whiskey.

For the Christmas, the good chef presents to everyone quite expensive gifts and doesn’t forget even about me. I receive a new camera to replace the stolen one. I frantically wonder what to present him in return.

- Anna, he spends money like a sailor, and constantly gives presents to everyone – soothes me the Filipino girl. – You can’t keep up with him…

In the Christmas Eve, I and my new romantic friend, Canadian oil engineer are coming back from another hotels party. On the way we stop our rickshaw and catch an elephant. For a thousand rupees the driver agrees to take us aboard his driving basket, and we continue the way on the elephant.

Rough as asphalt, bedraggled chalk elephant, evening dress covered with Swarovski crystals, black tuxedo and empty streets of tired Bombay…

The time of incessant parties starts. I feel so queer, returning to the hotel at down! Still wearing the evening dress, with smeared makeup on the face, holding high hilled open shoes in the hands, quietly, so that nobody wakes up, passing the reception. Like a princess coming back from the ball, who has been dancing all night long with a fabulous, disgraced prince… I do not want to remember a single day of my past!

On New Year’s night, at twelve o’clock the chefs and apprentices of our dear hotel, wearing white kitchen robes and turbans, basting ladles on pots, run one after another through the corridors of the hotel. Black Santas wander here and there. The hotel’s staff is dressed in carnival costumes. 2006 blue and white balloons fall down from the upper balcony on the heads of the guests. The 2006s starts. Champagne flows like a river, chocolate fountains with strawberry shores and ice sculptures are placed everywhere. Lobsters are being fried. Oysters are being opened. Huge baked fishes are served on the tables. And so on, so forth.

Rich Indian caste tinkles with heavy diamonds. My diamonds tinkle quieter. Americano-Canadian oilmen and Franco-Italian pilots, staying here for the Christmas, in contrast to us, look like tramps. Black and red caviar served in ice bowls.

I haven’t eaten black caviar for a really long time. I am approaching it on trembling legs. Disappointment. The caviar is fake. Very similar in appearance, but not to the taste. I can’t be fooled, I grew up on Volga River and in my childhood, used to eat it from three-liter jars with a table spoon.

I ask hotel’s chef the question:

- Mr N, do you know that the caviar is fake?

The chef gets nervous. I leave this topic. Well, in fact, how many people in this room will notice the fake? Some of them are going to say soon: “How disgusting your caviar is! And how do you, Russians, eat it?” Well, stay in the darkness, and we will have more of it.

I’ll go for the red one. I see that the others like it more as well. This is because it’s real.

I have always been wandering: what happens to food leftovers in hotels? After each buffet, mountains of food are not eaten. Some giant dishes stay absolutely untouched. They can feed the whole block of Bombay slam. Do they just throw it away? I, as a person who happened to be hungry, cannot think about it without resentment.

 

In February my oilman is transferred to Delhi, and I’m going to visit him. Delhi is cooler then Mumbai. We take a look at the Lotus Temple. Followers of any religion can come here to pray. I like this option. I have agnostic tendencies.

Taj Mahal is very crowded. This is a serious obstacle to admire the modern wonder of the world. What really impresses me is the “iron pillar” situated in the carved architectural complex Qutab Minar in Delhi. The pillar is made from the special metal alloy half of thousand years ago. It is not a subject to corrosion and scientists still argue about the composition of the alloy.

I get late for my plane back to Bombay, because my oilman’s driver got lost. I have to fly with the stop in Hyderabad.

Holi feast is a celebration of the end of winter, which symbolizes the victory of good over evil. If Diwali is called the Festival of Lights, Holi is called the Festival of colors. This is the most colorful spectacle one can imagine, when people throw colored powder and water into each other. This day most foreigners hide in hotels.

More and more often I feel alone and trapped in the golden cage. No. Freedom is not in luxury! Not in a five star hotel the Promised Land is. At the same time, to my surprise, I notice that I am not missing my home country either. I did not expect such a cosmopolitism from myself. Here it is, the perfect mood to start packing a backpack. But I do not recognize it that time, and dismiss it.

Although I do not miss Russia, still the contract comes to the end, and what is the most important, my passport expires. I have to go back and issue a new passport. But India, the country of fantasy, Yin land where everything is possible, changes me forever. I will come back here.

Early morning, passengers, sitting in their plane and waiting for it to take off, watch as the entire population of one Indian slam comes by the airport wall in order to accomplish their morning toilet. Each one holds a newspaper and a bucket. It looks like a ritual event. Sitting on a bucket, they read, gossip and discuss the news. After finishing with the ritual, the slam dwellers splash the contents of the buckets into the ocean. The day begins. Aeroflot is always provided with air corridor in the same time, so in the coming years, I am going to watch this picture more than once.

 

In the next few months I make a series of short trips to Emirates, Thailand, and then again to Emirates. I can’t sit in the non-affectionate motherland. I meet my Canadian oilman here and there. Now he is working in Bahrain. Sometimes we fight, because he thinks I’m angry at him. This is not true. I’m angry only with the fact that he thinks so. But I know – it comes from his self non confidence. And I close my eyes to it. In between the meetings, my dear oilman throws me with tender letters, asks me to specify the size of my ring finger, asks to come to Bahrain, and promises not just to make me happy, but super happy and to treat me like a queen. Honeymoon he proposes to spend in solar romantic Italy. These letters make me feel cozy, warm and calm. And I am going to Bahrain in April. This is just the right time to put an end to my freedom and to settle down. I am not a little girl anymore.

The world’s famous race “Formula 1” is going on here. Bahraini visa obtaining is simplified for those who buy the race ticket. I am not an expert of races. I am not able to determine basic things. For example, if that car is far behind the main column, or, on the contrary, strongly pulled ahead and is already catching up with the rest of the cars, on the new coil. I get bored. The ears tired of furious roar and we have to use earplugs. The sport cars are rushing past the stands. The seats are pressing hard into the backs. It’s not mine – racing. I love silence and fresh air.

The white Sun of the Desert, which is really white here, stands in the haze of the sky, dries skin and hair. It’s almost fifty of Celsius (122 F). A few days later will be almost sixty (140 F). If you drive in an open car, the red-hot air blows into your face, like from a hair dryer. It’s not mine, desert. I love woods and water. But now I’m in Bahrain.

The kingdom of Bahrain is a smallest Arab monarchical state. It is located on an archipelago in Persian Gulf, and its territory is the largest military base of the United States. Just ten miles to the east the impressive Bahraini neighbor lays – Saudi Arabia. The countries are joined together by the world’s longest sea bridge.

Many people have heard about the rigidity of Saudi Arabian orders, especially for a women. For example, a woman is not allowed to leave a house without an escort by a male family member, not allowed to work or drive a car. There are many other prohibitions. Saudi women see the world through the black fabric. They also wear black gloves on their hands because no one should see an inch of open skin. And all this is going on in the climate where you can fry eggs on a hood of a car. At the airport, I saw how Saudi women eat. They lift the veil a little and slip a fork under it. And every piece of food in this same way… Girls are taught from their childhood that this is what they want themselves. And many of them believe. And we are sorry for ourselves?..

Alcohol is banned in Saudi Arabia under the penalty of death. And on Fridays, even a man can not appear in public without a family. It is not surprising that Western oil workers, operating in Saudi Arabia prefer to live in Bahrain. They have to overcome every day the twenty five kilometers long bridge and each time pass the check control on the border. Those who work for a long time even have a separate little book for extra stamps, attached to their passport. The book is dotted with the border stamps. But a mug of beer is worth it!

Quickly I’m making friends with my oilman’s friends: Irish teacher, English engineer, Mexican housewife and others. We visit each other, phone each other and constantly meet in different places to drink wine, dine or visit a museum. Ironically, my oilman is not such a sociable person and, unfortunately, mainly resides in a grouchy mood. This causes his friends’ censure.

People call Bahrain and Emirates a thaw of Saudi Arabia. The local fashion-mongers can allow themselves not only to open their eyes but even their faces. They wear almost form-fitting hijabs of flowing black silk. Sometimes the hijab might have a color fringing. Highly on their heads they tied a wrap. It creates the illusion of an elegant silhouette in a crown. Women manage to extract the maximum from the minimum of allowed expression. The feminine thirst to live and to be attractive breaks out like a flower through asphalt.

Most of what I remember about this place is that they grow potatoes and tomatoes in flower beds and pots, not for the sake of the harvest, but for the sake of beauty. And also the fact that the man to whom I came to become his queen, threw in me a pan with bacon, which I roasted for him.

Of course, I do not intend to linger for a long time in a place like that.

“Taxi!”

 

Kerala, The second contract, August[]

 

In the August I accept the second and the last contract. Kerala is the most southern, richest and most literate state of India. At the Cochin airport they meet me with a nameplate. There is my really misspelled name and a title Mr. on it. The driver is very surprised to see Miss instead of mister.

I will be singing in the round, glass restaurant which is situated right on the backwater. Of course the music equipment is not as good as in Mumbai but still acceptable for singing. In the middle of the restaurant, there is a spouting fountain, incrusted with blue mosaic. The back wall of the restaurant is made of glass. The beautiful backwaters view is revealed through it.

Sea and river meet here. The waters mix and form the slightly salty backwaters with it special sweet and salty underwater world. Very strange animals inhabit here. For example, the giant sweet-water prawns. They are unnaturally luminescent blue. Violet flowers float on the surface of the backwaters. They are nomads. Their roots don’t strengthen with the bottom and they freely move with the flood. Sometimes the whole violet fields float by the window.

On the first week, as always, I make a trip around curiosities of the place. Kerala is a motherland of Ayurveda which is translated as “knowledge of life”. This knowledge is more than five thousand years old. It puts on the top of all the balance between body and soul. The knowledge is transmitted from fathers to children, generation by generation.

There is a quantity of Ayurvedic clinics and private physicians. On each corner they give massage and sell all kind of Ayurvedic potions. Here, in Cochin a few factories make very finely cut really salty and spicy Indian pickles.

Every Indian state has its own language. In Maharashtra – Marathi, in Tamil Nadu – Tamil, in Goa – Konkani… and so on. The language of Kerala is Malayalam, probably the fastest language in the world. English is spoken here more widely then Hindi. This is the reason why I never learned Hindi.

Fort Cochin has a reach history. In old times the Chinese came to this area and left the Chinese fish nets here. These nets are still used by the local fishermen. They look so picturesquely in sunset light! Tourists love to photograph them.

A little later the Jewish came, leaving ancient synagogue with very well preserved floor tiles.

After that the Dutch came. They left the fort itself and the cemetery.

…someone put a chicken foot into a crack in one of the tomb stones. It looks like woo doo deal.

Almost right away I make friends with people from the whole European Unity. They have two things in common: they all work on the local factory of plastic pots and sockets and they all are frequenters of the restaurant I sing in.

On my first contract in Bombay I was spoiled by the German management of the hotel. Here in Kerala in the hotel with Indian management, the atmosphere of patriarchate reins and I am being controlled. This is not for me, since I refer myself to the kind of people who don’t need any managers for keeping order and being self-organized.

For example, I tell myself: “I need to learn that language”. Period. I take a self-learning book and release it from my hands, let say, in a year when the language is learned to the level, stated at the beginning by me as well. And I don’t need any mentors. I am my own best mentor.

The same thing I can say about my behavior and morality. If I acknowledge it as needed – I do it, if not, I don’t do it. Yes, this is pretty anarchic point of view but I never said it’s good for everyone.

Anyway I should have a conversation with the hotel’s General Manager.

- Sir, I came from the country where no one cares about my behavior and I intend to leave the hotel and have parties where I want and with whom I want. You are not going to be able to control me as you controlled the former Filipino singers. I have University education! – For some reason I screw it in. – No one can stop me sir!

And in order to be more convincing I add: – Pleeees… – now my voice sounds lamentably. It must work.

Fortunately sir is a reasonable man. He understands what I am talking about, agrees to set me free and doesn’t regret it after. Now I can accept an invitation of the managers of pots and sockets to Alleppey trip.

Alleppey is a village on the backwaters in a couple of hours away from Cochin. Annual snake boats race is going on there and that is why we are going there too.

Rainy season, very humid and hot. The greenery is so yang that has the lime color. Black, filthy water of Alleppey seems to be thick as a jelly. This is the normal look for the majority of Indian waters.

The crowd is already here. Red flags, posters and pictures of Lenin and Marx are hanging on palm trees. This is how Russia could look after the slope of the Earth’s axis changes. Alleppey is the place where communists won. There are lots of places like that in ‘asias’ and ‘latinamericas’. Workers of all the poor countries still can see the salvation from discrimination only under the shadow of the red flag with the hammer and the sickle.

There are orthodox churches in Kerala. Orthodox religion came here from Syria. The buildings are modest and no-frills. No India-like.

Just simple walls made of bleached concrete with the turret and the cross. The priests also dress modestly.

Now in Alleppey tourist ships, little boats and rafts are already crowding. Tanned skinny guys jump into the water here, eat rise from banana leaves there… On one of the boats a mustachioed man with the typical Indian belly, looking like the musical sign of flat, showing scenes from the National Kerala Theatre Katikali. The man is dancing and wildly rolling his eyes. I have to admit he does it pretty well and convincingly.

The race starts. The boats are long and narrow. Only one rower can fit in width and up to forty in length. That is why the boats are named “snakeboats”.

They look really unstable on the water. In fact during the race most of the boats are sinking one by one. Only heads of rowers resembling buoys are visible from the water.

Very soon only a few boats stay on the surface of the water. It seems that not those win who are faster but those who are more stable.

Under the lead monsoon sky of Kerala I get horribly sunburned and lose my voice. Now I will have to sing with wheezing. My contract doesn’t support sickness.

Onam is a national celebration of Kerala. People celebrate returning to the Earth the kind and benevolent mythological Kerala king Mahabali. There was golden age here during the time of his reign. This day, the women of Kerala put on white cotton saris with golden borders, weave garlands of jasmine in the hair and shake each other on swings.

Indian women can be so beautiful! Sometimes you look at them and think: ‘This is too much!’ Even hard to believe they are real.

Female staff also changes their uniforms to Onam saris. And now it’s insanely smells of jasmine in the hotel. Kerala jasmine is the most fragrant. It just knocks down.

Onam is celebrated only in Kerala. White color is counted in India as the color of mourning, but in Kerala as a color of celebration. The state is reach with its own culture, different from culture of the other states of India. And I decide to keep up with it.

White sari with the golden border and jasmine garland in my hair. Short blouse, though sewn specially for me, is so narrow that my arms cease to circulate blood, and begin to cramp. On one of the green lawns in Fort Cochin, Kerala girls, wearing the same white saris shake me on the swings.

As always, Indians are happy to see a foreigner in their national dress. Ladies working in my hotel, make me wear the underskirt. The underskirt is relied in the uniform of the hotel. Also the ladies are really surprised to see that I neither wear knee long tights. These tights are called panties and considered as an indispensable part of female wardrobe. The ladies giggle and shyly cover their mouths, and I am tempted to ask:

- Who are we giggling at? There is a tropical heat outdoors; the temperature never drops below twenty Celsius. You wear five meters of windproof fabric, a thick underskirt till the ankles and tight breeches till the knees…

What to do, different culture. Although my clothes are not too flashy, yet here it makes a strong resonance. I even get a special resolution of HR manager: “The singer ‘such and such’ should wear a bra”. And as a footnote “as the hotel staff is discussing…”

I never wear a bra. Bought several times, but then always forgot to put it on. Such an intimate feature. Bra and I are not friends. But the chief’s wish is an order for me. And I am going for shopping to buy a bra. The local bras, one and all, are padded, with the effect of breast augmentation. I am buying the most modest one, and still I look much more provocatively in it than without it. Now I also feel uncomfortable, and I start putting on a light shawl on my shoulders going out of the room. The talk ceases a little.

After a while, the local newspaper interviews me, the next day I wake up famous… There are not so many foreigners in the business district of Kochi Ernakulam, for this reason I had been pretty noticeable here and now after the release of this article with the photo I am starting being recognized on the streets and asked for the autograph.

Following this, on the instructions of the hotel, I give another interview, this time to the local television. During half an hour I answer with my, that time, broken English to sugary, banal questions of the presenter. I have an absolutely cheesecake expression and a friendly-idiotic little smile on my face.

At the end of the show I sing the Latin-pop song “Pasadena” and “Falling in love with you” by Presley. The entire action takes place on the background of the floating by the window violet flowers. The program comes out very sugary and sticky. I struggle trying to prevent it being seen by the managers of plastic pots and sockets. Following this, the crowd of local paparazzi appears…

The program presenter haunts me and offers nudity shooting. I repeatedly refuse. In the grievance, he states that he does not care, because his Hindu parents will not permit him to “marry with a Russian anyway.”

Entire families catch me on the streets and ask for autograph. Some try to make friends with me. After refuse some start crying.

Following this, right in front of the hotel the administration hangs a huge billboard with a collage on it. The collage shows my cheesecake face, microphone, ecstatically raging crowd and the inscription saying: “From Russia with Love. From country to rock”.

…they don’t leave me in peace. I cannot hide from the great fame on the small patch. One local composer offers to compose the whole rock opera especially for me. Horrified I refuse. Being childishly insulted he tells everyone that this is he who refused to work with me because I’m a bad singer. So I’ve got detractors.

I’ve got everything that should appear in the world of big show business. I feel on my own skin the heavy yoke of popularity. How easy it is to become famous in India! Now I leave the hotel, totally wrapped into a shawl. This shall pass too.

Finally I decide to do yoga and find the most respected teacher in Cochin.

My namesake and a new friend on the yoga courses is forty years old, she belongs to the highest caste in Delhi and has gorgeous hair.

- I was a university professor – she says – but then got married and started to bring up my family.

Once a year, they say, an Indian woman should go hungry during twenty four hours as a sacrifice to the God. On that day, she still came to the yoga place and complained about a headache from hunger. Other ladies also complained…

Soon she invites me to her ladies’ party to a nearby hotel. Dress code – sari. I have only white one, from the Onam festival. But she is from Delhi, for her this is the color of widowhood, and she brings me hers, the colorful one. I buy myself a black velvet blouse for the occasion.

Very respectable wives of very important husbands gathered here. One of the women, the wife of the local police chief, promises me protection in case anything happens.

I give my namesake a bhindi “haute couture”. Bhindi is the well-known Indian point on forehead. She accepts, but then confesses that she isn’t supposed to wear it accordingly to the traditions of her caste. I spent in India almost four years, but never learned to understand all these complexities.

The celebration itself was quite boring. Rather, the gatherings. We ate sweets, drank soft drinks, took pictures, sat on chairs against the wall. They told each other how they spent the weekend. With the family did this, with the family did that …

-And how did you spend your weekend – they asked me – you do not have a family?

- Well, I had some beer…

- Oh My goodness!!! Anna drinks beer!!!

- Anna drinks Beer!

- Anna drinks beer?!

They passed it from mouth to mouth. For them, this is a nonsense. Most of the respectable Indian ladies never in their lives even tried alcohol.

So good that I didn’t tell them that, in fact, in the last weekend I got completely drunk and was dancing on the table of Irish manager of plastic pots and sockets, and was yelling Russian-Irish songs, and was spilling across the room “Black Label” or maybe, “Jack Daniels”. And the Irish guy was not at all upset by my behavior, and was pouring me more of “Black Label” or maybe “Jack Daniels”. How can I remember now?!

Actually, my favorite is tequila. But I love whiskey too. And vodka has not been canceled. In general, I like to get drunk sometimes. We are Russian people! But this is the special moment of alcoholic satisfaction when you get drunk with “Blue Label”, for example, or with “Dom Perignon.” In India everything is possible! Just do not be afraid.

Generally, fears are nothing but heavy fetters for freedom. I fight them as I can. But sometimes they win. What can I do, I’m only a human… Well my communal neighbors, alcoholics, those are not afraid of anything; they are above all this fuss. Hooray, the Alcoholic Buddhas!.. But they prosper without our lousy wishes.

That was a lyrical digression.

The party, of the Irish guy came out so much better than the ladies’ “against the wall” party. There were Hungarians, Germans, the Irishman himself, two French lesbians and I.

The Hungarian girl, also the manager of plastic pots and sockets, cooked Hungarian stew of Hungarian sausage, potatoes and paprika, as well as pancakes with cinnamon. She loved cooking.

The Irish guy told me how he was approached by one of his subordinates and asked for a day off on Friday.

- I have a wedding in two weeks; – explained the Indian guy – I want to make an acquaintance with the bride.

- What?! You’re getting married in two weeks, and have never seen the bride?

- No.

- What if you don’t like her?

- I will – convincingly answered the guy.

This is important for Indian parents – actively intervene in the fate of their children. This is the tradition. It allows them to feel important.

One Indian guy told me that his sister found a husband herself. And although he was chosen from the same caste and had a good condition, her parents were very upset. Upset, because it was done without them, and they did not affect the daughter’s choice.

And now this guy thinks that he has to give his parents the opportunity to arrange his own marriage. He feels the duty to the parents.

In India, everything is possible.

Another man, the Hungarian manager of plastic pots and sockets, complained about the harassment by an Indian girl in a clothing store. The girl was giving him very explicit hints. Perhaps before the wedding with a stranger, she decided, as they say, to have a blast. This also might happen in India. In India, everything is possible.

I did not see myself, but they say that somewhere in the depths of India wives still get burned together with their dead husbands…

I was told about a tragedy in Rajasthan. In this place a bride’s father has to pay for a wedding. He can’t refuse, for it causes the excommunication from the caste. Outcast for an Indian is worse than death. The wedding was getting closer. The father estimated the expenses, realized that the wedding going to completely bankrupt the family, and slotted the daughter. Funeral is cheaper than wedding. I have not seen it and do not want to believe. But in India, anything is possible.

But in Kerala, there is polyandry. A maternal uncle is considered as father of children. Inheritance goes on the female line. A woman can have even ten husbands, usually brothers between each other. But this was in the old days. Now families are not that big. No more than three husbands.

One Kerala man told me about one modern polygamous family, somewhere in the depth of backwaters. The wife shares time equally with all the husbands and born a child for each one. Husbands, the brothers, help her with the housework. Kerala is a special state.

Also, five years ago, there was a “romeo-and-juliet” story. They loved each other, were not allowed to get married, she was promised to another man and the lovers poisoned themselves. It was said that now parents more circumspect in Cochin with lovers. They become afraid, that their children, brought up on the romantically naive Bollywood films, would do something to themselves. A rickshaw driver told me that while driving from the yoga place.

On occasion, I get visited by two Russian singers from another hotel. Together we drink cheap Indian rum “Royal Stag”, munching mangos and bananas.

In November I make an unforgettable two days backwaters trip on a braided house boat. Backwaters, this is where I would love to come back to!

Embarkation in Alleppey. Only five people on the board, three people of crew and two guests. Sometimes guests are allowed to stand at the steering wheel. The houseboat is floating quietly, fishermen sell luminescent-blue shrimp for 800 rupees per kilogram. The nature is also fluorescent, luminescent-green. Monsoons is the time of fresh greens.

Sometimes the houseboat approaches islands to buy some coconuts and bananas. Local aboriginals in multi-colored clothes, run along the bank of the channels behind the boat, waving from the islands, calling to come up. Dogs cross the water, from island to island. Color TV, with program management, toil under the palm trees. Black birds, stand above the water with spread wings, resembling Jeepers Creepers. A severe cat is swimming to nowhere.

We are already quite far from the stinking water of Alleppey. Very warm blooming channels do not look dirty anymore. And in the evening, at sunset, I jump into the green, but clean and salty backwater.

Later I lie on the dark blue velvet couch, on the nose of the boat and look at the legion of gold stars in the blue velvet sky.

 

 

 

 

Chennai or Madras

December[]

 

In early December, I am transferred to another hotel to Tamil Nadu state.

The city of Chennai or Madras just amazes me with its holy catfish which inhabit in the muddy pond near by one of the temples. The catfish swims near the shore and waits for feeding. Their fatty glossy sides flash on the sun. Sometimes a part of this teeming coil detaches from the crowd, trying to catch sacrificial crackers, and throws itself on the ponds steps. And then slips back into the water, leaving particles of fish skin on the rocks. A cat is walking nearby, carnivorously looking at the catfish. If I was him I would be more cautious, one day the catfish is going to devour the cat.

Chennai is full of the most beautiful Hindu temples that look like blue cakes, encrusted with figures of the gods. In the temples, Indian ladies in colorful saris reverently pour milk on Shiva Lingam and ignite clay lamps. It smells like sour milk and spices.

At the temple under the big spreading tree, people sell plastic little dolls. The temple’s parishioners buy them and hang on the tree in order to appease the gods and get the long-awaited offspring.

I sing on the luxurious roof of my new hotel with the picturesque view to the trench. Bats fly around my scene. Very infernal.

I have only one sound speaker. I would not complain, I am not capricious, but the speaker gives only drum and bass, so it is immediately turned off. There is only one musical instrument on the stage – my laptop. It sounds, giving its ultimate effort. The microphone does not work at all, but yet there is a requirement to hold it in my hand. Something tinkles inside of it, and I use it as a shaker.

Drunken Indian guests ask understandable questions: “Why do you sing so quietly? There is another hotel nearby where singers sing much more loudly”. Of course, I try to explain that in the nearby hotel lucky singers sing into microphones, but not into shakers and can you imagine, they even have amplified speakers, and in the other hotel there is no such an ignorant manager, as our FNB manager, for example. FNB manager usually manages service supply. Here, unfortunately, he is also engaged with the musicians. But how can you explain that in such a situation? It will sound just like a bad excuse.

So the music set here is a plastic dummies. Not believing that this can happen in a five star hotel, I continue singing to the laptop without a microphone. There is only one logical explanation: the hotel meant to launder some money inviting a singer and kind of buying equipment for that purpose. They hoped for the best that the broken sound speaker and the microphone are going to look like the whole set of equipment.

But there must be some limits! It is already clear to everyone: it did not work. Wriggle out from the situation urgently, men! Buy something unpretentious, rent it, at least. But the managers only magnify their full of fish intelligence eyes. Until now, my managers were reasonable people at least. But the situation happening here is just outrageous.

Indeed, no one can say I am a moody singer! In Russia, most of singers incessantly complain about the sound. Nothing is good for them: “So where is a decent sound operaaaaator finallyeee?” – They moan, stretching the vowels.

Try to sing in the maraca instead of a microphone. Or better get three stupid electricians instead of the decent sound operator. But to be just, electricians are not supposed to understand the sound operating. It’s not their profession. They supposed to know the electricity. But the local electricians for some reason are afraid to admit it. They snitch to the superiors that the equipment doesn’t work, because the singer broke it…

This is one of the most unattractive features of India. When something happens or brakes here, people blame on each other till the very end. They never admit their own mistake or incompetence.

- Who is wrong? I am wrong?! I made a mistake?! Never in my life do I make mistakes! – A waiter yells frantically. He just brought stew with cuts of meat to a vegetarian man.

- He ordered meat – the waiter yells, pointing his index finger at the vegetarian and into the notebook. He seeks protection of the other visitors.

- But I do not eat meat for twenty-eight years! – The client is outraged. He, after twenty-eight years of vegetarianism, have just desecrated himself with a spicy slice of pork or chicken, mistaking it with a piece of paneer, Indian cottage cheese.

- So, think better before ordering. And I cannot be wrong! I never make mistakes in my life!

Meanwhile, the leadership of my new five-star hotel in Chennai continue to invent new absurdities and demonstrate the most incredible depth of ignorance and greed. I am unwittingly involved in this masquerade and now being in impotent rage.

Such letters did I write to my art agent:

“Dear Mr. N, the Russian singer writes to you and complains about the FNB manager… and the soundtrack comes from my laptop… and I have to sing on the way to the toilet… and during my performance I am obliged to wander through all the hall… and in the hall number two the laptop doesn’t sound at all, and I have to finish a cappella… and guests in the second hall take a fright when I suddenly drop into a quiet room, bellowing a song from its middle and brandishing the microphone that emits only the sound of jingling screw… and the guests in the first hall wonder why the singer left her post in the middle of a song and didn’t even turn of the soundtrack… “And so on and so forth.

FNB manager in his letter retorted that it is them, the hotel, are the customers, and I am the performer. And, under the contract, I am obliged to sing how they want to, and to what I was given to. Then he frightened us with a forfeit, then softly added that he complains only about my spoiled, obnoxious character. I remembered Moscow singers again. Oh, you don’t want to run into those singers, FNB genius…

In this place full of narrow-minded people with glass eyes, I started feeling more and more unbearable and dreary.

At this time, the Universe brings into our hotel one American pilot. As a joke I start calling him Daddy. The nick gets fixed. Now Daddy, even in conversation with other people, presents himself as Daddy. Daddy is my only friend in Madras.

He works for airline “SpiceJet” and when not flying, staying in our hotel. He’s a bit old-fashioned, tall, lean man of middle age, and handsome as a Hollywood star. Something like Clint Eastwood. Daddy as most foreigners is afraid of food poisoning. Completely all foreigners in India pass through it. He eats only meat, fried to the state of a cardboard, and protein shakes that he brought from America. Without Daddy it would be very tight here.

And FNB manager starts writing lampoons to my art agent, “Outrageous behavior of the singer N causes resentment of the management. For example, she was found with a man… – I repeat, “was found” – …with a man in the hallway of a hotel! Not in a bed, mind you, (though it would be none of their business), in the hallway of the hotel! Such a disgrace! This manager would look so much better trading coconuts on the street but not in the five star hotel. I just saw him, cheerfully throwing up a coconut in the air, cutting of the top of the coconut with machete and inserting a straw into the hole.

- Here you are please!

They attach guards to both of us. Each of us has their own guard. Very funny. Where we are, there they are. When we meet and talk, the guards also meet and talk. When Daddy leaves, both guards disappear. When he comes back they appear again. I am watched like a harem wife. This is India, baby!

Perhaps if such a ridiculous control didn’t take a place, our relationship would have remained at the level of a corridor conversation. But the forbidden fruit is sweet. Especially as a protest…

A little later, the owner of my art agency arrives to Madras. I tell him that I’m stressed after dealing with the idiot manager and need a week of vacation in Goa. Daddy, with whom I was so scandalously found in the hallway, tearfully puts me on the plane and promises to visit. And this is the beginning of another new life…

 

 

 

New Life, New History

Goa, January[]

 

***

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Blond around the world ot I did it my way

I've been traveling, living "la vida loca" for almost 8 years and as a result of my traveling I wrote a book which I can call a practical guidance for those who dream about traveling but still have fear to do it. This book started as a few words for my friends. A few words became 50 pages, then 100 pages etc. And then I realised that I am writing the full book. This is the story of surprises, delights and thrills, which is so cozy to read under the warm blanket, being glad that you're here and not in the desperate situation on the other side of the globe. The book was translated from Russian by me, with no correction of native English speakers so pleace don't judge it too strict.

  • Author: Anna Lazareva
  • Published: 2016-01-29 22:20:09
  • Words: 112876
Blond around the world ot I did it my way Blond around the world ot I did it my way