‘Throw those curtains wide, one day like this, a year would see me right.’
Just as I thought I would never see my suitcase or any of my possessions ever again, a voice boomed from behind me and a young suited man appeared with a large stick and thrashed it violently, rescuing me and my belongings from the clutches of the mad man.
Please sir, I will stay with you, keep you safe, he said reassuringly, handing me my suitcase and leading me in another direction. His name was Vibhor, he worked behind the reception in the hotel and, worried for my safety, he had followed me out. We were both twenty two and shared a birthday, he was very good looking, and had I not been so disorientated and shaken up, I probably would have felt a spark as he put his arm around me and guided me through the streets of squalor.
We walked for what seemed like forever until he finally presented me my salvation. Nestled in the front of a garish yellow building and blocked by a ten foot spiked fence, an ATM light blinked weakly beneath a neon lit sign that read 24/7 free cash withdrawals. Vibhor approached the tightly locked gate and shook it violently, yelling to a none existent security guard to let us in immediately. He tried this for a good few minutes before nonchalantly concluding that we should climb.
Without second thought he lifted himself up onto the filthy railings, tarnishing his clean tailored suit, and offered me he his hand to help me up. I left my suitcase on the ground behind us and we began to climb over the barbed fence. We must have looked like the most unusual pairing, me in my now ripped t-shirt, my pale white skin shining beneath the moonlight, and him with his dark skin and expensive suit, leaping from the fence and brandishing his stick aggressively, preparing to defend me from unseen guard dogs whose howls drew nearer and nearer.
I punched in my details into the ATM over and over but each time my card was declined. I looked at Vibhor despondently but he told me not to worry. You are with Vibhor now, and Vibhor will not let anything bad happen to you.
We hopped back over the fence and he began leading me back through the poverty stricken streets of Delhi. A small girl dressed in rags fell to her knees in front of us and held out her dirt covered hands to beg. I wish I had something to give, I said to Vibhor, who immediately withdrew his wallet and handed me fifty rupees. I thanked him before placing the money into the palms of the small girl who was too weak to even raise her head in acknowledgement.
Is very sad, Vibhor said, but thousands like her in Delhi alone, you cannot feed them all, then he laughed and added, first sir must learn to feed himself. I laughed nervously, I wasn’t in the mood for jokes but appreciated the firm grip he placed on my shoulder as he pulled me in close and lead me back up towards the hotel.
We were greeted by the smiling manager who spoke quickly with Vibhor before turning to me and handing me a glass of minted cranberry juice and a key card. Best room in hotel, she said, free of charge.
Both dazzled and amazed I thanked her over and over again before Vibhor picked up my suitcase and lead me to my room. Sleep well sir, he said, opening the door to the penthouse suite, I will see you in the morning. I told him to wait, and as I reached into my pocket to pull out my wallet, I saw the single American Dollar that the thieves had left me with, and handed it to him. He looked confused but understood the gesture and nodded with an appreciative smile before closing the door behind me.
The room was enormous but I was too tired to care or even take notice. I collapsed on the king size bed and lay with my eyes wide open, thinking about the warnings of those Israeli boys who couldn’t have been more right, before slowly blinking into a dream. I don’t know how much time passed but what seemed like only moments later I was awoken by the sound of chanting in the distance. I sat upright and felt the strong scent of orange blossom filling my nostrils as I opened my eyes to the spectacular morning sunrise.
Without having to leave my bed, I had panoramic views over the beautiful tropical city, magnificent birds soared and caught in the rising sunlight, and the sound of the prayers of thousands pulled the sun from the darkness so it could warmly kiss my cheeks. I rose from the bed sheets and took a piece of mango from my freshly prepared fruit basket and stared down into India with awe.
Two pillars framed the glowing sun as it lit up the city, vibrant colours swayed in the gentle early morning wind as the markets set up in the streets, and as I stood there, I simply couldn’t believe that this was the same cruel city that robbed me of my money and dignity. For the first time since I arrived, I was glad to be in India, and even the cruel actions of those who lived in the darkness could not outweigh the generosity of those who’d tried to help me.
I climbed back onto my bed, sat cross legged, and even though I didn’t really know what I was doing, I silently prayed with the masses. I expressed my thanks for the hospitality of the Indian people, my thanks for the help I received in making it through the night, and finally my thanks for the glorious Indian sunrise.