30th September. 10.15 am
Somehow, hours have passed.
Breakfast light, muesli which is fresh fruit salad with oats. Plus reasonable tea, black no sugar, (hot) milk separate, and, using my nearly pint enamel mug, in English quantities.
And a conversation, a traveller’s tale.
Here, it should be noted that we don’t always exchange names. It is sufficient to know that we share the road of life; that where each journey is separate and personal, there is still a recognition. We all have to cope with individual vicissitudes according to our own experiences and metabolisms, our eccentricities and moods.
So I hear a tale of sexual harassment and tears from a German student last seen, but not socialised with, at the Hotel Mumtaz Muhal in Agra. For me, basic lodgings, a base to return to from a day’s sightseeing. For others it was a place to socialise, for camaraderie, and to reinforce the pleasures of western food, not quite as mother used to make, but a reasonable interpretation. The hotel was also a base to indulge in an ailment, the usual stomach problem, a fever, common cold or just general fatigue. Physical comfort takes second place to mental comfort, and a comfortable ambiance is of paramount importance when convalescing.
Certainly, that is what the majority of us are finding here, even those who have flown in for a break from their career advancement.
For the Sikhs running Mumtaz Muhal Hotel, a lone German girl suffering from the mileage malady was someone to be abused. The friendliness and courtesy experienced when every room was rented, mainly I recall, to vacationing students and teachers en route for the airport and classrooms, did not extend to the individuals left behind.
She also told us of another occasion on the street, when she fled from the touchy-feely young men who figure that young western women are there to be abused. Not looking where she was going, she kicked a ‘tray on wheels’ across the pavement; on it was strapped a limbless beggar (seeking alms?). The image provoked laughter.
So she recuperates. We all await the healing of our wounds and do not leave until our scars stop itching.