Ahead of the big meeting, I headed down to Rajiv Chowk. Connaught Place as it was once known, and sometimes still is. CP.
I needed a shave and a shoe shine. I had not budgeted my time well, and I was cutting it close. But I needed a shave and a shoe shine.
I wandered through a back alley to find a shave but the “shop” was closed. Another was pricey and busier than the time I had. So I figured I would get a shoe shine first and punt on the shave if needed.
I wandered through the white column walls dusted half black with grime and found a man half asleep. He jumped from slumber with alacrity. Language barriers ended haggling and I gave him 20 rupees (30 cents) and he got to work. He blackened my scuffed shoes from Brooklyn.
Next I asked a doorman where I could get a shave, and he pointed me to the market. I found a place under the tree and the young barber got to work. 30 rupees (50 cents). I sat under the tree, sitting on a red pouch while my face was lathered up.
As the barber cut away my whiskers, I watched flies swarm on the mouth of a woman sleeping on the ground. Passed out perhaps.
Behind her a fellow smoked heroin behind a motorcycle. Chasing the dragon off aluminum foil. Aluminium. He came up for beadies from the tar. I looked over but not too closely.
And the barber-under-a-tree did a masterful job. Nary a nick. Fast too. The witch hazel still burned my cheeks as I paid and gave a nice tip for good service.
Shave and a shoeshine for a buck.
My meeting did not yield what I had hoped it would. Not the big fish I wanted. They weren't buying what I was selling, and that became apparent quickly. But they were also interested in information that I had, and maybe wanted some smaller fish so it was not wholly unsuccessful.
I finished my meeting and had a small limca and a gold flake. Also a cup of fresh-juiced carrots and beets for fifty cents.
I wandered over to the the center of Connaught Place to try to read about Hawaii but the ear-cleaners wouldn't stop hassling me.
So I left.
And some fucker squirted shit on my shoe. As I was walking away. I heard the squirt softly but didn't connect the sound and the dots until after the shithead spoke up.
You have something on your shoe.
Get away. Now.
Motherfucker. In my dreams, I flung the shit on my shoe at him.
So for the second time that day I got a shoe shine. I hopped around in my socks onto the jute mat, which gave a smile to the shoe shiner.
I wandered around a lil while longer but the unending din was grating on me. So I headed over early to Mandi House. I sat out in the sun's fading light as I watch the evening glow envelope workers in yellow jackets that accentuated their dark tone as the sipped chai. I sipped chai and gold flake and read about Hawaii.
And I met Venkat and watched South Indian creation myths in dance form with Krishna and Vishnu in Kathik pose.
The bells rung and the sitar played to echo her deft dance.