Monday, August 9, 2010

Our First House Guest

Twelve hours after our arrival from Turkey we welcomed our first house guest, a good friend from childhood, Luke Gerdes. Luke is two-thirds through a two-month trip to complete research for his doctoral dissertation, passing through Delhi for six nights. I'm not sure whether he actually got what he needed while here academically, but I can say we enjoyed our time together. In all honestly, it almost seemed like he was more in need of seeing and talking with familiar faces than we were, which can probably be expected as he had been traveling the previous six weeks, spending no more than four of five nights in any given country.

Luke's and my family are close friends (in fact, his parents are considering an India/Nepal loop with my parents early next year), and Luke and I had grown up together but the frequency of our meetings had basically dwindled to a beer or two the day of Christmas Eve as my Dad and I make the rounds to family friends (actually one of my favorite traditions, though the Gerdes house is the only stop that guarantees a frosty beverage).

The other thing to know about the Gerdes family is that while growing up, and still to this day, my family refers to Luke's mom, Sue, as the "Domestic Goddess." In fact, Martha Stewart may very well be the "Sue Gerdes of Connecticut." Thankfully, he learned something from his mother and volunteered to fix what was easily the best freshly prepared Mexican meal made from scratch in India last week, which would have been the case even if likely not the only entry in that category. What made this feat all the more impressive was that he successfully navigated four grocery stores alone in Gurgaon finding fresh avocados for guacamole. Needless to say, he set a high bar for future guests to follow.

Since he had done quite a bit of travel in the developing world and had spent a few days in Mumbai, he was more immune to the shock value that greets many visitors to Delhi. As a result, we were able to do fun things like eat at Karim's and get lost in alleys in Chadni Chowk. Getting lost in alleys might seem dangerous, and we were careful to keep Lindsay between us at all times, but in hindsight, it was a fairly safe place to be. In one instance, some local men stopped us because some rupees had fallen out of Luke's pocket and they wanted to make sure we found. Not five minutes later, a young boy who had self-appointed himself our guide to a main street tried to refuse a tip from Luke. Luke tried to hand the kid Rs. 50, which I can only guess is a LOT of money for this kid, and it took Luke's continual insistence for the kid to actually accept the money. Sometimes, India can pleasantly surprise you.

Later on Saturday night, we had planned to relax at our favorite rooftop establishment in a mall, Vapour, but received a phone call from a friend's landlord who we've met socially. He invited us to a housewarming party some of his friends were having, which isn't the type of invitation you'd want to turn down if you were interested in experiencing new things. The party didn't disappoint. The topic of conversation quickly turned to politics and had quite the diverse cast of characters, including an imbibing Muslim, a Hindu businessman that held American citizenship and sold quite a few pairs of jeans to a certain retailer based in Arkansas, a clean-shaven Sikh, our friend the landlord, and the host, a gentleman that appeared in an Apple computer print ad in the mid-80's. Needless to say, the addition of a couple of Americans that were a few cocktails in, and it was a spirited conversation. They remembered our names by saying, "Luke and John? Like the Bible?" Well, sort of, I guess. Luke ultimately earned extra points and the respect of the other guests since he was apparently the first person to verbally disagree with the blue jean baron in some time. I literally sat there and laughed for two hours. Not surprisingly, as we were getting ready to leave around 12:30am, dinner was served. An hour and many worthwhile and tasty calories later, we finally said our good byes.

I'd have to say it was a successful first house guest. Surprisingly, by the sixth night we weren't ready to kick him out and I don't think he was entirely sick of us either. It was a great chance to share a little of our adopted home, share new Indian experiences, and get to know one of my oldest friends better (if that makes sense). And if he thinks his invitation to us to spend some time at his family's fishing cabin in Canada upon our return was simply a courtesy invite; well, then he doesn't know the wife and I quite well enough.

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