The End of India
I’d not been neglectful towards my good fortune. Nearly three months into India, travelling with cash, computer, electronics, cell phone, and other valuables, and I’d not lost a thing. Knocking on wood many times, surely I was doing something right.
My luck ran out while passing through Dehli. In a span of fifteen minutes, I was hit twice by a pickpocket. First on the uber-packed city metro train. He got my wallet. Exiting the station I felt the sudden peculiar lightness in my pocket and became an instant maniac, checking everywhere, each pocket two or three times. “HOLY SHIT!” A crowd of old Indian men gathered around me, shaking their heads and smirking. “You’ve got to be more careful,” one of them said. At the time, the comment struck me as unforgivably rude. “I don’t need to hear that right now.” “It’s happened to all of us,” he returned. “This place is known for pickpockets.”
At least I still had my camera, relieved to find It still caribeened to my belt loop. I’d just arrived back in Dehli from the north. It was almost 10pm, and I didn’t have a hotel room booked for the night. After I recovered from the shock of being stolen from, I determined my first priority would be to get my credit and debit cards cancelled. Outside the metro terminal, I attempted to explain my predicament to the swarm of largely non-English-speaking rigshaw drivers who were already at my throat for business. I had a pocketful of change, 25 rupees I think. I did my best to explain and pantomime my lack of funds. I was in a rush to get to the rail station, because I needed to find a power supply for my laptop. I could use my phone to connect to the internet and start cancelling credit cards. Negotiating with the Rigshaw drivers went poorly. Shame on me, I lost my temper a few times, sad and weak moments. I paid dearly for it too. After finally securing a ride, we were halfway to the rail station, I realized my camera was now suddenly missing as well. Had I been smart and taken it off my belt and put it in my bag? No.
At the train station, the only place I could find power was at the little police depot, which was unfortunate, because after explaining what had happened and why I urgently needed to get online to cancel credit cards, they made me fill out a waste-of-space police report, which entailed my writing on a blank sheet of paper, as instructed verbatim—“My camera and wallet were stolen at the Dehli Metro station. Please return to me my camera and wallet.” I didn’t ask questions I just wrote and signed.
After writing the “report,” I was finally given access to a power outlet and proceeded with the business of cancelling my cards. It took about an hour total. Afterwards, when I attempted to walk out of the station, one of the officers demanded money from me. “You do realize I just lost my wallet!” He responded by pointing to my suitcase. I responded by walking out. He followed. He called me over and we argued near one of the police vans. He then attempted to explain to me that I had to go to another station and fill out another “report.” He opened the back door to one of the vans and told me to get in. The back of the van looked dingy and hopeless. I weighed my options: go get extorted for cash at 11pm after just having lost my wallet and camera, or, walk off and see if I got arrested. I chose the latter. I was screamed at but never touched.
This was definitely a low point. A falling out of sorts that confirmed that it was near time for me to say farewell to the subcontinent. Nonetheless, as the shrewd officer suspected, I had a solid cash-reserve scattered throughout my suitcase and was thus able to fund my final week in India. I spent my last nights in Mumbai catching up with a good friend in Colaba, a most amazing time and an appropriate farewell. On my last night, we slept outside by the waterfront, near the Gateway to India, surrounded by the many desperate and impoverished for whom such sleeping habits were a nightly norm. The Gateway to India. It had been the very first landmark I’d seen upon my arrival in the country. A fitting end that it would tower over me as I dreamed my final dreams.