My long blonde hair is a big hit in India. Indians are used to seeing white people with long hair, but those people are usually hippy backpackers with greasy, dreadlocked long hair. I keep mine combed and conditioned. The Indian salesperson complements it to prime me for a sale. The average Indian asks about it before asking to get a picture with me. It’s kind of fun, but it also draws some pretty strange attention.
Jaipur was beautiful but hectic. Amongst other beautiful sites I had toured Albert Hall, Amber Fort, and the Temple of Ganesh. I was worn out by the rickshaw taxi driver though. The ride between sites was headache each time. The rickshaw taxi driver kept bringing me to his friends’ overpriced tourist shops, kept trying to end my tour before the agreed upon time, and kept asking for more money than we had agreed upon. By the time I got back to my hotel I was ready for a freaking drink.
I did my research and found that Jaipur had some of the worst nightlife in India. I had an option though. I had inadvertently agreed to meet up with some Indian vendors that had been trying to sell to me earlier that day.
The rickshaw driver had brought me to this shit jewelry store, and I had repeatedly refused to buy their made-in-China jewelry and knick knacks.
“You have nice long hair sir. It just like Bollywood actor. How about nice cashmere scarf to go with it?”
“No thanks. I’m not buying anything.”
“This is cheap for you sir. You are from America.”
“I know this doesn’t cost much for Americans. I don’t need it. I threw away half of my clothes before this trip, and I don’t need any new ones. On top of that I don’t have a job. On top of that I’m traveling around with a backpack that has limited space. I periodically stop and throw away worthless stuff like this that I don’t need. If I bought this I would have to throw it away.”
When they realized that I wasn’t going to buy any of their worthless shit they decided that they wanted “to be friends, no business”.
After a pre-planned relationship-building talk the one leading the pitch asked me if I wanted to get dinner and drinks with them later so I could have a chance to “hang out with real Indians.”
Trapped in the spell and without thinking I agreed. I immediately realized this hangout between “friends” meant going to their buddy’s restaurant and paying way too much for food and drinks.
“Can you take me to a bar with other tourists?” I asked, “I’d like to meet other backpackers.”
“Why would you want to go to a tourist bar and pay too much for drinks when you can hang out with real Indians?”
My new “friend” had a good point….except that I felt like more of a piggy bank to them. I can’t wait to hang with these dudes who see me as a pocketbook and throw canned sales tactics at me all night. I was thrilled in anticipation of the great cultural discussion we were going to have about handmade suits and jewelry.
“Just remember, you buy your drinks and we buy ours,” he added, meaning, “You buy food from our restaurant at 3x price and we’ll eat here at cost like we do every night.”
He topped it off with the straight-from-scam-school sales technique of giving someone a reputation to live up to, “And that’s why we love Americans. They always keep their promises, so we know you’re going to come. See you at 7.”
I decided as soon as I left that place that I was blowing them off. I didn’t want to get taken to some far off bar and then loaded up with liquor with these Indian guys that I didn’t know. India is pretty safe for tourists, but when you travel alone you have to watch out for yourself. If that means occasionally being rude and dishonest to random strangers so be it.
When I got back I went online and found the only place that popped up when I searched “bar”. It was called TC Bar & Grill. Based on my prior searches for bars in India, I wasn’t completely convinced that it was a real bar. It seemed more like an Indian TG Fridays. I had nothing to do though, and it was only a $3 cab ride away. “Whatever,” I thought, “let’s check it out.”
I arrived at the entrance and saw two bouncers monitoring the entryway that led to a patio with music. It looked decent. I went in, passed through the patio, and walked downstairs. It had a regular, Western-style, bar on the one side, and a dance floor on the other side. It was the first Western-style bar I had seen since I’d been in India. To top it off there was a DJ playing a good mix of American Rock ‘n’ Roll hits.
I went to the bar and got a drink. They would not serve just one beer. Minimum serving was two beers per order. “Great way to get hammered way faster than planned,” I thought. I grabbed a couple and waited at the bar, staring into the blasting music. I stood at the bar waiting for people to come so I could make conversation. Two Indian women came up first. I kept silent as I didn’t want to risk starting any fights while hanging out solo in land that was foreign to me.
I decided that it was best to start off by making some guys friends. A group of three guys came over and I said something about being impressed by the tunes. The shortest guy was wearing a purple shirt and did most of the talking. His name was Apu. He invited me to hang at their table. I had a crew now.
“Where are you from?” Apu asked.
“Oh nice. Great country. With your hair I did not think USA.”
“Yeah, it’s different I guess.”
“No it good though. You look like actor from Bollywood.”
So far this was very typical based on the Indians I’ve met. They are generally very friendly and welcoming to outsiders. Also every Indian man is pretty much a world class freestyle dancer. There’s no shyness when it comes to dancing. Public displays of goofy and embarrassing (but kick ass) dance moves are the norm. Watch a Bollywood music video if you want to see what I’m talking about.
We moved over to the dance floor and the guys started busting out typical crazy Indian dance moves. They pointed at me so I joined them. I introduced some off my offbeat American favs, going mostly with The Penguin, but transitioning back and forth to Double Guns.
After a few minutes I grew tired of the meatfest dance circle, so I took a break and sat down. Apu came over shortly thereafter and started doing some silly dance. He motioned me to get up. I did so and did some retarded move with my hands to keep my new friends happy. I sat back down.
It is also pretty typical of Indian guys to go out in a small group and keep to each other all night. The boldest occasionally try to squeeze their way into the closed off circles of Indian women. Since Indian women generally turn down anyone that they haven’t been introduced to by a friend you see most of the men keeping to themselves. It’s a different scene than what I was used to, but it was that or watching movies at the hotel.
I waited a few songs, and then got up to join the group. Apu put his arm around my shoulder in a friendly gesture. I put my arm over his shoulder for a few seconds before moving aside. He looked at me and made a hand gesture. I thought he was trying to do a hang ten sign with his pinky and his thumb, but he inadvertently included his pointer finger, which made it the “I love you” sign in English sign language. “He must not know what this means,” I thought. He also didn’t know you were supposed to pivot your wrist back and forth when you do a hang ten sign. He just held it there motionless and looked at me, clearly, but inadvertently, telling me he loved me through sign language.
The other thing about Indian men is that they frequently hold hands or walk arm in arm with their guy friends. When I first saw this I thought that India had a disproportionately high gay population, but it turned out that this was just part of the culture. I think the guys seek out a degree of affection from each other because any kind of affection with women is forbidden before marriage. Anyways, as far as I was concerned this was just a group of typical Indian guys. Apu was just getting annoying.
More songs came and Apu periodically came over to embrace me. It was getting a little weird, even by Indian standards. He started to walk to the bar and motioned me to come.
“Do you like here?”
“Yeah it’s good man. Thanks for taking me into your group?”
“Do you have girlfriend in America?”
“Why not? You are good looking guy.”
“American culture is very different. We generally get married later.”
This was a pretty standard question from Indian men. They generally can’t have relations with women before they’re married, and so they generally get married earlier than men from the Western world.
“No girlfriend? So what you do later?”
It had gone from a little weird to really weird.
“I’ll go to my hotel and go to sleep.”
“No I’ll join you,” he whispered, making a stroking gesture with his hand.
“No thanks dude. I’m not gay.”
His shoulders slumped forward and he made a frown, “My bad luck.”
“Yeah that’s shitty man. See you later.”
With that I peaced out. From the experience I learned that my long blonde hair occasionally got the attention of gay Indian men. I learned to spot them after that, but some were never shy about asking. It also gave the salespeople another pointless reason to talk to me.
No way I’m going to cut it though. It’s a reflection of my personality and current adventure as a free spirit traveling the world. I’ll put up with the occasional weirdo. Someday it’s going to turn gray and fall out….. sooo I’m going to rock it for now!