I was reading through some stories I wrote a while ago about our journey in India back in 1990-91, and thought I’d post this one here. Hope you enjoy it!
Most travelers who have visited the Rajasthani town of Jaiselmer, India would tell stories of camel safari salesmen accosting them as soon as they arrive in town. They would talk of the continual harassment by those salesmen as they wandered the streets of the Indian desert town. Oh sure – wonders exist in Jaiselmer, but they are overshadowed by the constant pressure from the salesmen.
But my story is different. I wasn’t bombarded by salesmen trying to sell me a camel safari in the desert. Perhaps the fact that the few times I ventured from the hotel I ended up puking in the gutters had something to do with it. I suspect those camel salesmen had better things to do with their time than clean barf off their animals. But the fact of the matter is that, when I was sufficiently recovered enough to embark on a camel safari, I had to go out in search of those salesmen myself. But that’s not what this story is about. This story is about a special ‘something’ Jaiselmer offers.
I love a good lassi. I love how that yogurty drink can quench my thirst on a hot day, can perk up rainy times, or bring a special sparkle to just about any moment. Once the worst of my sickness passed I would wander the streets taking in the all the wondrous sights and sounds. And I would inevitably stop for a lassi.
It didn’t take long for me to discover that Jaiselmer was known for a particular type of lassi -a special blend of spices mixed with yogurt. I quickly learned just how tasty they were and, as I wandered the streets regaining my strength, I sought out lassi shops advertising ‘Special Lassi’. Day after day I drank Special Lassi. Waiters in restaurants were more than willing to run next door to the lassi shop so I could even have lassi with my dinner.
One night we tried a new restaurant. I gave my order to the waiter and requested that he also find me a Special Lassi. He looked at me with a puzzled look. ‘Special Lassi?’ he asked. ‘Yes,’ I replied, ‘Can you get a Special Lassi for me?’
‘Ahhh ‘ a look of understanding crossed his face. Yes, he could get me a Special Lassi.
Our meal arrived and the waiter assured me that my lassi was on its way. We ate our food and waited. The waiter took our plates and assured me again my lassi was coming. We waited and waited .and waited .
At long last our waiter approached our table, proudly bearing a glass of some kind of evil-looking beverage. The lassi I expected was a yellowish liquid. This was a vile brownish-greenish mixture with junk floating in it. But our waiter was so proud; so happy to have been able to fulfill my request I couldn’t possibly send it back. He stood back to watch my pleasure in drinking his lassi.
I took one sip. It was awful. Not just awful – it was nasty, horrible, and vile. With a bitter flavor that nearly choked me. Our waiter stood nearby, his pride evident. I couldn’t disappoint him when he had obviously gone to great lengths to secure this for me.
I took another sip. I almost puked right there on the table. I looked around for a flower pot, a hidden crevice, something anything to pour the lassi in. But our waiter stood there watching my every move. Finally, ordering my stomach to cooperate, I managed to consume it all, thanked our waited profusely, and headed out – vowing to never order another Special Lassi from that restaurant again.
Pretty soon the ground started shaking. Well maybe it didn’t exactly shake, but it definitely moved. That place I tried to put my foot had moved three inches lower. And then suddenly it was a couple inches higher. My head began to spin. I clutched onto John’s arm and tried to make sense of what was going on.
And then it hit me. I was a victim of a simple case of miscommunication. I meant Special Lassi in the sense of Jaiselmer’s unique blend of spices. Our waiter meant ‘Special’ lassi in the sense of marijuana. It was a full three days before my head felt right again, and I know I will never forget that ‘Special Something’ about Jaiselmer.
Read our book, What Were We Thinking? for more stories about our year-long bicycling adventure in Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Bangladesh. Read more here.