Holy Moly

Holy Moly

On Sunday morning Shweta was not going cycling on Marine Drive, so I decided to make my morning productive regardless. I had been wanting to take pictures of the Gateway of India without the crowd, since it’s always swarming with people, and Sunday mornings are the quietest you’ll ever find Bombay, so I set out on a quest.

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The typical Sunday Morning. Are you jealous of the Happy Cycle Shop on Third Pasta Lane, or what?!

I am just standing there at the entry way where there is a good view of the structure, fumbling through my bag. Fairly oblivious to the happenings around me, suddenly my wrist was grabbed, my hand was flipped over, palm side up, and there appears in my hand this mysterious, white rock candy and a marigold flower. After staring at and contemplating this weird business in my hand, I look up slowly to find standing in front of me a drug addict* holy man.


I had been ambushed.

And there was no stopping it.

*Please note that there are real holy men in India and like this man, they wear this white cloth tied around their legs like a saggy, adult diaper, and they wrap their heads in warm colored fabrics and paint their faces with an array of stripes and dots on the yellow-orange spectrum. They are usually found at temples and holy sites, sometimes I see them on the trains. This guy was a holy man impersonator, again, with a suspiciously long pinky finger nail (just like the mail man), but it gave me a thrill, so I didn’t mind. 

So I look at him, and I say, “No, no, no, I don’t want it. I don’t want to pay for it. Don’t do it.”

What does he do?

In about eight whirlwind seconds he wraps a thread around my wrist while chant-mumbling a prayer, paints a red dot on my forehead and says, “TKay*, now you live long life, very long life now. You have money?”

*Tkay is the Hindi way of saying Okay.

I just laughed at him, shook my head, and said, “I don’t have to pay you because I told you no and I didn’t ask for this, butI kind of want to keep this bracelet, so I will give you ten Rupees.”


Not only was I able to document the Gateway of India, but I was also able to capture a very hippie picture of myself being poser Indian in front of the structure. I wish I had met a fraud holy man before I saw the Taj Mahal. 

He seemed pleased enough.

He was happy, I was happy, and now live long life.


I sat here after my big Indian life-lengthening experience and felt stupid as everyone who passed me by, eating my French toast was like, ohhh, one of those tourists, trying to be all spiritual and stuff.  I later licked my finger and erased the dot using the reflection of a car tented window. Knowing my luck, there was probably someone in there. 

Moral of the story? Though I no longer consider myself a tourist in Mumbai because I have been here for two months, Istill look like one. I am constantly harassed by people who are trying to get any bit of money they can from me because I am foreign.

Just today at the train station Ihad an adorable, old man with  a Santa Claus beard ask to draw my portrait. I told him I didn’t want to pay for it and I had a train to catch. He said, “But you’re from America, you have money.” And I said yes, but I don’t want to buy a picture of myself.” And then he said, “But I’m a real artist!” And I said, “I’m sure you are, but that’s my train!” And I got on the train. If I had time I may have actually sat with the guy just for the heck of it because he was kind of endearing. But alas, I have no portrait to share as of now.

Posts coming in the near future: Matrimony in the newspaper, my slum tour, puri delight, and hopefully many more. I have a lot of things to squeeze in here in the next few weeks!


6 thoughts on “Holy Moly

  1. 10 rupees!?! Isn’t that about 20 cents? Even Grandpa Frank and Grandma Marge tip better than that! Add to that that I’m distraught – Santa’s trying to earn some extra coin in his offseason so that he can make toys for poor kids or maybe spring to take Mrs. Claus somewhere nice (like South Dakota in November), and you stiff him! No wonder the world hates Americans! You, personally, are ruining Christmas for kids around the world! Perhaps you could go back, apologize, and explain to him that you know what you look like, but you would pay double if he’ll do a self-portrait of him sitting on Rudolph.

    1. I think that double pay for a better picture, one that includes Rudolph, is an amazing idea, dad! Also I learned my tipping habits from a man named Larry. And if it makes you feel better ten rupees can buy a lot. Like a bottle of water, a key chain, some Jim jams…

  2. Obviously Jen, you don’t know how it goes. Before you can be done unto, you do unto them. Holy man approaches you, then you make sure that you reapproach him first. Santa Clause asks to draw you picture, you have your travel easel and paint set ready and you tell him, “I’ve already painted yours.”

  3. JEN! This is your Julia Roberts moment! Eat, Pray, Fart!

    Plz bring back bracelets. One of mine broke and I am losing my “free spirit” credentials at the clinic, meaning I am not wearing as many Inappropriately colored jewelry.

    1. Kimmy, I haven’t seen it and I am ashamed. I knew I should have watched it on the plane, but I didn’t want to be THAT girl. Can we have a circus watch party when I come back and I can commentate? I’ll be on Ye lookout for bracelets for your wrist… I would hate for you to lose your status.

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