The second day in Delhi we came across a roadside fortuneteller. Speaking in only Hindi, he proceeded to tell Vicki her fortune. I tried to translate, but made many hilarious mistakes. He told Vicki: “Don’t get married in the month on December” – which I translated as: “December is a good time to get married.” He had a booklet with him, with astrological charts showing Jupiter in the Seventh House and so on, and he also had a caged parakeet that, for a fee, would waltz out of the cage and select your fortune from a stack of fortunes. We skipped that part because of the unethical treatment of animals. While Vicki got her fortune read, a mass of passers-by formed around us. The pundit tried to disperse the crowd – being gawked at lessens the esoteric nature of his trade, he said – but nobody budged. It was a good experience, and from it Vicki met her first boyfriend, the strapping youth named Gopal, an amateur astrologer himself, seen in the picture crouching in his faded designer jeans and knock-off Converse shoes, as per Indian style.
Vicki looking ridiculous wearing a compulsory muumuu at the Mecca Mosque in Delhi. Her t-shirt was too revealing for Islamic sensibility, although Indian women wearing provocative saris did not have to wear the florid-patterned scarlet letter.
Vicki posing in front of the things she dare not eat (unless it’s been artificially preserved and sold in a cardboard box for $5.99).
From the first night in India, Vicki was talking about drinking yak butter tea. Apparently some foreigners on the plane told her how delicious it was, and that she could procure it in Ladakh. Now I’ve had yak butter tea before. I drink it only when it’s compulsory, and even then I’ll try to dump it out a window if the chance permits. It’s an ungodly mix of a hunk of butter, a mound of salt and milk brought to a seething boil – in Hindi, it’s called “namumkin chai” – salt tea. But instead of telling Vicki this, I led her to believe that it was a soothing drink, sweet as honey. In this picture Vicki is taking her first sip. She didn’t spit it out like I thought she would; instead, clearly confused, her mind torn between her expectations and an unappetizing reality, she grabbed a spoon and stirred the evil potion, hoping a crystallized lump of sugar was at the bottom of the glass, or a dollop of honey – anything to make salt taste unsalty. After the cognitive dissonance cleared from her mind, I said: “You’ve been punked!” and took this picture.