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Solving the Phone Bill

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India – Up in the morning and headed over to the central telegraph office via bike rickshaw to meet with someone to get the letter we needed. We worked our way up their hierarchical supervisorial system until about an hour later we were sitting in the higher-up’s office in a formal meeting with three of the subordinates we have been dealing with.

Total conference and the dude spoke perfect English and he understood the concept of AT&T direct. No problems. He wrote us a letter saying things like “in your face” to the hotel dudes. Back to the hotel to read during the heat of the day, then over to the Taj for sunset. We wrote postcards and watched the Taj as the sun went down behind us. The Taj is definitely a totally different building at dawn in the daylight and at sunset truly spectacular. The sun went down and the stars were coming out when we decided to go and have another look inside. This time, we had brought our torches. We went inside and they told us it was closed, but we could go inside for 5 minutes anyway.

It was so nice being inside the Taj grounds – alone – there was absolutely no one else in the entire complex save the guards and it was a real treat. We exited the Taj and were making our ways through the ground towards the main gate, when the Australian girl, we were with, spotted the fire flies. I had not seen them since living in Washington D.C. and she had never seen them, so we went running over to where they were and began playing with them. It was a nice touch being alone at the Taj and playing with the fire flies in the gardens before we left.

We hung around the hotel and Rich went to bed early, while I hung out in the lounge with Sardar. I was talking with him and Sardar asked me if I wanted to go to an Indian dance party that was going on not far from the hotel. With nothing else on my agenda that evening, I said yes, and shortly thereafter we were walking through the backstreets of Agra at 11 p.m. at night. Sardar explained that the people were still celebrating Holi and that they would be going on all night.

We turned down this brightly lit street strewn with silver and gold garland over the street. There was a large decorated gateway and a huge outdoor tent not too far behind to the gait. We entered. I got in free because of my sahib status and once again I was the lone white man at yet another Indian festival. People were dancing, music playing, food stalls everywhere, yes, these people were partying and yes all eyes were on me. We walked around for a while, then we headed back to the hotel due to the lack of women.

Sardar and I sat on the roof talking and I found out he gets Rs. 500 a month plus food for working in the hotel. That is not a bad wage at all. He told me that the one habit the westerns have that Indian people find truly offensive is that of our blowing our nose into a piece of tissue and putting it into our pocket that is one the Indians cannot handle.

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