“My buddy described it like this: if you had a bit of poo on your arm, would you wipe it off with toilet paper or wash it off with water?” Tristan says.
“I guess I would wash it off with water. But what if you don’t have soap? Then you’ve got poop bacteria on your hand,” I say.
“Well that’s why Indians always use their right hand for greetings and eating…everything, you know?” Kanga says.
“I think I would accidentally use my left hand. I haven’t been raised only using my right hand. Also, I’m left-handed so I’m vaguely insulted by the whole ‘poop hand’ thing,” I say.
“Well you’ve got to do it once,” Tristan says.
“You actually feel really clean,” Kanga says. “I do it all the time now. When I first came to India, I said to myself, ‘I’ll never use one of those toilets. But now I have. And I said, ‘I’ll never wipe with my hand. But now I have, and I quite like it!”
We walk to my tailor’s street in Pondicherry, because the lightweight bag I bought is ripping where the strap connects. There are several tailors, all seated and waiting with their sowing machines. I’ve already made a connection with the fellow who made my sleep sack. He fixes my bag for 30 rupees.
From there, we walk over to the local outdoor market, where Indians are selling everything you can imagine: garlic, tomato, eggplant, coconut, loads of fish, flowers, bananas, pasta, nuts and coffee. We wander around taking photos and then duck out for a samosa and milk coffee.
“I’ve never been much a ring person,” Kanga said, “But now I have six. I just had to find the right rings!” He admires his bejeweled fingers.
“I think I look kind of like an elf,” he says. “And I can’t get the ring off unless I turn it backwards.”
“Probably because of your knuckles,” I say.
“Yeah, AH! I have fat knuckles. Dammit,” Kanga says.
We all stroll down the Mission Street towards the French Quarter in Pondicherry. When we reach the seafront, we walk towards a coffee shop right on the ocean while the breeze carries us along.
“I think I will live in Pondy someday,” Kanga says.
“You could live there,” I say, pointing to a gorgeous French looking building with yellow paint and white trim, and an iron railing around a balcony on the second floor.
“I could live there,” Kanga says. “Than I could drink cappuccino everyday and learn some French.”
The latte we get is a proper size, in a big mug, and we sip slowly while we watch the full moon rise. The chocolate ice cream is a real treat, and the whole thing comes to around $3.
It’s getting late by the time we’ve had dinner, and we get to the bus station around 9:45pm. The trick is to catch the bus when it’s full. If you get on it when it’s empty, you’ll be sitting on it until it’s full enough to be worth a trip. We sit on the bus for 40 minutes before the driver revs the engine and we depart. During that time, the smell of pee wafts in and out of the bus, and a young drunken Indian says to Tristan:
“Responsibility is my country. I am very sincerity, very likedly.”
“I don’t 100% understand you,” Tristan says.
We get off the bus and are walking home to Sadhana when Kanga realizes we’ll be locked out.
“They lock the gate at 10, I think,” he says.
“And we don’t have a phone to call,” I say.
As it turns out, it’s possible to lie down on your side and inch through the gap between the gate and the fence. Whew.
On the way to our hut, I see the biggest, most magnificent toad I’ve ever seen in my entire life. He’s the size of a large rat, maybe, and light green with shimmery colors on his warty back. He looks at me calmly. I step forward and crouch down for a closer look. I’m strangely nervous, like he’s a mutant toad. Still, he doesn’t hop away.
I think, if ever there was a toad who was actually a prince and only needed a kiss to transform back, this would be THE toad. But I don’t kiss him.