Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Initial impressions of Mexico City

[Written last Christmas; I am reminded of Mexico City today after the earthquakes]

I think latitude determines cultural similarities more than longitude. Mexico City reminds me of a combination of Kolkata and Mumbai (and of India in general) in so many ways. There is a distinct smell of the city, a wintry smell of sunshine and fog and a little bit of smoke. I get the same smell every time I visit Kolkata. Although cities in the US are much colder, the interiors are warm. Here, it is just like the winters of Kolkata. You will be freezing inside the house but outside, the sunshine would be comforting. There are hundreds of cops, but no one pays heed to them. People jaywalk all the time. This is what gives me hope. There is something dysfunctional about a sanitized culture where there is no chaos, where people do not cross the streets on a red light or follow the rule book all the time. I have been told that I will need to bargain even at the currency exchange shops. Armed with my limited Spanish vocabulary spanning maybe 30-40 words, I am all set to explore this city. Although my German vocabulary is only marginally better, I never felt at ease culturally. But this seems like a place where I could use my skills from India. 

I landed at 7 am and by 10 am, I was already accosted by a guy barely out of college who speaks no English (I can only suspect that he wanted to sleep with me because when his insistence did not work and I feigned ignorance about both Spanish and English, he folded his hands gesturing me to sleep) and mistaken as a hooker by a cop whom I tried asking about money (currency exchange store) in English. None of them harmful encounters of course. But the most cruel thing happened to me when they chucked my goat biryani in the airport's trash can. I mean, I must have been out of my mind, trying to sneak in a goat inside Mexico. A lot of the dinner last night had gone uneaten, and I wanted to devour the goat from Seattle in Mexico City. They took out that box and another box of five besan laddoos and eyed both suspiciously while I kept praying that if they have to throw one of them, let them throw the sweet. But after gathering interesting biryani eating experiences from all over the world, this one was a failure. I felt that sharp stab of pain in my chest as I parted with my biryani. And since it is Sunday as well as Christmas, all currency exchange stores are closed, leaving me with no money and hence no food except those five besan laddoos. One of the ATMs asked a flat fee of $31.82 for using my credit card. I have a feeling that things will work out and I will not have to go hungry in this city. I later realized that it was a double-dollar sign, referring to 31.82 Mexican dollars.

Things got interesting last night when I was waiting for the flight at a California airport and they made all announcements in Spanish (we were still on the US soil) when I had to go ask them to kindly repeat things in English. It brought back many a memories from the German chapter. When asked to make a line to board the flight, the line looked exactly like it would do in India- a scatter plot. In between, an old man even winked at me and let me cut through the line. I already love this place.

Nothing perhaps stings more than being pesoless and then your goat biryani being thrown away. Merry Christmas, everyone.


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