Dag 39; Varanasi

"So, tell us about Serge," säger Richard. Jag hinner inte börja förrän kyparen kommer med maten och alla får hjälpas åt att reda ut vem som beställt vad. Tumultet ger mig ett par dyrbara minuter att samla tankarna. Jag halvt om halvt hoppas att de ska hinna glömma bort att jag lovat att berätta.

När alla fått sin mat kräver så Richard åter, "So Stefan, what’s up with Serge?"


"Well, I met him on the train, actually. He was trying to get off at the station before Varanasi, and the conductor stopped him. He spoke very little English, but I speak a little French, I’ve studied French in school, so we started talking."

Jag rör runt i mina makaroner.

"I mean... I’m kind of a sucker for stories, you know. Sometimes I hang around just to see how it all will end."

"You’re attracted to lunatics," konstaterar Richard torrt. Han är en ruff kille, Nya Zeelandare.

Jag suger på hans ord ett ögonblick, fortsätter sedan,

"Yeah... anyway. Dig this: the guy is 42 years old, he comes from Bretagne, a part of France, has never spoken a word of English and this is his first trip out of France. And he goes to India!"

"Wow," säger Suse. Richards flickvän är från Australien, de möttes i Korea.

"And this is his fourth day, and he’s already in serious trouble. He tells me in carefully worded French that he has no money left because he has emptied his visa card."

De tittar förväntansfullt på mig. Jag laddar, det är så dumt att jag frustar ur mig

"I mean, he’d done every wrong in the book! Two days into his first trip outside of France, he goes to a shop, buys two marble tables for 500 euros and have them send it home!"

Jag ser hur det tar en sekund att sjunka in, och dundrar på,

"And he got no receipt, and he doesn’t even have the address of the place! And now he’s emptied his visa and he is unable to contact his bank in France over telephone, and he’s only tried using his internet bank once before and now he’s lost the code for it!"

Nu fattar de. De stönar av smärta.

Suse säger trevande,

"So, now he’s staying at the hotel, building up a bill, because he can’t pay?"


"Wow," säger Bill, "so these guys do exist... I guess that’s why they write about it in the guidebooks."

"These guys must have seen him coming from miles away," säger Suse mjukt, "he never had a chance."

Richard rullar sarkastiskt med ögonen.

"Yeah," fortsätter jag, "so the guy is obviously under a lot of stress. I mean, the guy seemed friendly at first, but it kind of got worse day by day. I saw the hysteria grow and at one time he fell in tears in a rickshaw telling me that this was the end of his journey and that he longed for his wife. And I’m kind of soft, you know, I want to help, so I patted him on the shoulder and lent him a hundred rupees so we could have breakfast together.

But in the end he was getting angry that I didn’t understand his French, you know, I tried to tell him to speak more slowly only to be met by another blurt of French. And he spoke to Johan as well. I told him Johan doesn’t speak French but he tried to speak French anyway, and fast. I think actually that if you’ve only lived in a community where everybody speaks your primary language, and you’ve never had to learn a second language, you really have a hard time understanding that you have to speak slowly with people.

I tried to tell him, you know, Serge, I don’t speak French, you have to speak slower, but he only got frustrated and mad at me, so in the end I just had to tell him that he was being aggressive and needed to calm down."

"But why India?" frågar Suse.

"Well, dig this. He told me that his wife had told him ’Serge, go to India!’ and I kind of built up this romantic image of this middle-aged man that had lived his whole life secluded in this little village with his little wife who saw his need to break out, encouraged him to fulfill his dreams and now he was on an adventure."

Suse ler mjukt, Richard vilar i sin sardoniska blick. Bill väntar flinande på fortsättningen.

"And we had kind of similar experiences with being married and all, it was a bonding thing, but then when I asked him why his wife couldn’t help him with his bank, he answered

No, we’re not together, we’re separated."

"Oh," säger de i mun.

"Yeah, It’s probably yet another crisis thing."

"But you know," säger jag, "it kind of put my own crisis into perspective. I mean, I watched in horrified fascination when we were having breakfast in a dhaba. I mean, we had a thali, and it was foul. Tasteless, I couldn’t eat more than a mouthful, then I told him, let’s go. But he just put a finger up and said ’regarde’.

And then he calls in the manager, and, with utterly few words in English and lots in French, tries to explain to the manager that the food was bad, we only ate a little, but we would like to eat there some other time, and that he would pay, but he didn’t really want to pay the full thali, but he could do it, but then he wouldn’t come back."

De tittar på mig klentroget och jag fyller i,

"Yeah. I just sat there like, Serge, what are you trying to accomplish, are you really trying to threaten an Indian manager of a small street restaurant with not coming back if we have to pay the full twenty rupees for a thali?

But yeah that was what he tried to do, and he was totally devastated when we got outside. ’It would have worked in France,’ he said, and I just like, ’Well, India is very different from France’"

Richard skakar sakta på huvudet, säger

"Did he even read the guidebook?"

"No, I don’t think so. And I know he didn’t open his ’Learn English quick’ -books either. You know, he bought two ’Learn English quick’-books, and they’re shit. Total shit."

Jag fortsätter, har fått upp momentum,

"And you know what? I wrote on a piece of paper so he could translate for himself that Serge, you should have a really good plan, I underlined ’really’ several times, before you decide to go back to Agra to rescue your tables. And I wrote, don’t expect any help from the police. And you know what he did today?"

Tre par ögonbryn höjs.

"He went to the police. And when he came back, I saw there were tears in his eyes again. He was like, ’They only wanted money!’ Baksheesh, baksheesh, baksheesh, to do anything! That’s all I was to them, baksheesh!"

"And I kind of, you know, ’Yeah, but you are. I told you so.’ but he didn’t listen. That’s when it all got kind of out of hand."

"It’s tragic really," summerar jag, "I feel terrible for laughing at it and telling you about it. But on the other hand it’s kind of put my own travel-rage crisis into perspective."

"Yeah," säger Suse.

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