I’m going to India for six days at the end of March and decided to find a stranger on the internet whose couch I could catch a few waves on. Gnarly, ay? So 2015.
Couch Surfing is this splendid online platform that allows you to connect with people from all over the world, and if they’re up for it, stay with them in their homes to get a real lick of local life. Just imagine all the different ways people pick their nose and play Nintendo in their jim jams.
The cost to you, the surfer dude, is nothing more than a bit of cultural exchange and mutual respect. There’s perhaps the minuscule chance that your host will want to eat your bones or a sexual part of you, but that’s about as bad as it gets, it’s swell town.
I’ve organised to stay with a self-proclaimed ‘fabulous gay’ in Delhi. He’s a vegetarian and a makeup artist and quite frankly, I can’t wait to get him to do me up like a Bollywood babe every day.
But the thing about exploiting a free online service like this is you really should be prepared to give back to the community, not just take from it… like a chump. It’s pretty easy to spot the difference between someone who’s a genuine cultural-experience seeker and someone who’s just looking for a gang bang.
Your profile page can look something like this and everyone will automatically want to meet you and be your friend and brush their teeth with you:
Or it can look like this and no one wants to surf near your stinky couch because it reads like it’s riddled with shark rape.
So in the spirit of matching the generosity of hosts willing to let me invade their personal space, I changed my status to “WANTS TO MEET UP” and let the completely unwanted requests for friendship flow in.
Obviously I did’t want to meet up with a total stranger from the internet unless it was a girl from Tinder. It’s horrendous small chat territory without the mutual understanding of how a dating app works. It’s like when you’re visiting a new city and someone says “Oh I have a friend who lives there, you guys should meet up.”
Um. Thanks. No. We’re not dogs. We don’t just smell each other’s bottoms and go play ball.
But, like I said, in the interest of being a giver and not a taker – not to mention all the comfort zone yahoo I bang on about – I agreed to meet Apu who was visiting from India – the land of contrasts and rich culture; body odour and butter chicken.
His name wasn’t really Apu. It was Hemant. But it could have been Apu because the world loves to stereotype an Indian. I could have assumed he loved cricket too. And worked in IT. And was all about arranged marriages.
He didn’t arrange a marriage with me but he did arrange for us to go to the Imperial War Museum which is equally as romantic. Especially because I had to ride the Bakerloo Line to get there – the stale-old-man of London’s underground. It’s like traveling around in the waiting room of a welfare centre.
I awkwardly waited for him in a crummy old Costa coffee shop as I wondered if the blog is really worth all the nervous energy I create for myself. I didn’t even have my phone to pretend to talk on when he arrived. I was incommunicado and sat there pretending to write interesting things in my diary like some quirky arty type.
He was fashionably late, but when he finally showed up his clothes were pretty trendy – not traditional Indian dress – so the fashionably part made sense. I watched like a creep from the window as he approached, counting down to the last second before the awkward meet and greet.
5, 4, 3, 2, 1…
Fuck. DO WE HUG? Fuck. I hate hugs.
We didn’t hug. We high-fived like legends.
I knew what he looked like because we’d added each other on Facebook. I’d been pleased to see he was clean shaven because I’d read it was a sign of a respectable fellow in India. Probably about as accurate as saying a Brazilian wax makes for an upstanding woman.
Needless to say, a 26-year-old working-class man from Delhi is about as Westernised as a non-Westerner can get. He knew more about about popular culture than me and works as a Financial Analyst watching stock prices in the big smoke – like the Wolf of Old Delhi Street or something.
We walked to the museum making friendly small chat because that’s how these things go. It always ends up being fine once you get past meet and greet and work out if they’re boring as bat shit or not.
He was actually really lovely, but his accent would have been enough to keep me engaged in the conversation anyway. I LOVE an Indian accent. It’s adorbs. And a million times easier to understand than the Irish.
I got a little bit embarrassed in the war museum. Not because I only gave 20p to the donation box but because the A Family in Wartime exhibition made war in England look like the Mary Poppins film compared to the shocking stuff we’ve seen emerge from the rest of the world – including things happening in some parts of India.
One wall had a ridiculous fact about how the poor Brits didn’t have access to bananas for a few years after they disappeared from shelves during World War 2.
VOMIT IN MY MOUTH, ENGLAND. You pussies.
Hemant reckons I’m in for a total culture shock when I go to Delhi. He advised me not to go into the slums at night. Not even for the sake of the blog. BUT I WANNA.
I asked him for an interesting fact about India and he supplied me with the fact that India becomes a dry zone (no alcohol sold or permitted to be consumed) a couple of days before, and on the day of elections. Keep peoples’ votes from being slurry. I liked that fact.
That evening I took him to my friend’s place for some drinks and snacks because I wanted to show him how exciting Aussies living in England were. We unintentionally served a pretty random selection of food – doughnuts, chorizo, olives, vegetable crisps – and he had never had any of it before! Whacky doo, what a treat, I remember my first olive.
We then played a Jenga drinking game which required us all to do the following tongue twister:
One smart fellow; he felt smart.
Two smart fellows: they felt smart.
Three smart fellows; they all felt smart together.
YOU TRY IT.
Now try it in an Indian accent. Lol your pants off.
It was a good day. He is a good guy. And now I have a new friend. And that’s hard to achieve in a world full of people you don’t generally like better than yourself.