Today is a magical and glorious day: I’m headed to City Centre, a large local mall, all by myself. A few of the BJS staff are on call in case I need them, but my solo trip has been blessed. I feel like a teenager again, itching to hit the mall without my mom in tow. I’ve been walking to work alone, and have explored my neighborhood, so I’m slowwwwly spreading my wings.
The rickshaw ride- my very first- was 30 rupees. The pedal-powered rickshaw is a great way to travel short distances. It’s green, and a nice way to enjoy the view, albeit bumpy at times. Once I landed at the mostly-outdoor shopping complex, I started walking around in circles. The layout is not intuitive, nor is the directory. There are different blocks: A-F (I enjoyed the irony of being let out of my guesthouse only to land among a bunch of lettered blocks). Under each block is a list of shops by floor, rather than by category.
My eyes were wandering all over the place trying to find something to eat until I landed on a listing for Hushh, an Italian restaurant and bar. Bingo. Ok, where is block D? Well, if you want to see the mall layout, you need to walk about 100 yards to the map. Ok, got it. Wait, what floor was it on? I walked between the directory and map at least three times before I finally headed in the right direction, hoping the people sitting at the tea shop didn’t notice the confused foreigner wearing a path back and forth.
It was 12:30, which is a little early for lunch, but I was hungry. I’ve noticed most people eat between 1:30 and 2, so the restaurant was empty and lived up to its name- Hushh. Oh well, I want to eat as much as possible while I’m out so I may as well get started. The guesthouse food is fantastic, but woman cannot live on curry alone. Strangely, this restaurant doesn’t have regular pasta on the menu. They have a bunch of pizzas along with gnocchi, risotto and lasagna. Hmm, odd. Gnocchi and risotto can be tricky to make, so I opted for the veggie or “veg” lasagna as they refer to non-meat dishes here. The server up-sells me on garlic cheese bread. I know it’ll be too much food, but I can’t resist!
The bread arrives and looks divine- oblong pieces of Italian bread with melted cheese on top. It’s a far cry from the white sandwich bread I eat most mornings for breakfast. The lasagna follows and looks… well… like a square, white blob. I mean, I LOVE cheese, but is anything underneath it? Cutting through the center I discover there is indeed color lurking beneath, although not a whole lot. The red tomato sauce is UNDER the lasagna slice, not inside. Between the pasta sheets is a very fine mix of chopped vegetables that are almost unidentifiable. From what I can gather, it’s carrot, zucchini and corn. Oh, and a ton of partially-cracked black pepper. Then atop the mound is a layer of cream sauce, finished with a coating of melted mozzarella. Lasagna? Not really, but it’ll do.
The bill came to 1003 rupees, which is about $16. No wonder this place is empty! I could eat about 8 guesthouse meals for the cost of my Italian lunch. I just HAD to have that garlic bread, didn’t I? So I hand over my credit card, pleased to find a place that accepts them, and what do you know? The server comes back to tell me their machine is down. Of course it is. I barely have enough cash to cover the bill so my next stop will be an ATM… if I can find it.
After lunch and an eventual visit to the ATM, I do some window shopping, gobble down gelato and head for the movie theatre. There’s a Bollywood flick called Besharam playing. I mean, I’ve got to, right? I pay my $4 and go through the metal detector and bag search in the lobby. They see my camera and tell me they need to hold my battery. I guess they take piracy pretty seriously here, which isn’t a bad thing. So I pull out my battery and exchange it for a paper ticket, hoping I don’t forget to claim it after the movie.
The concession offerings include popcorn, momos (dumplings), corn, ice cream, sodas and… nachos! I order nachos and a diet coke figuring nothing harmful can grow in fake cheese, even at room temperature. I take a seat, which turns out to be the wrong one, and an usher helps me find my proper place. Instead of pricing tickets by age, here they do it by location. The pricier seats are at the top, with the lower tier pricing closer to the screen. I guess when I said “yes” to the box office attendant, he was confirming my seat. I had no idea what he was asking, but yes felt like the right thing to say.
The entire movie is in Hindi, but it doesn’t really matter because the plot is a wee bit thin and pretty easy to follow. It starts out as a heist, and then, in true Bollywood form, the lead actor enters a dance club wearing a gold suit and sunglasses. He bursts into song and dance as the club-goers serve as back-up dancers. Awesome. Four musical numbers and 16 sunglass changes later, I decide I’ve seen enough and head out of the theatre to claim my camera battery and head home. I find a rickshaw and manage to return to my guesthouse without incident- just before dark. I literally smile as I enter my room, quite proud of my achievement. Solo outing- check!