When I returned to New Delhi after five months and nearly 7,000 miles riding Kali around India, I did nothing but recoup for a few weeks. I stayed with Thomas and Louise again, while trying to sort out a place where I could write distraction-free. I called Mr. Lal, the owner of Alyndale, the Himalayan cabin I’d stayed in while studying Hindi before setting out on the journey. It was January, and too cold and snowy to go to the Alyndale, but his farm cottage was available.
In my journal dated January 26, 1998 I wrote:
“Yipee! [sic] I got a cottage in the country to work in. Mr. Lal called this afternoon and said had seen the cottage and thinks it will be just fine for me. It’s very green around his farm house and there are mustard fields all around. He was still a bit concerned that it was too far from Delhi for me––1 1/2 hours––and that it was too isolated. But I assured him I was looking for both of these things in a house. I’ll have my Kali with me to go to the market and Delhi if I need too [sic], and his farm manager will be at the farmhouse so I won’t be out totally alone. He told me the cottage is quite nice and he has put in a woodburning [sic] stove.”
My journal goes on to record that I went to Mr. Lal’s home in Golf Links at 11 a.m. the next day to get directions to the Lal Khethi (meaning infant or child in Hindi), and met Mrs. Lal for the first time. She wore Western clothes, a brown sweater and tan slacks, and clasp my hand when she welcomed me, introduced herself, and sat opposite me in one swift swoop.
“‘Sooo Connie. You want to stay at Lal Khethi. Oh, you’ll absolutely love it. I’m sure. I do. I absolutely adore it,’ she said pinching her eyes shut and puckered her [copper-colored] lips and slightly pulling in her cheeks as if she had just tasted the most heavenly food ever.
She told me there were some power shortages at the farm and I felt myself grow a bit concerned. I needed electricity for my computer. She asked how long I had been in India, said I was an old pro, then quickly stood up breathed something about having to dash, made a kissy-smacky noise in the air of my general direction and then skipped out the door like smoke.”
I don’t know what I was wearing, something faded and cheap no doubt, or what I said, probably not much of anything. But in my journal I wrote that when she left the room “I sat there thinking ‘I’m a 12-year-old girl who has just been in the presence of an ADULT.’”
Mr. Lal soon arrive in his morning clothes, explaining he’d been up since 6 a.m. with conference calls to Hong Kong. In the same journal entry I wrote:
“Here’s the deal. The cottage is one long, narrowish room, with a bed, a sofa, a coffee table, bathroom, kitchen, and wood-burning, pot-bellied stove. His farm manager Daya Nang will provide me with sheets, towels, pots & pans, plates, glasses, cutlery and anything else I might need. They will give me a gas cylinder, fridge (?), plus all the fruits and vegetables from their farm I can eat. For all this I will pay only Rs 6000, inclusive of all electricity, water, etc. bills. Pretty good!”
Rs 6,000 at the time was 40 rupees to the dollar, making the rent $150. Since I was concerned about lack of electricity (no electricity = no work), we agreed on a trial run.
“Tomorrow I’ll go to the farm and stay a couple of days. If I find the eratic [sic]electricity is not a problem for me, then I’m all set.”
Thomas loaned me his camping espresso maker with an attachable arm for steaming milk (he and Louise had a La Pavoni I’d become addicted to). The pot along with my camp stove and two pounds of premier coffee I bought in Delhi’s Khan market would keep me in cappuccinos, fueling my writing. I packed my little Powerbook 100 that I’d brought to India, my journals, and headed to Lal Khethi.
The ride was beautiful. I passed farm fields where mustard plants stood “like millions of tall, thin, green soldiers with bright yellow helmuts [sic]. Thought how beautiful and peaceful it was and would be. I could smell the faint sweat [sic] odor from the mustard fields and felt relaxed. This would be perfect, I told myself. But then….