Because there are only so many tomorrows before I leave this country, and because I accidentally fell for her, Aliya was able to convince me to go to Indian Woodstock.
Indian Woodstock: not really called that, but an all night music festival with hippies and camping under the stars–so it may as well be called Indian Woodstock. That’s what I named it, anyway.
We are on the bus. I have had to pee for the past two hours. It is our third hour on the bus because Indian Woodstock is happening in some village in the middle of nowhere, and the middle of nowhere takes a while to get to from Bangalore. I am complaining to Aliya about how badly I have to pee. The cast, by the way, is: Aliya, Namrata, Thanvi, and me. When we all finally get off the bus, halfway into our fourth hour on it, I go to an alleyway and relieve myself, and we hitch a ride with a married couple for the last five kilometers to the amphitheater. It is while stuffed in the backseat of the married couple’s car that I am told the price of admission to Indian Woodstock.
The price is 350 Rupees.
It is while in line ten minutes later that I hatch my plan:
Lie to get into Indian Woodstock for free. Pretend that you are a journalist from New York City and that you are going to write about Indian Woodstock. See if it works.
It does work. Here’s how:
I borrow a notebook from Aliya–it is to be my prop, evidence of my reportorial bonafides. I hold it prominently in my hands. Aliya, Namrata, and Thanvi are brown: they pay and go inside the gates to wait for me. I’m white. I say, “Hi. My name’s Tom. I’m a journalist and I’d like to write about the event tonight. Can I get a ticket comped, or what?” I wag the notebook around. I’m a little bit drunk, but I’m playing the role pretty convincingly–mostly by virtue of my race. The woman taking tickets eyes me with curiosity.
“Are you on the list?”
“No. Not on list.”
“Which paper you work for?”
“The Village Voice,” I say. “New York City,” I add, for emphasis. I don’t want to say the Times, of course, because that’d give away the game.
She tells me to hold on, gets on her cell phone, calls boss-man, explains that there’s some white guy reporter who’s not on the list but wants to go inside for free anydamnway. She passes the phone to me. I say Hello.
“Hello, sir, this is Eugene. I run the event. You are a reporter?”
“Yeah, yeah,” I lie. “I’m in India on holiday, but I figured I’d file some copy while I’m here.”
“And which newspaper do you work for, sir?”
“The Village Voice,” I say again. I tell him that it’s based in New York City. “It’s an alternative weekly. I’m not on the list or anything, but I was wondering if you could put me on it.”
He is not nearly skeptical enough, but he asks, just in case, “And you are a real reporter, sir?”
“Okay, please pass phone back to…” and I do so mid-sentence, and try my damndest not to burst out laughing. The ticket woman hangs up the phone, gives me my ticket, I get a stamp on my hand from the bouncer, and I’m in. For free.
Easy as pie.
We find seats in the amphiteater, watch a few sets, a few artists. There are good ones and bad ones, but eventually it’s one in the morning, and Aliya and I need to eat and find a place to sleep.
So we eat.
Then we start walking around in the forest, looking for a soft spot.
“There’s one. How about that?” I say.
“No. Too many people,” Aliya replies. Then, “How about that one?”
“Um, it’s kind of small, don’t you think?” I point out.
And right then I fall into a hole.
Like, literally, a hole. In the ground. That kind. I fall into it.
Quickly: holes in India are everywhere, are unmarked, and are often deep. Watch out.
The hole I fall into has a jagged boulder in it, which tears open my right shin in two spots and my left foot in one. I am on the ground, adrenaline pumping, thinking “Fuck.”
Aliya: “Are you okay?”
Me: “Not really, no.”
She helps me up, we walk (or rather, she walks and I hobble) to a bathroom, I flush my wounds with water and soap, and Aliya goes to the ticket people to request first aid supplies for an injured Western journalist. I am on my back, with my feet in the air above my heart, slugging rum to keep the pain down, and thinking about karma.
Aliya comes back. She comes back with gauze, iodine, and swabs of medical cotton.
The iodine hurts like hell, and the gauze and the cotton will stick to the wounds and be painful to rip off and re-dress, but for the moment I’m laughing. I’m laughing at Indian Woodstock and the terrible blues band piddling through its set. I’m laughing about the microbes I’ve allowed into my body by washing my wounds with tap water. And I’m laughing about falling into a hole in the fucking forest in the middle of nowhere, India. Because crying about it wouldn’t solve anything.