I originally intended to stay in India only 5 weeks as part of my Wandergliding trip around the world. Here I am, over 3½ years later so you may be wondering why I’m still here. Perhaps you have thought that I just fell in love with India but in fact it seems she had her own plans for me. I haven’t been divulging my whole story on my blog as I was hesitant whether I wanted this information to be published into the public domain. Now that the whole affair I’m about to recount is over, I feel that it is worth telling the world in hopes that perhaps other travellers to India will learn from my mistakes and not fall into the same traps that I have. I also want to shed light on some of the injustices, inefficiencies and incompetencies of the Indian judicial system. Thirdly, I think that sharing my story will be cathartic for me and allow me to close one of the crazier chapters of my life.
It all started back in December 2010. I had only been in India for 3 weeks by this point when the following occurred:
December 7th, 2010
It was past 2 am as the iron barred door clanged shut and the officer locked the archaic looking horseshoe shaped padlock, sending a chill up my spine. I gazed up at the ominous silhouette of the bars on the back wall of the cell illuminated by the solitary naked bulb hanging outside from the ceiling of the covered walkway. What have you gotten yourself into Dave? The gravity of the situation was still setting in. Here I was, halfway around the world in a foreign country, spending my first night ever in jail.
I surveyed my new surroundings. It was a fairly large room, about six meters square with a cold dusty concrete floor and no furniture. There were two doors on the back wall, one of which I knew contained a filthy Indian style squat toilet as I had visited it earlier in the evening before I knew that this would be my room for the night. I squinted at the pale coloured walls. What are those black markings? Please don’t be smeared feces...
While I was being led to the cell I saw an old thin tattered gray mattress draped across a small wall that separated the covered L shaped walkway from a small patch of dead grass strewn with partially burnt garbage. “Do you want?” the officer asked in broken English. I instinctively grabbed it and as I dragged it into the cell chunks of the blue stuffing fell out of many of the gaping holes.
As I lay on my back attempting to smooth out the lumps and bumps of the disgusting fetid mattress, I contemplated the events of the last seven hours. How did I go from sitting at a restaurant on a Goan beach enjoying a beautiful sunset to this?
Okay, don’t worry too much Dave. You can get through this. The sub-inspector said that it wasn’t a big deal as it happens to foreigners all the time and that I should be out tomorrow or worst case scenario the following day. I pulled part of the flimsy mattress over me as the temperature was starting to drop and I was only wearing shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. Not just any shirt either, it happened to be my recently deceased father’s and I had worn it to his “Celebration of Life” ceremony just six months earlier. “I’m sure glad he can’t see me now” I thought. I tried to close my eyes and sleep but my mind was racing. It’s going to be a long night...