We'd been trying to watch The 40-Year-Old Virgin all day.
Aliyah had been proclaiming for weeks that this was one funny movie. So I downloaded it. But this being India, we were unable to play the downloaded film on either of our computers, despite multiple hours of me trying to come up with slapdash solutions like some sort of techie-Macgyver. No matter how much I threw around words like "codec" and "defrag," the movie still wouldn't play. I was stumped.
As day turned to night, our hunger for The 40-Year-Old Virgin still unsatisfied, we set off for Palika Bazaar, where we'd heard bootleg movies could be bought cheaply and easily.
We arrived at the (literally) underground market and began squishing our way through the crowded subterranean passageways as hawkers tried to coax us into stalls boasting electronics, clothes, jewelry and perfume -- all of it, we assumed, either stolen, counterfeit or defective.
"Hey buddy," one Indian said, "you come look store me."
Without slowing my stride, I peeked into his store, which had on display a stack of belt buckles, a rack of colorful shawls, and a whole lot of out-of-the-box electronics. "No thanks," I said. "I don't want."
Narrowing his eyes, lowering his voice and somehow retracting his neck like a turtle, the tout then tried this simple lure: "Porn." It was a sales pitch I'd hear a dozen times during our short visit to the bazaar.
Finding a stall with 40-Year-Old Virgin cousin The Wedding Crashers on display, we stopped to search. This, however, proved to be more difficult than using the handy layout of most American video stores, where separate film genres are further organized alphabetically.
"40-Year-Old Virgin?" Aliyah asked. The guy behind the counter nodded and slapped a pile of 100 or so disks in amateurishly-labeled plastic sleeves down on the counter. We looked through them all. Nothing remotely close.
While I'd heard of many of the big-name movies presented to us (X-Men, The Bourne Ultimatum, and Transformers) some were laughably unfamiliar. At the top of that list was something absurdly claiming to be Jurassic Park 4, and even more ludicrously subtitled The T-Rex Complex.
Many of the disks were compilations, boasting as many as a dozen different films on one DVD. Some were thoughtfully arranged. A Will Smith collection, for instance, or eight boxing movies on one disk. The composition of others was beyond confusing. A handful of Superman films on the same disk as the Saw series? The Sound of Music sharing digital real estate with Hellboy? Even a DVD of wedding-themed films inexplicably contained Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle.
We looked through a half dozen stacks of pirated movies -- hundreds upon hundreds of films -- without finding 40-Year-Old Virgin, though we did find a handful of movies (Rocky Balboa for me, The Holiday for Aliyah) that we bought at about $2 a piece.
We went to another stall. Aliyah began flipping through movies while a smarmy shopkeep tried to sell me a fancy-looking, feature-laden, box-less Samsung DVD player for about $30.
"Is this a real Samsung?" I asked.
"Yes," he smiled.
"How can you sell it for $30?"
"Eh?" he said.
"If it's a real Samsung, how can you sell it for $30?"
He still didn't answer. I tried another approach.
"Is it stolen?"
"No," he shook his head. "It's not a real Samsung."
I went to look through DVDs with Aliyah. We easily flipped through more than a thousand. We bought Dreamgirls and The Godfather trilogy. No sign of 40-Year-Old Virgin.
We were starting to get tired of looking through DVDs, and were definitely tired of being offered pornography. A boy in a green shirt and hat dragged us to another stall, promising that they had 40-Year-Old Virgin. We told two guys behind the counter what we were looking for. They sped through stacks of DVD sleeves like automatons on speed. Ten minutes passed, during which I'm sure these robots looked through at least three million movies. No luck.
We were leaving the bazaar, mildly disappointed, when Aliyah decided to try one last stall. "40-Year-Old Virgin?" she barely managed. The guy behind the counter smiled. He gestured for her to wait as he loped off down the crowded corridor.
Still dispirited, we browsed through the DVDs at the now-abandoned stall while a nearby tout tried to sell me a gallon jug of perfume. A couple minutes passed. We started walking away.
And then, like some sort of comedy-carrying angel, that smiling Indian salesman came running toward us with his arm raised high, clutching a copy of 40-Year-Old Virgin. We were thrilled. Finally. We could go home.
"How much?" Aliyah said.
"150," the salesman said. About four dollars.
"What?" an outraged Aliyah said, pointing to the other disks we'd already bought. "We got these for 100!"
"Let's just buy it," I whispered.
The salesman smiled. "150."
"Is that your best price?" Aliyah demanded with the toughness that can only come from spending several months in Delhi, before laughing and forking over the cash.
We began walking away, Aliyah a few steps in front of me. The perfume salesman waited until she was out of earshot and then grabbed my wrist. "Porn?" he asked.