Friday, June 27, 2008


The man with the mustache accused me of a felony.

We were checking out of our hotel in Amritsar for an early morning car trip to McLeod Ganj -- India's Dalai Lama Land. We owed the guesthouse 1,300 rupees for our stay of two nights, and I handed the hotel clerk two crisp 1,000 rupee notes. Frowning, he started trudging toward the door to go scare up some change. A fat man with a bureaucrat's mustache and an unflatteringly tight t-shirt was sitting in a plastic chair by the hotel's front door. He grabbed the young clerk's arm as he passed and asked to examine the money.

The man held each note above his head, squinting seriously as he examined how much light passed through each bill. Then he crinkled each into a ball next to his ear, listening with pretended meditative concentration. Then the man with the mustache, who I'm nearly certain was not even an employee of the hotel, stood and strode toward me with the aggressiveness of a confident prosecutor with an airtight case.

"Pakistan is a great country," he said knowingly.


He repeated himself, and winked.

"What are you talking about?"

A shyster's smile unfolded beneath the mustache as the man wagged my money in my face.

"These are counterfeit," he said. "From Pakistan."

I laughed.

"Really," he said.

"Look," I said, winding my laugh down and replacing it with a well-worn tone of terse annoyance. "We may be just thirty kilometers from Pakistan here, but I got this money in Delhi. From a Citibank ATM. It's not counterfeit."

"Yes," he said, crinkling the notes next to his ear again and nodding as if this telltale rustle was proof enough. "Counterfeit, sent in the mail from Pakistan."

"Stop being ridiculous. They're not counterfeit."

"Yes they are."

"No they're not."

"Yes they are."

"No they're not."


After a few minutes of this inane back and forth, the hotel manager showed up. Without a word, he sneered at my accuser, snatched my money from the mustachioed conspiracy theorist, threw it in a drawer, and handed me seven hundred rupees change.

I held up one of the notes to the light and shook my head.

"No, no, no," I said. "This is a fake!"


Lexi Matsui said...

You went to Amritsar!! So jealous!

Leslie said...

Probably his moustache was fake.