- Thu Oct 13, 2016 4:30 pm
I originally posted this on Quora, figured I would share on here as well =)
Timeframe: October, 2012
Location: Jaipur, India.
Background: Had just completed a 35-day trek through the Himalayas with NOLS. After finishing the program, decided to continue traveling in India with a close friend. Following a few days in Delhi, friend and I (we’ll call him Greg) decided to save a few bucks and took a cheap, local bus to Jaipur. We were in the very back row. Sat through the 4 or 5 hour ride with our packs on our laps, and 7 people crammed in the back.
The story: We arrived in Jaipur after sundown, and had little idea of where our guesthouse was. Immediately after getting off the bus we were approached by dozens of people asking if we needed lodging, where we were going, etc. One man in particular seemed overly eager to help, his name was Babu. He had a beer belly, a lazy eye, and was clearly not too well off financially. We chatted with him for a while, and he pointed us in the direction of our guest house.
The next day, we explored Jaipur on foot, and had a great time wandering through the local markets and back alleys. We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant, and while we were eating some locals struck up a conversation with us. Two were about our age (around 22 at the time), and the other was a few years older. They invited us to drink chai with them at a shop down the street (we had drank chai with dozens of locals on our trek, so didn’t think twice). While drinking chai, the three new “friends” asked if we wanted to go with them to a nightclub later that night. Eager to get the local perspective, we agreed.
Later that night, our friends picked us up in a car at our guest house. We drove to what seemed like an amusement park. People dressed in tribal attire, a tree house, some wild animals, interesting for sure but not a nightclub. We sat down and had a big meal with our friends, and continued our conversations. They offered to show us a tour of the city the next day. We agreed. Part of the reason we were eager to continue hanging out with our friends, was we wanted to travel south to Mumbai, and our friends said they were driving down there within a couple days, and we could road trip with them.
The following day, our friends again picked us up in their car, and showed us a carpet making factory they owned. We each ended up ordering a carpet which was sent back to the US.
After carpet shopping, we went to a local pool and snooker hall and had a few beers with our friends. This is when they propositioned us. They were in the “jewelry exporting” business, and they worked with tourists to export jewelry, because with a tourist visa they don’t have to pay the astronomical export taxes. We said it was interesting, but we weren’t interested in helping.
We continued hanging out with our friends, as we didn’t know where we were, and had little reason to mistrust them. After the pool hall, we started driving again. This time, we seemed to be heading towards an especially run-down part of town. Dilapidated buildings, visibly impoverished people everywhere (more so than typical in India). We stopped at what appeared to be a hotel, and walked in with our “friends.” They clearly commanded respect from the hotel owners. We went with them up the 5 or 6 flights of stairs onto the roof. While on the roof, we sat down on reed mats, and had chai with our friends. We realized we didn’t know where we were in the city, we didn’t know much about our friends, and the only way down was a staircase which was essentially blocked. At this point we were certain we were in a bad situation.
A well-dressed man walked up the staircase, and introduces himself. He sits down with us, and brings high-end Whiskey, and ice (very unusual for India), and offers a drink. He then starts asking questions about our backgrounds, our parents, if anyone knows where we are, and then finally propositions us to bring jewelry with us to the US. They would organize and pay for our flights, and when we arrive, they would have a contact waiting. We would then drop off the parcel, and the contact would give us each 8,000 USD for transporting the jewelry. We thank them for the offer, and say we’re not interested. We continue sitting there and they try to make small talk.
Then, another Indian man walks through the doorway. He’s tall, very muscular, wears fitted clothing, and is wearing lots of expensive-looking jewelry. Everyone bows to him when he walks through the door, and he is clearly the boss of the situation. He sits down, and continues to ask questions about us, our parents, what they do for a living, if anyone knows where we are, our backgrounds etc. He then talks about his background. We ask if they are all friends (we’re trying to keep our cool and not look like we’re petrified, my heart was pounding in my chest throughout this whole situation). He laughs and tells us they are much more than friends and business partners, they are more like a “family.” All of them laugh. I’m scanning the area for any possible exit, but the only way down is the stairway, as we’re on the roof of a 5 story building.
The well-dressed boss aggressively propositions us to carry jewelry from Jaipur to NYC. He says we’ll stay with them in the hotel tonight, and they’ll show us a side of India we’ve never seen. He tries to entice us with offers of drugs, prostitutes, and more alcohol. Anything we want, and he will get it for us. We tell him we’re not interested in his propositions, and respectfully thanked him, again and again. We say we’re not going back back to the states, because we’re headed to Vietnam next. He talks with his friends, and says they also have a contact in Vietnam, and we can travel their instead. After 20–30 minutes of him propositioning us in every conceivable way, and our continued declines, they finally ease up. We continue talking, and they say regardless of whether we will transport the jewelry, we can still hitch a ride with them down to Mumbai. In hopes of getting out of this situation, we agree to riding with them, but will have to meet at our guest house the following day as we still have our bags.
Finally we’re able to leave the rooftop, and take a rickshaw back to the guest house we stayed at. Both Greg and I are pretty damn intimidated at this point, a mixture of nerves, adrenaline, and relief. Clearly we weren’t going to hitchhike with our “friends” at this point. The guest house was sold out for the night, but we didn’t want to leave the area, so we camped on the roof in sleeping bags. The next morning, we booked a flight out of Jaipur, ordered a taxi to pick us up directly at the guest house, and got out of there.