India Travelogue, Ep. 5:

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I’ve never been a fan of tourist attractions. Case in point: my family has never been to Disney World, a sacrilege for many American parents.

So although I found the Amber Fort and Palace in Jaipur beautiful, there was a bit of a carnival atmosphere surrounding it. (There was an abundance of aggressive hawkers selling trinkets, photographs and elephant rides.) It made me wonder why citizens the world over seem to prefer their historical and architectural medicine to go down with a spoonful of sugar.

Our group opted in for the elephant rides, though I and one other friend were reluctant members of our clan. Truth be told, among other neuroses, we’re both afraid of heights. Yes, we realize elephants aren’t that tall but there’s no reasoning with the anxieties of middle-aged American women.

Our ride up the mountain took longer than we’d prefer — although mid-way, our elephant seemed to be as antsy as his unsure riders and he eventually broke line to gallop past the dutiful animals in single-file ahead of him. “Gallop” may be an imprecise verb for what hurried elephants do, but suffice to say he was moving fast enough to scare us and he passed quite a few of the slower animals.

At one point, my friend turned to me and said “I feel sorry for all these elephants. They’re like slaves.”

“Me too,” I said. “You know, elephants are highly intelligent beings that form lifelong relationships.”

My friend sighed and after a moment said sadly, “They’re probably all on Zantac.”

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Epilogue: In case you haven’t connected all the dots and laughed as hard as I did, my friend meant “Xanax,” an anti-anxiety pill, not to be confused with “Zantac,” a heartburn medicine. As a women who packed both in her travel kit, I found my friend’s gaffe a perfect pun to describe the combination of apprehension and indigestion (real and existential) shared among human and other beings trudging up the mountain that day.