One minute I was exploring Khajuraho’s Kamasutra temples, the next I was passing out in pools of my own vomit. I don’t know if it was the curry I made in my cooking class or the bread cooked directly on piles of burning cow shit, but whatever it was, it got me good.
I spent the next 12 hours going between lying on our bathroom tiles and hanging my head in the toilet bowl. I didn’t get a chance to consider my poor roommates – two girls who had the displeasure of meeting me that day – but from their looks of exhaustion I gathered that I’d kept them up all night.
Not feeling a lot better but determined not to waste the day, I peeled myself from the tiles and took a rickshaw to the temples. As soon as I stepped out into the open, I was easy prey. I was slow and groggy and it was obvious that I didn’t have much fight left in me. “Buy from me! Special price! Look, this is keychain of man and woman fucking. Very good quality!” “Here is Kamasutra book, very nice pictures, good quality!” I quickly handed the man with the alleged best quality Kamasutra publication one hundred rupees in order to placate the crowd. I stumbled back to the rickshaw. I couldn’t do this today.
When I arrived back at the guest house, the manager looked at me in horror: “What has happened to you!” By this stage my eyes were heavy and black and my ribs were aching from the night before; it was taking every ounce of my energy just to stay upright. I needed to lie down.
If there’s one thing I’d learnt in India at that point, it was to never get into a situation where you become vulnerable. I needed to go back to my room, lock my door and crawl into bed.
“You know in my room, I have bunnies,” he said. “White ones. You can see them.”
“Oh, I don’t know, I think I’m just going to go to bed; I feel horrible, thank you.” “Please, you will feel so much better when you see the bunnies. They are very nice. Really there are many.”
“No thanks, I really just feel so sick and need to sleep.”
“Here, just a very, very quick look.” He gestured towards his shack.
When I was young, my mum gave me the lesson on stranger danger. As a final test she posed this scenario:
‘It’s the end of school and you go out the front to meet me, but I’m not there yet. A nice old man comes up to you and says “Hello there, guess what, my cat has just had babies and I have a box of tiny kittens in the backseat of my car! Would you like to come and see?” What do you do? ’
Naturally, I said that I’d go with him, take a really, really quick peek and then run away as fast as I could. Ever since, she’s never quite trusted me to make great decisions and probably rightfully so.
I’m not sure if I was even that desperate to see the alleged bunnies or if I was just so debilitatingly food-poisoned that being murdered didn’t actually seem all that bad, but I followed the man inside his house.
My mouth dropped in disbelief. Never before had I seen so many white bunnies in one place. Big bunnies, small bunnies, each bunny cuddlier and fluffier than the next. The guy had constructed ramps so that the rabbits could come and go out his back window and into the garden as they wished. He’d made a ramp onto his bed where piles of bunnies were currently sleeping. The man handed me a key, a laptop and a folded piece of paper and left, closing the door behind him.
I unravelled the piece of paper, found the wifi code and typed it in. I fell asleep on the floor, surrounded by fluffy white bunnies, halfway through writing an email to my mum declaring that stranger danger is complete bullshit.