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27th November.

I was leaving on the 28th and this was my last entire day in Mexico. I had asked a few friends for recommendations around Mexico City. In an e-mail conversation, Neeraj suggested the Teotihuacan pyramids. Buses leave Mexico City for Teotihuacan every hour, but the bus terminal was far away from the hotel. I didn’t want to take a cab. I had time so I decided to take the public transport. I took directions and a map from the hotel receptionist.

Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world. It has an efficient and frequent network of buses (like BRTS) and metros that connect most of the city. With the help of broken Espaniol and some good people who paid change for me, I reached the terminus in an hour. Another bus and two hours later, I reached the pyramids.

Teotihuacan is a set of three huge pyramids built by the Totonacs: one for the sun, one for the moon and the third I don’t remember for what but I trust their good judgement. At the first pyramid, I saw a couple (or what looked like a couple) taking photographs of each other. I offered to take a photograph for them. Then I forgot about them. (I would later end up spending the rest of my time in Mexico with them.)

On the walk to the second pyramid, I walked past them. There was a second girl with them now. They were a group of three, not two, all about my age. As with everyone in Mexico, the girls were gorgeous and the guy was well-built. While I was walking past them, the guy asked me where I was from. The conversation was normal until I was asked where I worked. Mario, the guy, as it turned out is a big fan of the fruit company. Make that really big.

The girls, Gladys and Claudia, then told me I had no idea how big a fan he was. So make that really really big.

All three knew English fairly well so communicating was easy. Within a few minutes, I was having a great time talking to them. The girls were sisters visiting Mexico City. One of them was seeing Mario’s younger brother. That’s how the two families knew each other.

All three had travelled a lot. We exchanged stories of Alaska, Spain, Greece, Peru, Mexico, Himalayas. This was a great opportunity for me to understand Mexico from their perspective. I asked many questions. They were eager to know about India and my travels.

Three hours flew by just like that. We had seen all the pyramids and it was time for them to leave. Both of Mario’s younger brothers were participating in a state level swimming competition later that evening. They were both families of swimmers. Mario asked if I wanted to join them to see the event. I gladly agreed. So I hitched a ride back in their car to Mexico City. More talking, more stories, more laughter, more exchange. On the ride, I learnt I was having dinner at Mario’s home after the event. Requests went out to his home for vegetarian food too.

The swimming event was at Mario’s, his brothers’ and Claudia’s alma mater. About a hundred swimmers were warming up for their races or cooling down after their races at the pool. The races began just after we reached. The brothers were very good swimmers and one of them timed second.

Later, all brothers, the girls and I drove to Mario’s home. Great food prepared by Mario’s mother was waiting for us.

*****

On a parallel track, at the pyramids, I was asked by Claudia — who loves and is proud of Mexican food — how I found the food in Mexico. I happened to reply, ‘I’m sure Mexican food is awesome, but I didn’t have many options. I’m vegetarian.’ Claudia spent the rest of the day brainstorming Mexican dishes that were vegetarian and ones that I *had* to taste before I left.

*****

Back at Mario’s home, I was offered *all* the vegetarian dishes they could prepare. This was my first hearty meal in Mexico.

It was late in the night after we finished dinner and talking. Mario offered to drop me at my hotel. Everyone agreed to come along. Mexico is culturally very similar to India. After I thanked Mario’s mother for the great food and hospitality, she told me that I was like another son and could drop by any time. The family happens to own a holiday home in northern Mexico. I was told I could go there anytime ‘with your friends, family or even your girlfriend’.

When I was back at my hotel room, I wondered if I had just had the day I had. It all seemed too surreal.

*****

Looking back, I’ll have to thank Neeraj for it.

*****

28th November.

I had a good and complete night’s sleep after what seemed like a long time. After a heavy breakfast in the morning, I took the subway to the National Museum of Anthropology where I was supposed to meet Mario and Gladys. I usually stay away from museums, but this time the company was great so I couldn’t refuse their invite. The museum was fascinating: it was a record of Aztec, Mayan, Teotihuacan times all the way upto the Spanish occupation and contemporary Mexican society. Some of the artifacts and scenes were recreated but most of them were brought from various parts of Mexico for display at this museum. Throughout, Mario and Gladys narrated stories of Mexican history and revolution..

We also visited a nearby castle which had displays of the revolution of 1910. It also had portraits of different moustaches of that era (or it might just have been portraits of all presidents until now — hard to tell).

In an hour, it was time to say goodbye. It was time to let go, something I used to believe I was good at. But this time, I was finding it harder. I didn’t want to go back, at least not so soon. It had been just over 24 hours with the families, but there was some attachment with them and with Mexico. This trip was ending different from all other ones. I normally don’t wish to meet the people I meet on a trip, even those with whom I have a wonderful time. This time it was different: I actually wanted to meet everyone again. Maribel, Canchola, Marco, Guiseppe, the two not-gay dudes, Gladys, Mario, Claudia. (As I write this weeks later, I might actually meet some of them .. and pretty soon.)

I hired a cab for the airport with the fare pre-negotiated by Mario. As the cab drove off, I used my broken Espaniol to tell the cab driver that Mexico was a wonderful place.

We picked up my luggage from the hotel and headed to the airport.

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