India is not like the U.S., at least not the U.S. I know.
Checking in to The Pink House, I ring the doorbell and wait. The door to the guesthouse is wide open, but there is not a person in sight. I peer up the stairs and see nothing. I peer down the hall and see nothing.
Just then, I hear a screeching racket at the top of the stairs. I look up to see a tiny, furry creature tearing down the steps towards me. He is frantic and squeaking, moving like a wind-up doll on speed. I leap to the side as he flies past, his straight tail a streak of brown.
My heart thumps in shock, and I feel the adrenaline pumping through my body. In the moment it takes me to catch my breath, a young boy careens around the corner at the top of the stairs. He seems to have been chasing the furry creature. He sees me and his eyes get huge, and then he runs back the way he came, disappearing around the corner.
When the boy doesn’t reappear, I start up the stairs myself. Just then, another young man appears, trailed by the boy. They both look at me and giggle. I’m wondering where I might find someone who can help me when I hear a scratching sound coming from behind the reception desk. Thinking a helper is back there shuffling papers, I approach. Whoever is back there must be bent down- I can’t see their head. The boys giggle and press their hands to their mouths just as I realize no one is there. No human, that is.
Suddenly, another furry creature identical to the first comes tearing out from the behind the desk, sending papers flying. It nearly runs over my foot. It shoots down the stairs, tries to turn, slides into the wall with a comical thump, and then recovers itself before dashing out the front door. It all happens in a split second. It is a blur of movement, chattering and screeching, a spectacle the boys cannot get enough of. They laugh hysterically, holding their sides.
Mongoose! the older one says, pointing after him. Mongoose! Then he dissolves in laughter, dropping to a squat, and holding the hem of the other boy’s shirt. They laugh hysterically, and I begin to laugh too.
When they collect themselves enough to speak, I tell them I want a room. They begin murmuring with their heads pressed together, trying to decide if this is possible. Just then I see a dark shape out of the corner of my eye. I turn to see that a mountain goat has pushed his way into the lobby.
His hooves clomp on the shiny surface of the floor, and he munches grass, looking perfectly at home. The boys take him by the horns and steer him out, though he stubbornly resists at the door. He requires a hard push on the rump to be dislodged. He pops into the daylight seeming disgruntled, and looks over his shoulder at us with a snort.