Burrito Barber

Ok. Does having three happy clients entail one to publically disclose that he has started a business? Burrito Barber says Yes! Here I present to you,

A cut from the rest, to get your cut, the best!

Hair cut – scissors, knife, trimmer,  for a burrito.  Along with being a Burrito Barber, I am also a Taco Trimmer. Get trimmed, for a Taco.

And here is the signboard.

And now, the three happy clients! (Before-After 🙂


Himanshu KHATRI

Ankit SRIVASTAVA

Sikha MISHRA

*FREE* Before after photo for first 10 clients!!!

La Brouhaha Mexicana [8] : A nightmare, and its over.

Chapter 8: A nightmare, and its over.

{Previous Chapter: This is it}

It was a deal. GG gets my motorcycle to Ensenada, and I pay him two hundred and fifty dollars for his service. GG had completed his part of the deal. I was yet to fulfill mine. Before starting from Catavina, Ankit and I shared a small concern, “What if we are not able to take out the money using our ATM cards?”, one of us had expressed. “Why would we be not able to?”, the other responded addressing the concern. Now was the second time in the trip our dreaded ‘what if’ question was converted to a ‘what now’ question.

Ankit knew of an ATM in zona turistica in Ensenada.  After reaching there, I asked them all to wait for me to get the money out. Ankit gave me his ATM card just in case. “fuera de servicio” (out of service), read a notice on the ATM door. I found another one near by – fuera de servicio. Luckily I found another one not very far. This one was working :). I insert my card, a quick thought exercise tells me I need four thousand pesos, 4-0-0-0; enter; Insufficient Funds; “Ah crap!”. I try my card again with fifteen hundred pesos  – “Can not process your request at this time”. “Damm!!”. Next I try Ankit’s card – to be safe with fifteen hundred pesos again, a deep sigh of relief – the machine spits out fifteen hundred pesos. I try his card again for another fifteen hundred pesos – “Can not process your request at this time”. Fear turning into nightmare. I tried both our cards again a couple of times but to no avail.

Returning back I gave all of fifteen hundred pesos to GG and assured him that I will return with the remaining fifteen hundred. This started my first encounter with the city of Ensenada. I went on a ATM chasing exercise on Ankit’s motorcycle. Found my first ATM – “Can not process your request at this time”, rushed to another one – “Can not process your request at this time”, still another, this time HSBC ATM in their main branch – “Can not process your request at this time”. Tried a medical store with an ATM. Ditto. Tried for cash back in a super market – no help. Tried for another ATM at the supermarket. Bah!. Out of ideas and ATM outlets I decided to return back – on the way tried for another ATM of some random bank – :(. Ankit was understandably furious. He was the one who had to bear the agony of staring eyes. I told him that I was not able to find the money. “Lets ask the hotel if they can give us cash back or something”, he said. We went to a hotel, and another but the concept of cash back was alien to them. We were desperate.

Sir, please understand that we are really in need of fifteen hundred pesos. We are ready to do anything for that, you can charge us for the night, you can charge us for two night, but please lend us the money. We promise to return it. If it helps, you can also keep our passports with you until we return you the money. Please.” We were literally begging the hotel manager.

I really want to help you, and if it helps, you can have this five hundred pesos. That is all I have on me. I don’t have the authority to lend you hotel money. I am extremely sorry“, he tried to help. Unfortunately we needed fifteen hundred pesos. There were a bunch of teenagers in the same hotel. We repeated our plea to them. Expecting fifteen hundred pesos was a bit too much I suppose.

Sadly, we came back to GG. One of the teenagers, Louis, accompanied us as a translator. He explained GG what was going on. GG did not looked too pleased. We were out of ideas to get the money so asked GG to stay over night on our expense. He seemed okay with the idea. A little sense of relief. Next task would have been simple in the wildest of my imagination – find a hotel with two empty rooms in the city of Ensenada. I still can not believe it. I refuse to believe it. I urge you too not to believe it either, as I must have got something wrong somewhere, but there was not a single hotel with a single empty room in Ensenada. I literally checked out over thirty hotels in two hours without any of them having any vacancy, of any kind, of any price. Ensenada being a popular tourist town and that weekend being the last of the summer holidays, the city was jam packed with tourists. Destiny was clearly having its share of fun.

“I dont know what to do, I’ve burned out”, I exclaimed to Ankit at 4:30 am in the morning. “Lo siento (sorry) senor, Lo mucho siento”, I exclaimed to GG. He was sitting in his car, with his two children and wife. He had been sitting there for the past four hours. I sat down along the side of the road. My head down. I truly felt defeated. We were right outside Casa Del Sol, the breakfast place from a day ago. Ankit decided to try his hands at the ATM. He had befriended Louis while I was on my hotel search exercise, who accompanied him. They went to the ATM that gave us our first fifteen hundred pesos. I was hoping to see a smile on his face when he returned. Just hoping. The ATM failed on him too, but he had good news. Louis used his card to get the money and was ready to help us out! Louis – if you ever read this: “I would never ever forget this gesture of yours. I can not even contemplate what we would have done in absence of your help. Thanks.” Louis paid GG the balance and told us to return the money by noon. I gave him my camera as collateral, gaining his confidence.

It was already day break by then. Ankit and I starting contemplating what to do next. Earlier, I had shown reluctance to call for Kumar’s help from San Diego, but I changed my stance. However, the call did not go through. We rode back to El Sauzal, to our motel stop for the first night, but that too was packed. Our last option was to get back to San Diego. We had just enough money for gas to get back.  At the gas station, Ankit uttered, “We should give our banks a call”. An act that should have been done hours ago. Things started working out.  Our banks unlocked our cards. It was locked due to stringent fraud protection policies. Returning back to Casa Del Sol we paid back Louis, called the insurance company again, which finally agreed to tow the motorcycle from Ensenada to Tijuana at no charge, parked the motorcycle at a parking lot near the border and drove straight home.

Just twenty eight hours ago we were sluggishly getting ready for the day in Catavina. Just twenty eight hours, and we had had a lifetime of experience. It was almost one in the afternoon. We slept.

The next day, I went with a service man from my college to get the bike back home from Tijuana. As you might expect, this was not free of adventure either, but I am sure you are as tired reading about adventures, as I am writing about them :). The trip was officially marked complete.

Yesterday, I checked what was wrong with my motorcycle. It was the stupid side stand switch that had failed. All that was needed was to bypass the switch. A one minute task at the most. A little presence of mind and a little more confidence and we would have been ripped off the adventure, the Mexican brouhaha 🙂

Unloading the bike at my home.

La Brouhaha Mexicana [7] : This is it.

Chapter 7 : This is it

{Previous Chapter : Fight Response}

señor: Mi familia acqi, usted con su companero orita si

me (thinking): my….. family….. here…..<ok I understand this>,
you….. your…. friend… <dont know this word> yes….
Hmmmmm…

me: nosotros familia en la India {our families are in India}

señor (speaking slower): no, no, Mi familia acqi, usted con su companero orita si

me: tu familia acqi, si… mi familia en la India

señor: nooooo…..

me: lo siento señor, no eniendo… {I am sorry, I dont undestand}

<2 mins later>

me (looking at the phrase book): Podría usted hablar más despacio por favor? {can you please speak a little more slowly}

señor (speaking still slower): Mi familia acqi, usted con su companero origa si

me (confused): no eniendo senor…lo siento…

me (thinking): does he want to know about my family or not…let me try to ask him this.

<refers dictionary>
know: saber
about: acerca de

me: Quieres {want} saber acerca de mi familia?

señor: no no..

<señor was disappointed>

This was the conversation I was having with GG on our way back from Chapala to Catavina. The motorcycle was securely tied in the back of his truck and everything seemed like a breeze. Only that I still did not know what was he trying to ask. He definitely was not interested in a small talk and had something significant to ask. “My family here,… hmmm,… My family here”, I was thinking. Clearly ‘here’ did not mean Mexico or Catavina, as my family being in India, was not an apt response. The came the Aha! moment. Maybe ‘here’ literally implied in the car. Thus he was actually asking me, if he could bring his family with him in the car and I could ride with Ankit. CRACKED!

Soon we were in Catavina. After a quick word with Ankit it was decided that he should bring his family – his wife and two daughters – along. Only that I would not be riding with Ankit – another six hours of motorcycle ride what not what I was looking forward to. I would rather take a place in the back of his pickup truck. His compassionate wife also got us a small mattress to ease our journey. It was about seven in the evening, half an hour before sunset. Fortunately for me, an offer to ride the motorcycle was declined by Ankit.

This was it. This was the dream. This was the dream come true. This was the ultimate. I can not ask for more. Lying down in a pickup truck, with my broken motorcycle beside me, in an alien land, a desert landscape, an enchanting sunset, a camera in my hand and the feeling of going home. Fathomless satisfaction. I will let the pictures do  justice. (all pictures taken from a moving car).

Mexico 1Mexico 2Mexico 3
Mexico 4Mexico 5Mexico 6
Mexico 8Mexico 9Mexico 10
Mexico 11Mexico 12Mexico 7

Soon the dream became dark and cold. We reached El Rosario where Ankit and I exchanged hands. Our next stop was San Quintin. There, GG took us to a hole in the wall taco shop. Ankit claims to have never had better tacos than those. I on the other hand, being a vegetarian, had to miss out on that juicy, tasty, inviting (Yucky!) meat, and stuck to bare basics salsa only taco. Finally, at around one in the night we reached Ensenada, exhausted enough to call it a day. More than ready to retire. Hah! another adventure was store in for us. Sleep was still another twelve hours away.

La Brouhaha Mexicana [6] : Fight Response

Chapter 6: Fight Response

{Previous Chapter: The turning point}

We – my motorcycle and me – were dropped back on Mex-1 highway. Courtesy demanded that I pay him something for his service. I offered two hundred pesos ($20) which was graciously accepted. They offered me a beer to relax which I graciously accepted. Ankit soon followed. Sitting under the tree we got a moment to relax and reflect. “Its nice to see that even after this we both have not lost our equanimity”, uttered Ankit. I smiled. ‘What next’ was the imminent question. Given that our first attempt with hitching a ride was so successful, it was a natural thing to try for another one. Getting a ride is simply a numbers game. The only skill and quality needed is perseverance. I was ready to play it, to enjoy it (to be read as:  it was our only option).  We considered calling someone, but there was no cellular network or a public phone in Chapala.

Back on Mex-1 asking for rideMy left hand goes out, waves for help. No avail. My right hand mimics the left, desperate for help.  Tough luck. Both hands work in unison, folded, pleading for help. Ha! try harder. All I got were honks, smiles and stares. Not even a single truck stopped for our help. Ankit joined me in my dance of desperation. A pickup truck stopped. It was hauling another car, but had plenty of space for the motorcycle. We both looked at each other. Yes! we did it – close to an hour of waving around and one truck indeed stops. We rushed to the truck in our joy. Two men stepped out from either side of the car, got their bottles out for a quick sip, stretched a bit, smiled at us, said sorry and moved on. “This is not working out”, said Ankit. “It will”, said I, “am hopeful”. I am usually blinded by hope.

But Ankit had a better plan. Before starting for the trip, we had bought liability insurance for our motorcycles that covered us incase we cause any damage to other cars. A small clause said that we also have  ‘Platinum roadside assistance’. So next on our plan of action was to try our luck with insurance company. There was always an option to leave the motorcycle there and go home, but… naaah! We hid the motorcycle behind the only house, albeit dilapidated, in Chapala, left my bag in a stack of tires well hidden from the greedy eyes of the world and doubled up on Ankit’s bike for Catavina. Chapala had no phone, Catavina had one.

“I am ready to pay a max of three hundred dollars to get the bike back home”, the businessman in me analyzed and uttered. We were waiting for Alvarado, the insurance agent to call us back and let us know if it will be possible for them to tow us from a place as remote as Chapala, and if so how much would it cost. I was indeed surprised, first when someone actually answered my call, and again when Alvarado actually called back just to let us know that they were still working on it. The remoteness of the place prevented him from finding a towing company insane enough to agree for the rescue operation.

Waiting for Alvarado to call back again, we were greeted by our gasoline guy from morning, GG (my apologies, not to remember his name, given that he is going to become a central character in the play).

“Que paso” (what happened), he asked.

“Mis moto, necesito sevisio, ahora en la Chapala”, I responded hoping that he understands.

“Senor, es posible que mis moto en tu choce y de Chapala a San Quintin” (Sir, is possible that my motorcycle in you car and from Chapala to San Quintin), he filled in the missing words and responded positively.

Now, suddenly an option was added to our empty bag of options. In a couple of minutes Alvarado, the insurance agent too called back adding another option. “Sir, we have found a towing company willing to tow your motorcycle from Chapala to Tijuana (US-Mexico Border, twenty five miles from my house), however you should understand the remoteness of your location. It will cost nine thousand pesos, out of which three thousand five hundred would be covered by us”, he informed. A quick calculation put the figure to about four hundred fifty dollars from my pocket – outside my self induced limit. “Can you please call me back in five minutes, I need a moment to think about it”, I responded. Discussing with Ankit, we thought of exploring our other option.

GG with his wife was standing at his small little gas station, doing nothing in particular. He smiled watching us approach him. He was a smart guy. It did not need much conversation to tell him that he can not cheat us by charging three hundred dollars from Chapala to San Quintin (San Quintin the nearest town to Catavina, but is still good two hundred miles south of Tijuana) neither can we take advantage of him by making him go to Tijuana for less than that price. We reached a symbiotic equilibrium – Chapala to Ensenada (about seventy miles south of Tijuana) for two hundred and fifty dollars. In the mean time, Alvarado called back to confirm. I apologized to him, stating the high cost of salvage and he was understanding.

A journey within a journey was about to begin. GG was supposed to come with us to Chapala, load the bike on his truck and drive us all the way to Ensenada. We were to pay him two fifty dollars in Ensenada, sleep a well deserved night and take the next day as it came.

La Brouhaha Mexicana [5] : The turning point

Chapter 5: The Turning Point.

{Previous Chapter: As planned as it gets}

Its hard. However I construct the sentences I am not able to communicate the feeling. Imagine yourself – sitting idle, a deep calmness  all around, nothing is moving, life is stop, its like a still frame of photograph.  Its hot, but not unconfortably hot.  You are just sitting, and thinking about nothing in particular. And an ever slow cool breeze kisses by. The whole body smiles in unison.  I was sitting on the abandoned car seat, when Ankit was busy with morning chores. The restroom had no doors and it was suggested that if one is in the restroom, other stays outside the room. A few more cool breezes passed by and we were ready for the day to begin. Our target today was a modest hundred fifty miles. The plan was to go thirty miles further south on Mex-1 to Chapala, where we turn east on a dirt road. Fifty miles of dirt riding and another seventy on the paved road and we would reach San Felipe, a destination quite familiar to us.

However, first we needed fuel for our motorcycles. My motorcycle does a hundred fifty miles in a tank full of gasoline. We were already a good hundred away from our last refuel and the next sure gas station was in San Felipe. Even Catavina does not posess a gas station. Most days someone just sells gasoline in plastic containers, but if this is not that day, good luck. We were relieved to see someone selling gas. Relaxed we decided to fuel ourselves first. Fresh agus de coco (coconut water), Cilli Rellenos (traditional mexican dish), arroz y frijoles (rice and beans) and we were ready for the day. A gallon of gas in mine, a gallon in Ankit’s, another gallon split between the two, and some more in a plastic bottle and our motorcycles were ready for the day.

We were in Chapalla in no time. Next feat – fifty miles of dirt road. Our motorcycles are not meant for dirt road riding. I was more concerned about Ankit’s bike, given that he did not have much good to say about the only experience we have had with dirt riding in Arizona. Nevertheless, ‘bring it on’ – was our attitude. Ankit decided to lead the way. Its one thing to image oneself riding on dirt road and another to actually ride it . Going 10 miles an hour with a jitter greeting every bone every moment, full concentration lest we skid on the gravel, dirt road riding can be taxing. ‘Bring it on’ we still said, enjoying the ride. However, in a couple of miles I felt like I got the hang of it. It felt like the secret is to stand (in my case sit a top the backpack I had mounted on the motorcycle) to avoid the bone jitter and go faster than you think you should be going. I tried to push twenty. Quite counter intuitively the fear of motorcycle skid actually reduced. I pushed thirty. A big smile. Soon, in my joy I overtook Ankit only to, stop.

“I think we have three options – We can either leave the motorcycle here, try to push it for five miles to get it on the main road, or wait for someone to give us a ride”

Ankit was quiet.

Yes, my motorcycle broke down five miles into the dirt road. Our worst fears had come true. The ‘what if’ situation  became a ‘what now’ situation. No, I did not reach those three option without trying to repair it. The problem was not too complicated. It started fine, had a good response on the throttle, but as soon as I put it in gear, it just died. Motorcycles have a side stand switch which prevents the gears from engaging before the side stand is raised up. The current symptoms mimiced this behaviour. I felt like something is wrong with this switch, but was not sure of myself. I tried to fiddle a bit here and there to see if there was a loose connection, but felt like I was loosing the ability to think clearly. That is when I uttered the words – “I think we have three options…”.

Before we could choose one among the three options, a godsend pickup truck came up from behind.

Mis motocicleta necessito servicio (my motorycycle need service)”, “Mecanico

He mecanico

Muy bien, per favor“, directing him towards my motorcycle.

(two Mexican men looking at my bike and talking in spanish)

They concluded that I should try pushing it. I frowned. I knew that would not solve the problem, however still gave it a shot just in case. No luck.

Senor, esta posible unnnnn… mis motocicleta… en sus coche  truck, y va a main road…. pago“, trying to ask him if we can load it on his truck and go to the main road, assuring that I can pay.

(two men discussing in spanish again)

They were going to San Felipe and said that they can take us there but we wanted to go back to Chapala. I told Ankit we can go to San Felipe with them with my bike on their truck, but good for us he still had his mental faculties calm and suggested it was not a good idea. I ask them again insisting if they can take us back instead of forward and this time they agreed.  I sat with them in their car and Ankit followed. The whole journey had taken a new turn. A U turn. It was no more about Mexico. It now was about returning home.

Returning home hopefully with all things we started with.