I have this habit of smiling and greeting people, even if they are strangers, whenever I’m walking down the street. This put me in a bit of a spot in Shanghai.
Recently, a Russian friend of mine was headed back to her hometown. I went along with her till the metro station to see her off. She had already missed a flight four days ago and did not want that to happen again. So this time, she left the hostel at 8.30 pm when her fight was scheduled to take off at 3.30 am the next day.
After bidding her farewell, I was heading back to the hostel at a slow pace. I had had my dinner at 7 pm (people eat as early as 5.30 pm in South East Asia and the far east). I was humming a Bollywood number “So gaya yeh jahan, so gaya Aasman…”
I spotted a woman standing in the middle of the road. She smiled at me and I returned her smile, continuing to walk ahead while humming the song. Soon, I realised that I was being followed, but I did not turn around. Someone brushed my shoulder and I found it was the same woman who had smiled at me a few minutes ago. She smiled again and so did I. She started to walk parallel to me. I noticed that she wore heavy make-up and loud clothes and sensed what she was looking for. To be honest, I was petrified. Burglars don’t scare me, you know. I can always offer them my money and they would leave. This was different. I did not want her making any false allegations against me, particularly when I was in a foreign country and couldn’t defend myself in their language.
I stopped walking at one point and she stood right in front of me. Assuming a fake look of confidence on my face, I blurted out, “O meyo chiyyaa” (I have no money) and emptied all eight pockets of my cargo pants. She quickly pointed at at my hand bag. I showed her that it had nothing valuable in it. But she was still waiting. I fished out my mobilephone and typed this into a translator app, “Please give me 50 Yuan. I have lost my way and have no money for a taxi. I will return you the money tomorrow.”
The woman looked at me and shouted angrily. I can safely assume that she had abused me. I smiled at her once again, said “Cha Cha Chi Ya” (good bye) and continued walking ahead.