There is consternation for a moment (this is a small place and I doubt they have a generator) but within a couple of minutes, a waiter brings candles to my table. They're old pros at this, and I'm not in the least fussed - I've experienced this many a time before, in in Africa, Latin America, South East Asia, and southern India.
(Truth be told, I'm actually a big fan of candlelight and always feel a twinge of sadness when electricity is restored). I peer across the restaurant (my eyes have now adjusted to the dark) and spy Ayelet. She's soaked, but in good spirits. I sense we're going to have a good evening.
And we do, engrossed in conversation for almost three hours. The electricity doesn't return (indeed, it will not return until the following afternoon) but the waiters do a great job, bringing us endless cold appetitisers before we are presented with piping hot curries. We eat hungrily, whilst the rain lashes down outside. The monsoon has given us a real appetite. Chai follows as as we sip our drinks, Inotice that the restaurant is full and no-one's complaining, or giving the staff a hard time. On the contrary, everyone's relaxed, and convivial. Why should it be otherwise though? As Nir would have said, "This is India - anything is possible." (I suddenly wonder where they are now, Nir and Yael...and if they're enjoying their evening as much as I am?)
There's only one problem - the rain hasn't eased up, and there are no signs of it doing so. It's now 11.00 pm and at a certain point we're all going have to face reality. Not only do the staff want to call it a night, but neither do I have any interest in barricading myself in, to sleep on a wooden restaurant floor. I want my comfy bed, with feather duvet, ten minutes walk away and, apparently, Ayelet feels the same. We will have to be brave. We call for the bill.
Outside, it's pitch black. And I mean pitch black. I can't see my bloody hand in front of my face. And, to my horror, I realise I've left my precious Maglite torch back at the guest house. OK, it wasn't pouring down when I left, but - as I curse myself - I should have been better prepared. at moment's like this, I tell myself, I have no right to call myself a world traveller! As a result, we're stumbling down the main road, which isn't just windy but full of potholes. Clinging onto each other, it's a case of the blind leading the blind (literally).
The rain is lashing down and my think sweater is already soaked through. I see a twisted ankle in my future...and if I'm less lucky, a chest infection!
Suddenly, without warning, I crash into something. It's a solid mass and although I can't see it, I sense it's way bigger than me and it's the kind of thing I wouldn't want to mess with in a dark alley (or a dark Indian potholed street!) Ayelet is just behind me and suddenly yells out:
"It's ok, I've got an idea...we can guide ourselves back by the light of my cellphone."
BRILLIANT! She switches it on and suddenly the road is illuminated. And there, right in front of us, is an enormous beast...the sacred beast of India, roaming freely in the rain-lashed streets of McLeod Ganj, crashing into everything in its path (including us) without so much a care in the world. Not that it should have - mess with cows in India at your peril!
Cows are masters of their domain here; in fields, in cities and in blacked-out streets. I've just had a Ayelet and I look at each other and burst out laughing. The cow stares at us, nonchalantly, and after sizing us up for a few seconds, continues on its merry way.
Slowly, with me hanging onto Ayelet's jacket, we navigate the potholes and, carefully find our way back to our respective guest houses (almost next door to each other). She leaves me at my door, drenched but laughing. It has been a surreal day. But also the kind that makes me remember why I'm here, and just how much I love this country.