Of all the things we miss about India, our bed is not one of them.
This bed, furnished by our landlord, was certainly big enough. And it had a lovely bedspread, courtesy of FabIndia. And its frame boasted a terrific amount of storage built right in.
But the mattress itself? Like a rock.
We’d wake up with side-aches. With bruises. With radical thoughts: could we ask one of our New York friends to open our storage unit, dig past our boxes and our bicycles, pull out our glorious Brooklyn mattress, box it up, and ship it to Delhi? OVERNIGHT???
We’d bought that mattress just a few short months before we discovered we were moving to India. In that brief period, we loved it intensely for one reason: its built-in padded mattress topper, stuffed as it was with goose down and aerogel and fairy wings and cotton candy and pure Appalachian cloud bank. With this mattress, we didn’t lie in bed so much as sink inside its Posturepedic womb.
In Delhi, we learned to gingerly sit on the bed before lying down; if we leaped in any faster, we risked breaking a hip.
Which bring us to the requisite generalization about life in India for this essay: mattresses are hard. Harder than Americans prefer. In fact, as it turned out, our Hauz Khas mattress was actually on the soft side—it took just one night of bedsores in a 400-rupee Jaipur hotel to realize that.
My inclination upon discovering this fact of Indian life was, naturally, to complain to my coworkers. And my complaints were, naturally, met with blank stares. One of my coworkers, Rajesh, explained to me that the harder the mattress, the healthier it was—which was why he and his wife didn’t sleep on a bed at all. “We sleep on the floor. It’s better for my back.”
My head believed him, but my aching extremities insisted that we find another solution. So one bright November day, Jenny and I headed to Lajpat Nagar. Our friends had assured us we could find any household good we could imagine there. The imported mattresses were out of budget — pain in wallet always trumps pain in back! And as for the cheaper mattresses we poked our fingers into: we risked a sprain every time.
We settled for buying two of the thickest, fluffiest comforters we could find to put under our sheets as a sort of comfort simulacrum. It worked, but not enough.
Look. Jenny and I don’t view ourselves as the kind of people who move to a foreign country and then complain about how everything is foreign. But in this, we couldn’t adapt. On our next trip back to the US, we bought a foam mattress pad and lugged it halfway across the world. Some cultural differences cannot be overcome.