Let me write you a story that paints a picture of where Jaimie and I live. Casual photos have been giving you an encompassing sight to see, but I thought today I would fulfill other senses by writing in great detail about a 15 minute walk I had today.
The Novel Begins
After saying goodbye, I walk out of our apartment on a mission. Exiting the loft, I round the corner and begin walking down a flight of stairs. At the bottom I turn left and around the corner into our golden mutt of a sleeping street dog. The outside environment hasn’t caught up to me yet, as I’m walking through a covered area towards our wood and iron gate. I can hear sounds of cars, motorcycles, scooters, birds, and more just on the other side. I switch the lever to open the gate and squeaks like a rusty wagon as I begin to push one of the two large doors open into the road.
The first thing that strikes me to an almost blind state is the brightness of the sun. If anyone watches war movies and the camera gives you the perception of someone being hit by a flash grenade, this is what I am seeing (not feeling). It takes me 2-4 seconds to adjust as I had been sitting inside a dimly lit room not more than 15 seconds ago. My ears start adjusting to people yelling in a foreign language, my mouth begins to fill with the taste of dust in the air and begins to dry, and my eyes start to regain their focus as I cross the street, being passed left and right by speeding motorists.
Each time I take this route, I look left and right and see old battered 2-3 story concrete commercial buildings spaced between old single floor impoverished dwellings. To my left I notice a mother working on laundry as two very young children run about, and to my right a familiar small shop that I once found dark and intimidating, now I find as a comfort and a place of refuge away from folks like a weather-aged man I’m now passing on the right. He is sweeping up the familiar taste of dust with an old heavily worn straw broom, clearing his throat and spitting.
As a walk a little further my gaze is pulled into a small mobile stand sitting out into the street, not more than 5’ wide and 3’ deep selling tea from a small propane burner stove, an old rusted and charred pot, and small unhygienic plastic cups. Behind him not more than 5 feet away is an old man sitting with his back towards me and a small towel wrapped around his neck getting a shave through a foggy cracked mirror. This man is sitting in a makeshift wood and cloth stand as the barber uses his strait blade razor and delicately makes his swipes.
My eyes are beginning to adjust now to the bight sun, seemingly brighter than I have ever seen it before. I look up just for a moment only to run into a small girl, perhaps 8-9 years old, walking with tattered clothing and her head hung low as a man with polished shoes and aviator glasses speeds by us on my right atop his Honda Rebel, followed by a nicely air-conditioned white honda.
Half Way There
I’m now about 1/2 way through my 1/4 mile walk to my destination. In India there are so many classes of people and the stark contrasts are shown so heavily. I continue to walk, passing a very very dingy cow walking down the dead center of the road alone. Not a friend in the world. After I am finished being distracted and caught in my familiar thought of, “Why do cows walk down the center of the roads here?” I begin approaching a small rusty blue homemade-looking pickup from the rear. If I could call it a pickup. The single seat cab with a motorcycle engine is sitting alone and empty off the left side of the street in front of where I need to go. As I approached the right side opening where a door should be my heart jumps – as I didn’t realize how close I would be to dark and almost leathery-textured, very aged and heavily used feet attached to a curled sleeping man in the one seated cab.
Just a little further now as I walk through a swarm of flies before entering my location. I only need a few minutes inside and I begin my departure. Walking again through 100’s of flies, probably stemming from the outside and very open goat and chicken butcher area. As I look over my shoulder as I walk away I can see the caged chickens getting ready for their departure from this world as they watch a bloody table laid out with goat heads, testicles, legs, etc. displayed as trophies from today’s sales.
The Return Trip
I walk past the old blue truck again on my way home, now on my right hand side, and gaze off to the left as I see half a dozen cows, a few goats, chickens, along with wild animals, surrounded by people hanging up their laundry on lines, sitting outside their tarp homes. After a few moments of wondering who is disturbing whom, I believe this is a pasture for animals that these people are squatting on. Quickly I’m disrupted as I have to move out of the way from a speeding construction truck almost pinning me between it and the rusted blue bed of the sleeping man’s truck. I would walk on a sidewalk, but there isn’t one.
This rush is followed by a familiar clinging metal sound of two bicycles powered by school children on a casual stroll that is overpowering mine. Through the entire walking trip of mine countless scooters and motorcycles have been passing me, only inches away from contact. Any distraction from either of us could result in an accident – “perhaps it’s best if I stop looking around preparing for the blog post” I think to myself as I’m distracted again by the same lonely cow I passed earlier, now rooting through a bag of garbage thrown out across the road.
A new scent begins to fill my nose. Not new to India, but new to this day. The smell of trash fire. Perhaps someone decided it was their burning day. If anything, this cow is lucky he gets a snack before the unorganized pile is truly discarded into ashes. I’m getting close to the apartment that I still cannot call home, when I notice the the familiar small store on my left. But before I can enter our large gates, I am distracted by two small children throwing rocks into a tree right outside. I’ve seen this sight only a few times before, but today I decided to take a closer look.
Right in time too – as the boy picks up a small switch and smacks, I presume to be, his sister. They are fighting on who gets to keep the seeds they hit out of the tree. I reach up and easily grab a couple of the very unfamiliar hard and green pods. I never have seen these before. I am thinking they might be a fruit. I look down at the children to hand them over wishing I could ask them what they are, but in their inexperience with americans they begging talking to me in this unknown language. I cock my head giving them a puzzled look and walk away, into our gated entry way, stepping over dime sized black ants.
I Achieved my Goal
I can now present my under the weather wife what I went out to get. Honey. I walked to the store to get a bottle of honey to make tea to sooth her throat. (Perhaps I should have done that before writing this lengthy post). I’ll see how she’s doing now.