A Year on the Road – Leaving India

Back in Bombay. My six month journey across the sub-continent is almost done.  I fly out of India tonight. Where next? How much longer on the road? I really don’t know and I think I don’t even care.

But I sure do remember starting out so high strung, strangled by  worry, bogged down with anxiety:

Was it worth all the effort to leave Malta and get here in the first place? Worth resigning the job with the environment department and kicking away my air pollution control career for good? Where would all my aimless wandering  lead up to in the end? What would work out wrong in the meantime?

And yet steadily learning all the while, all along the way that worrying was useless, signified nothing, didn’t matter one jot at all.

But learning how to live life minute by minute, caring so much less about how things will turn out by focussing as much as I can on this present moment in time alone, shutting out of my mind thoughts of where I’m coming from and where I’m going next and sticking to quenching my thirst for adventure by  drinking each new day down  to its dregs.

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Bouncing across India atop rickety buses, reacting instantly to Francesco’s imperious command (my half-blind Italian friend I met whilst trekking the hills around Manali):

“Duck. Duck Now!”

And the bus swishing past the dropping power cable slung low down across the street – booby trap threatening to decapitate any  fool sticking out his neck too far.

Travelling solo and picking up kindred souls of madness along the way for this crazy fling across Asia.

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Back in Bombay, sprawled across the rear seat of a vintage Ambassador taxi flashing its headlamps at blacked out streets ahead.

Past the countless homeless men, women and kids squatting down hard on the pavement:

Arms clasped together, hemming in shrivelled shins, hugging knees tight against hollow frail chests.

Or stretched out supine on flattened cardboard boxes, tormented by the heat and their penury and their longing for what might have been but somehow turned out this way.

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I sift through a mental junkyard of images of the six months gone by.

Reminiscing about the thick broth of life on the streets of Paharganj.

And how I haggled over the hundred rupee fare it would take for the fat rickshaw driver to lug me off to the nearest government hospital in a fifty centigrade inferno.

Hesitating and haggling some more and the rickshaw driver spitting back his contempt: Ninety rupees – last offer or else you cook here on the street. 

Yet still hesitating (I’m not sure why) till a cow makes up my mind for me – massive, bulging hindquarters butting me unceremoniously into the rear seat of the rickshaw.

And we’re off – the mad rickshaw driver and I both together in this moment in time trapped by the bustling energy vortex of wild insane traffic raging all around us.

Rushing across Old and New Delhi all hell and heat let loose.

But the rickshaw driver flooring down hard on the pedals and we’re racing through the thick of it all.

Zooming past chugging, smoking buses almost hitting them squarely bumper to bumper.

Weaving in and out of the traffic brushing up close to bare chested European hippy kids rocketing past on battered Enfields. Where have these guys been? Where are they going now?

Past all this.

Past the stench of open non-drain street urinals with the heat coming down:

Solid blanket of hot air, curtain-like, holding us back, thwarting our path forward through the traffic.

So damn hot my specs are transformed into a greenhouse trapping in the heat and burning my eyes as I strain to see what’s coming up ahead.

Braking, wrenching halt – we’ve arrived, we’re already there and I  cough up the cash plus a ten rupee tip of course and half stumble, half fall down onto the pavement just in front of the hospital:

Dark empty reception hallway.

A black withered arm hanging out into the corridor.

I flee.

I’m still on my feet now but I sure can’t say if I do stay in this place! Better to nurse my Delhi belly on my own!

I ease up my pace and trudge back to Paharganj amazed how on earth I ever got here in the first place.

All Text Copyright(c) David Bugeja 2016 All rights reserved

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