Calum McSwiggan

The Indian Twilight

In Eat on May 12, 2013 at 5:41 am

Foggy Delhi Streets

‘Only know you’ve been high when you’re feeling low, only hate the road when you’re missing home.’

– Passenger 

I jumped up and down and tried to attract the attention of one of the tuk-tuk drivers speeding down the blaring highway, but it was hopeless. Everyone was far too busy focussing on the chaos of the motorway to notice the skinny white boy cowering at the side of the road.

I gazed into the fire that blazed on the horizon and was very nearly ready to give up and try to figure my way back home. I’d been in India for less than two hours and I was already ready to leave, that was until, as often happens in India, a cow appeared out of the darkness and began playfully licking my fingers.

I didn’t try to shoo it away, I appreciated the company, and began stroking its injured side. Cows are considered sacred in India, and I’m almost certain it was this act of compassion that urged a rickshaw driver to pull over and offer me a lift.

I’m very sorry sir, he said, I have room for you but you will have to leave behind your cows. I looked around to see that another cow had crept up and was chewing on the handle of my suitcase. I nodded and climbed inside, bidding farewell to my bovine companions before balancing my suitcase on my lap and taking the long and terrifying journey into Delhi. It turned out that the men that had robbed me had driven in the opposite direction.

I was no longer inside the security of my air conditioned taxi, I was exposed to all of the elements, and was white as a sheet by the time we pulled up outside my hotel. I pulled out my five hundred emergency rupees from my sock to pay the driver and rushed into the reception to tell them what had happened. I frantically pushed past the gracefully bowing doorman and collapsed on the front desk, panting and trying to tell them everything all at once.

Do you have the name of the taxi company, sir? they asked. License number? Name of the driver? Anything? I shook my head, in the madness of it all, I hadn’t thought about taking down any of it. They looked at me like I was the dumbest tourist to ever walk through their doors before offering their sincerest apologies and offering to check me into my room and deal with it tomorrow.

I was still shaking as I handed over my credit card and punched in my pin number as they prepared some chai tea to calm my nerves. I took small sips and just as I thought everything was going to be okay, they told me that my card had been declined. They tried six more times before apologising and turning me away, telling me to try the local ATM, and to come back tomorrow.

I protested and bargained with them but they assured me that there was nothing they could do. They wheeled my suitcase back out into the street and left me alone in the maddening darkness. With no money and nowhere to sleep, I began carefully navigating myself past the naked children lying in the street and the packs of wild dogs that bared their fangs when I approached to walk by. I had no idea where I was going, but no matter which direction I went, I was met with another crippling vision of heartbreaking poverty.

Frail hands reached out to me in the darkness, wanting for nothing more than a mouthful of rice or a splash of clean water, but I had nothing to offer them. All I could do was lift my luxury filled Calvin Klein suitcase over their bodies and continue on my way. I desperately wanted to help them but I was so scared that I could only see them as a threat.

I kept my guard up as I walked, and only when I began to feel secure that I wouldn’t be attacked, a bearded dishevelled man hobbled to his feet and began yelling and waving his arms. Grabbing hold of my suitcase, he raised one of his bloodied fists, and threatened me with a menagerie of foreign screams. His ribs jutted out of his bare chest, he was starving and clearly prepared to do anything for food, and I wasn’t about to stand in his way. I let go of my suitcase and slowly backed away.

Every one of my worldly possessions was packed inside that bag, and as I watched the starving man’s fingers prying at the zipper, it was as if I was watching all of my memories disappear. Letters, souvenirs, even my dildo, everything was tucked away inside. I had thought the moment I got off that deadly highway that my nightmare was over, but now suffering the terror of the harsh low lit Indian Twilight, it was obvious to me that it was only just beginning…

This is the second part of a three part series, you can read the first part here, and the final part here. 

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