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Never Stand Still

miles from what we would miss

INDIA | Friday, 18 April 2014 | Views [295] | Scholarship Entry

On my last day in India, I found myself on the back of a motorbike, rushing through the dirt roads of countryside through fields of the dark, purple-brown ragi crop, through smoky city streets in a blur of noise and colour, trying not to shriek when we weave between rickshaws and buses, because even after being here for a month I still could not comprehend India's complete disregard for any form of traffic regulation. All I could do was hang on to my seat very tightly, and at one point even had the presence of mind to wave to all the people staring at this foreigner girl and her bright red pants and her short hair. I found that this was the best way to deal with the staring, because when you realise you can't actually stop them from staring, the second best option was to cheerfully acknowledge it and watch the surprise flicker across their faces as they also raise their hands and tentatively wave back in return.

'Happiness is strange', a flying banner by the road tells me in Hindi and English, when we stop and wait in tangled lines of traffic. 'It comes when you are not seeking it.' I found myself laughing in spite of myself because I couldn’t believe that this was happening, that this was my life.

Because this right here, this was it. I wanted to take a picture of this very moment, this fleeting feeling; I wanted to plaster it in all four chambers of my heart because yes, this is it, this is what I’ve always been looking for. I don't remember ever being happier.

The sunsets in Bangalore winter are always dry, warm and golden. We ate slices of raw green mango dipped in bright orange chilli powder that I insisted on buying for the both of us - five rupees each, my fingers around a sleeve of cut newspaper, no longer caring about food poisoning because I’ve been here for a month and drank water from clear jugs and eaten fresh bread from open fire ovens and lived, breathing India’s dust into my lungs and I’m still here, I’m still okay.

It’s the dust that makes every sunset beautiful, you know, and perched on his motorbike I smile at the back of Charan’s head, my sheepish knight in dusty armour, my local city boy, shy to the point where he cannot bring himself to put flowers in my hair and always runs away before we can say goodbye.

Too afraid of crossing invisible lines, I lean back instead of forwards, hands tight on ledges of the bike seat, and watch the line of his thin shoulders, his shock of black hair.

I’m always missing things I can’t have.

Tags: 2014 Travel Writing Scholarship - Euro Roadtrip

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