A First Impression of India

The assault of car horns on my ears is instant. I step off the curb by my hotel and plunge head first into the noise. Cars crowd. Rubbish at my feet. Tripping over stones and old plastic bags. A dog lies flat out in the sun. Vendors selling fruit, fried treats and motor cycle helmets. “Excuse me, Madam, you like go spice gardens?” Men spitting; side stepping. Smell of urine. Weaving between the cars. Vehicles surging forward. Honk! Beep beep! A man splashes water from a bottle over his hands, sprinkles it over his fruit. Pineapple slices on little silver dishes. Market stalls with clothes, bags, shoes, belts, wallets and watches. “Madam?” Sidle round a tuk tuk, walking in the road, cars careening forward. A man leans back in a chair while another lathers shaving foam on his face. The mirror hanging on the fence rails reflects their precarious position on the cracked side walk. Keep moving. Pushing on. Avoid the stares. A huge statue of Hanuman watches over us. A tail twirling above her head. Half monkey, half man. Metro rattling over head. Bodies everywhere, surging, like salmon upstream. A child shuffles between the traffic, peering up at windows, her little dish empty, her t-shirt as ragged as her cough. Scent of oil and sizzle of something frying. Rotis bubble and brown on hot plates. Narrow streets pulsating with people. Everyone busy. Everyone going. Dusty feet. Piles of plastic trays on the side of the road. Little square packets hang from stalls; biscuits, shampoo and washing powder. “Spice garden?” Cross the road, no waiting, just go. A man lying in the road, hands up, begging, the crutch at his side and his mangled stump lifted in the air. Glasses full of citrus fruit, men stopping to sip them squeezed in water with sugar. Women in saris. Women with glasses and short hair. Women in rags. Sweat dripping down the curve of my spine. BEEP! Temporarily deafened, then the cacophony rising again. Jostled together. Closer, closer. Hot. Dirty. Crowded. Vibrant. 


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