It was quite difficult to hold on without losing my balance and stepping on someone’s foot —or nearly falling into someone’s lap.   In fact, there would have to be more space in the shared auto in order to really fall and actually land in someone’s lap.

Inevitably, my foot landed on someone else’s foot, with frequency.  I mumbled “sorry” then “mannikkanum,” but I quickly remembered that no one actually uses mannikkanum in Tamil Nadu so I just mumbled “sorry” once more.

I consistently uttered an apology every forty-five seconds or whenever the autowallah turned a corner.  During those moments, I was convinced that every turn in Kancheepuram is a “sharp turn”.

The roof of the vehicle was rather low and my back ached as I literally bent by body at the waist and hovered over a well-groomed young woman with the most beautiful Jasmine flowers in her hair.  My thoughts stalled for a moment and I wondered how on earth could she look so stunning in such humiliating humidity. Perhaps it is simply a part of adjusting…

The heat from the sun, or passengers, or BOTH radiated throughout the entire passenger cabin.  I made a genuine effort to reposition myself so that none of the beads of perspiration, which were sliding off of my arms, would land on another human being.  I wish that I could say I was always successful…

While tilting my head to avoid a cramp, I noticed a boy who wore a school uniform and carried a back pack on one shoulder.  He stood on the footboard of the auto.  Actually, he was HANGING off of it and he made me very nervous.   Each turn, I glued my eyes on him as if it was possible for me to keep him safely affixed to the auto with my eyes.   Even in the logic depriving heat, I knew that it was silly.  Nevertheless, I did it anyway.  Like most of the young men seen riding the footboards of metropolitan buses, he also seemed fearless.  After observing him and a few other passengers, I noticed that once again I was the only one who seemed to be uncomfortable…

“Just a few more moments… you are almost there…” I repeated this to myself over and over, as I brushed aside the fact that I actually had no idea how much longer it would be.  The gentleman accompanying me (a new colleague) suggested that we use this mode of transportation without telling me how far we were going or exactly WHERE we were going.  He jumped on to the vehicle before it actually came to a complete stop.  With few other options, I did the same.   There were too many people between us to ask him questions of any sort.  Moreover, I would perspire even more if I used the energy to turn and do so—not to mention the number of toes that I would have literally stepped on.

After what felt like 12 minutes of listening to one continuous song that changed rhythm with every turn, a bit of reality set in.  This was simply a time for me to experience a new aspect of life in India as a traveler who was simply traveling…

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2 thoughts on “TRAVELING

  1. As I read this, I think about the journey of trying to figure out what’s happening….to trying to control…and then ultimately just letting go and just BEING and being present….and that’s not easy to do! Love reading your blogs and can’t wait to read more.

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