I pack again in the early morning. This is a ritual that comes around every one to three days. As if sewing the contents into this intestine of a black bag, I load the thirty or so accoutrements of travel into my backpack; the little items strewn about in the bathroom, bedroom, floors, and shelves, and the laundry that has been hung out to dry, until there is at last only one large bag remaining.
Then I set out into the street, street after street, every day. I’ve done it often enough, this hide and seek of the lodging and the travel path, but it has yet to become familiar, especially when I start out this early in the day. It’s a series of strange roads, transports and cities, in search of new places to stay, eat and see.
Every day is a fresh beginning. In new cities and towns, it may all work out smoothly from the beginning, but just as often, it is entirely maddening. From the moment that I exit from the station, I am accosted by pesky auto rickshaw drivers, eager lodging hawkers, and aggressive beggars, and until finally I am settled in safe accommodations, the entire process is a battle. This is how it is every day. Today, on February 13th, I had my laptop stolen from me on the bus. This was the work of someone who had been watching be for a long time. Somebody has been watching me… is continuing to watch me in my travels.
This battle is half over by the time I check in to a new place. Then, I may shower and rest my eyes for a bit, after which I draw the curtains to look out over the sliver of city visible from my window, a scene that is at once attractive and brutal. For the next couple of days, this savage beast of a city is for me to take on—to spear it as with a pike, to mount it in a sweaty mating dance, or to evade its piercing stare and sniff at its underbelly. From my knapsack I take a few of the more necessary items, and put them into a smaller bag that’s tied tightly to my body. At last, I am ready, and it is time to face the outside world. Opening the windows, I inhale the scent of the beast and its roaring growl. But this is okay, for I have the upper hand; I know its odor, and it has yet to recognize me.
Today, I shall scope this monster out, and locate its eyes, heart and crotch. The eyes, to avoid its seeing me, the heart, to replace it with mine, and the crotch, to make hot love to!
I set out into the street, unseen by anyone. No one thinks to look twice at me, and there is no one to bother me. Strange, this lack of attention. But very good. It’s time for breakfast. I enter a chai restaurant in the street and down a hot cup of Chai (an Indian milk tea with spices.) Presently, my body is relaxed and the back of my ears ring. Probably because I had a rough night on the night bus. Wait… it’s as if someone is watching me. I look behind, but no. Again, I turn, but there’s nothing. Maybe further away… no.
This is going to be harder than I thought. It seems that I have already been spotted, as I am already swaying unsteadily on my way out of the restaurant, the city growling at me with its sizzling heat.