A Train Wreck

A loveable country where eyes soothingly twinkle, engulfed by deep lines telling bed time stories. Matchstick boxes tower either side; silver topped mountains age gracefully, embracing us from danger. Nepal. Despite stories that thump our funny bones sending shivers from the tips of our bedraggled hair to our camouflaged toes, it warms me with memories as the open arms flail out of sight.

Back in India we manage a rigid slump in heat suffocating our pores; slipping into their contradictory ways as quick as a star peeping through the haze. Six hours waiting on the platform for a screeching rusted tin that is our train, we creep like prisoners escaping the floor of corpses whose eyes never leave us and begin our haul from Agra to Varanasi.

It had been less than 48 hours of returning to India after vacating our lungs in Nepal of the city 'air' ridden with fumes, festering flies above open sewers and disease from rubbish tips feasted on by sacred cows and half-plucked chickens. Exasperation leaks with a sigh at the fondling males’, ignoring wives with frowning mouths, yet pointing camera phones in my direction. Nothing drowns out the monotone shrills of chai sellers who will greet us every hour. The phones play Backstreet boys continuously amidst a country where poverty couldn’t be any more apparent. Eyes of a young male, who practically sits in my crotch, drill into my skull. I shriek, craving privacy, tearing my frizz from the rusted bars of my window to see gaping mouths and eyes having not mastered the technique of blinking.

My pale, gaunt mask shakes with a start as I bash the bed above held by a withering chain. I dash like a ping pong ball to the hole in the train floor as my insides heave and leave me. The walls of the toilet are splattered with hardened waste where my body endures a wrestling match for the remaining 16 hours. We pull into daylight blessed with morning rituals of hocking and croaking that awaken us to the train track delights of crouching children and ‘grown men’ displaying their toilet habits to the world. They wave with hands skulking from their bare behinds. Just when I thought my stomach had nothing left to give.

Varanasi floods us with narrow streets blocked with cows creating ponds and mud baths for everyone to share. Marshmallow walls swirl in the heat wave. Our oiled bodies weave between scattered religions and breathe in damp air drifting from the Ganges where dead bodies release their souls hanging in the air amongst a musty stench. Tail-less lizards waddle around our room and a worker loiters. He reaches for a kiss, I shove him away, secretly wishing I imitated the looks of the Baywatch girls us Western females are seen to be. Five minutes later he is being thrashed by a slipper as punishment. My head spins as I lay in the middle of a fairy-tale gone hideously wrong.

K Critten

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