Rough Guide to India

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The frazzle of backpacking drove him nutty.

He would plan each day ahead in a journal, allocating hours to tasks. Efficiency, he was all about efficiency.

It was discomforting to let go, to surrender control. When he first found out that there were no travel itinerary, no reservations for accommodation and no local guides, he fretted.

He was a pessimist with an overactive imagination. What if the hotels were full? What if we are wasting money on boring activities? What if we got ambushed along the trip? A world of what-ifs.

The first few days were downright miserable.

The tourist attractions were repetitive models, the air was thick with dirt, the weather was impossibly dry and the land, parched.

He had no idea where he wanted to go. He only wanted to be away. Away from what? From Singapore, from India? From something, from anything.

Minor discomforts accumulated. On the rickety trains, he slept fitfully, aware that even the locals secured their baggage to the bed frames. On the grimy buses, he stiffened as the vehicle careened on wildly uneven roads.

Somehow, he remembered to let go. Little by little, he did.

He rediscovered a sense of adventure.

His legs dangled outside the train as it chugged onward. He tried to pen a poetic quartet but gave up after a while, deciding to soak in the romantic scenery instead. As the landscape sped past him, he caught glimpses of wild peacocks.

On the communal taxi, his friend donated some money to a needy traveller/father. His daughter was perilously ill; her eyeballs were white until she woke to whimper - only then can the black of her pupils be seen.

It was strange, how memory worked. Even now, he could envision how the events unfolded, in slightly jerky stop motion.

A local thug, sitting next to him, turned to grab a fistful of his t-shirt. The thug - dressed in tight fitting garments - wanted money too. A furore ensued. He grabbed his t-shirt and tried to pull him off the taxi. His friend tried to stop him while his friend tried to pry his hands free from his shirt. Other locals tried to explain the situation to his other friends. The taxi driver drove away as the thug tried to pull one of his passenger (aka him/ aka me) off. (This use of 'him/he' is very confusing, since I'm supposed to be writing from the 3rd person's perspectives. Ahh well. The situation itself was confusing anyway.)

It was surreal, being threatened. He was thankful that other locals resolved the issue. He was thankful that he was the one being picked on, not his fellow travellers. He was passive, they were reactive. Should they be challenged, things might turn ugly. He had simply sat there, playing possum.

As he wrote this entry, he lost track of what he wanted to say.

It was supposed to be about being less prudish, more carefree. It was supposed to be about delighting in entropy, in unplanned surprises.

As he wrote, he found out that there were shades of feelings that words could ill describe.

Breathe in, breathe out. He allowed the avalanche of ambiguous emotions to roll over him, abandoning an attempt to frame the story as a ray of sunshine piercing through overcast clouds.

P.S. He has no idea what he was writing. He just felt the need to write.
P.S. If you're going off to India, borrow the Rough Guide. It's a friend to travellers who don't know what they want.

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