India- Along the Road

 

I’ve crossed continents,

Curtailed time,

Been somehow seduced

By sleep while squeezed

Into my single sized seat

And swept, in one day,

From winters winds

To summers sun as seen

Scorching over sabulous

Sands, ignorant to the floods

And rains and storms

That have become my norm.

 

I am a homeless traveler,

Displaced from those norms,

The wide eyed wanderer-

Aghast at what this

Delightfully distracting,

Dust dosed, dreamlike country

Clings to as commonplace,

Conventional customs.

 

My eyes, fearful to blink

And miss out, flurry about

Their sockets trying to take in,

Understand or just be a witness

To this unaccustomed view

While my fingers fumble

Over the lens of my camera

Already failing to capture

Each memory of life

As it passes me by

At breathtaking speeds

That cannot even compare

To the cacophony of captivating

Charismatic charms I’ve been

Suddenly submerged in,

Surrounded by

But am nothing more

Than passing through.

 

I am being driven

Through your lands of millions

Where sarees, in more complex colors

Than stars in the constellations,

Careen through my side-windowed vista

From the backs of motorbikes,

Twisting and turning through

Chaotic carriageways

Crammed with cars of every

Size, sign and signature,

All Honking through the

Hustle and bustle of the crowds

Who live their lives along the roadside

And ignore the rules

We westerners have grown

So weak and wearisome under.

 

Curious eyes watch me

From lofty positions

On backs of open trucks-

Some eyes smile, some

Frown, some wonder,

Naturally, on the reason

That lies behind my gaze.

The air; awash with sights

And sound unfamiliar to me,

The landscape; flecked with tones

My eyes have never imagined,

On the streets, idolized cows

Wander freely through the masses,

Nothing to worry about,

Nothing to remark over,

Just a godly cow

In search of water to drink

And land to graze upon.

 

We are stuck in traffic and a man,

Looking blind to all light,

Weaves his way through the carnival

Of carriages and cars

With three sheep tight by his side

As if they’d always been with him,

As if they were his children, his family

And I wonder who is leading who-

The man, the sheep, this car or me.

 

Amid all of this life carried out

In cars, on corners, at crossroads,

Along grassy knolls and sandy banks,

Lacking in obvious direction,

There is a freedom.

Amid all this weight

Of politics and poverty,

There are smiles a plenty

And it is I, in my branded costume,

Who looks the fool

Traveling through, taking it in,

Thinking I am better off,

Somehow, amid my laws

And rules and beds and baths

And running water

And walled in farms.

I am the foreigner,

Amid what looks like

The fortunate

Whose fortunes are far

More favorable than mine.

 

All words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

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