JOURNEYS, PART 16; IDOLS OF INDIA

 

Queue up, check in, board, sit down, take off, eat, sleep, movies, sleep, sky and sea, cross continents, curtail time, more sky and sea, more food, a hint of something hotter, then sand and land and then we land. Finally, fingers fumble over cameras caught in a current of silken sarees sweeping through streams of jasmine tipped traffic in colours more complex than creation can count, colour is a commotion on this carriageway, is in motion itself, looking for life to light upon, though no life here is a still life, and it’s hues are brilliant billows on the breeze, too busy to be bound to any one stretch of land, like the feathers of the peacock parading along the packed pavements, unperturbed by the petrol pouts of motorbikes careening through the chaos, honking through the hustle and bustle of the crowds who live their lives along the roadside markets and mayhem and mini vans selling mighty mangosteens and a myriad of spices in sacks that seep with salivating scents and ignore the rules we westerners have grown so weak and wearisome under and their curious eyes watch from precarious positions on backs of yellow lorries and sun seasoned trucks with bandages to stop them breaking, in a saffron stained city that has no brakes, eyes that smile, that furrow and frown, that wonder, naturally, on the reason that lies behind my gaze, behind the flash of my lens. The air; awash with tastes my tongue tries to catch, the landscape; burnt with tones my thoughts can’t even tackle when out of nowhere, amid the cars careening and trucks trumping and crowds cutting through, idolised cows come calling from the city’s stacked streets in search of sustenance and a simple shade and suddenly we slip into a slow stream as if the cattle are a cathedral and their coming; a blessing. A man, blind to all light, weaves his way through this carnival, three sheep by his side, as if they’ve always been with him, as if they were 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, with the stalls and the shoppers and the scents and the smiles and the sarees and that sweating sun, there is a freedom beyond the weight of politics and poverty, there is a simple survival stirring and it is I, in my branded costume, who looks the fool traveling through, taking it in, thinking I am better off with all my laws and rules and beds and baths and running water and walled in farms. I am the foreigner, swept up along this sojourn amid what looks like the fortunate whose fortunes look more favourable than mine.

The carriageway is a cattle call
we can be lead or we can learn
the blind can find sight in scent.

all words and photographs by Damien B. Donnelly

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