I was on a bootstrapped, single bikini, single backpack, year long trip. I landed in Hong Kong, my face pressed against the plane window to glimpse the iconic harbor full of mist and mystery, a symphony crescendo of buildings and dancing red sails.
I was en route to India for 4 months and saw the news: India had closed to all foreigners. Rajiv Gandhi, the prime minister, had been assassinated by a suicide bomber in Madras during his re-election campaign.
Rioting in the streets, the country was in chaos, it was said to be the deadliest election in India’s history.
I already had my visa, I had no Plan B, had lived in a war zone for a year and decided to go ahead and enter. At that point in my life I was drawn to conflict zones instead of therapy.
I was met by a college friend I’d be traveling with. He greeted me with a dozen red roses neatly wrapped in newspaper, and fresh cigarettes.
Travel was limited but his family was part of the government, so we had access to a tiny Ambassador car with the little fluttering flags on the front that would get us through checkpoints.
India is an assault to the senses.
Smokey black-eyed Sadhus in loin cloths, snakes around their necks. Holy men brandishing swords, chained to trees, renouncing the world. Beautiful bejeweled barefoot giggling women with colorful saris carrying jugs of water, cows on corners just roaming between traffic. One legged, blind, no legged people hanging on your window.
People I will never see again. It made me feel small, like a dust mote.
With the political violence there were checkpoints everywhere. Soldiers, high tensions, glimpses of crowds pounding on car hoods, toppling busses.
We started with the cool tile of the Taj Mahal, then headed out to the Rajasthan desert.
9 of us crammed into the car, no seatbelts, living off sodas, food stands and beedi cigarettes, windows down, car maxed at 110 km/h. I thought I was going to die and had to surrender to it all.
The guys sang Hotel California at the top of their lungs, we were rolling fast over the desert, passing psychedelic trucks, “Horn Please” emblazoned on the back.
Off in the distance there was a mirage on the road, stroking the light. A figure you could barely make out. Passing him at speed; it was a guy with a stick and a dancing bear on its hind legs. That was India.
We ended up in Goa, which is where the goat comes into the story....
The goat part is for next week. Have a great weekend!
Thanks for reading. To get you up to speed, I am writing my memoirs and will be posting via email on Thursdays or Fridays. I appreciate the read. I'm not sure if this rawness is a good spot, but thought I would take a chance. Some stories are not pretty but all true and my life, and you get the chapters first, nobody else has read these. AHO. LEE
Too much reading...
How about dessert?