Tag Archives: loud

We have reminded them of the circumstances of our migration and settlement here

The occasion appropriated my wardrobe

headband earrings red-neck cut off

to travel back through the city for the cake

infinite-in-one what now?

Where the oxen forded not the river but the highway

pulllll!

And the rickshaw interior was fated for the day.

Patriotic Padding

At the bakery they wondered if every American dressed for their pastry.

This was confusing as is so why a picture? they thought

but we soon assimilated them to our spirit

good riddance, he says

It must be the only one in the city of its kind.

Sweet freedom!
We didn’t have a mit or a pigskin, so we played cards instead. Get those redcoats out of here! Kelly proclaimed.

P1080106

6 lungs inflated 70 balloons; a mosquito held them; a tailor’s string shared with all.

my bed is America for scale P1080028

We requested a special dinner themed America.

bland

3/4 of it required salt so we knew they had succeeded.

Cake realized

When I said Americans weren’t louder than us I was lying, Norwegian Ann admitted over her green beans when we sang the anthem. It’s manifest destiny, I replied. We had so much more space than you to fill.

America!

But as soon as we shouted at everyone for fireworks, rain threatened to deflate us

what now?

but we paused with the clouds to scare the neighborhood.

lungis and fireworks

That’s not supposed to look like that! she said in this moment. Neither was the messy white ground flame that followed, but it glowed better and brighter.

futile

Is it a war? the ghostly congregation at the boy’s hostel wanted to know.

curious

Still the rain pixeled the air in white dots all around us, the callous sky collapsing in downward arrows as we fixed to send the biggest sparks higher.

damper P1080072

In the end, two managed an opposing current.

finally P1080067

When they burst low and fast, we danced and danced and danced in the sand turned mud.

reach

It wasn’t the explosion we loved, but the lighting of it. We saluted the floating ashes and shouted freedom! as the monsoon fell into our open, wild mouths.

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On the L14

Of the course the metro would be a railway train. I was expecting a subway. The whole day I had told the autos, “No, no, no, no train. Metro!” Usually they shook their head and sped away. “50 rupees was a rip off anyhow!” I shook my fist until the next instant another yellow auto appeared to bumble me away. One call to Satish and we had the name of a station. Kukatpelly unlocked the language coffer and soon I found myself on my tiptoes, waving my rupees above the heads of the other women in the inquiry line, and heading back through the useless metal detector to the train platforms waiting for the intra-city line to Lingampalli.

I sat down next to a pillar. “Welcome on to Indian Railways!” I said to Isabelle. She hadn’t yet ridden the train. I revealed in part at the initiation. I enjoyed delivering inflated assertions: “This way to the platform!” I said. “There is the waiting room!” “Here is your ticket!” “We need to get on this compartment!” “That is a train!” I filled our wait with the proclamations to cover the nagging feeling that at any moment, IR would best me and, after all these confidences we’d be stuck on the wrong side of this metropolis.

But the train came on time, and we alighted to the general compartment. We had to stand in the crowded car. On the wall, a ripped advertisement: Improve your height! 3 to 4 inches in 3 months! The product placement succeeded well – I could barely reach the handlebars on the ceiling. My shopping bags hung from both my arms like a painted clown frown, which my face also made. Lingampalli was the train’s last call, and we had already spent the whole day marbling through the Lad bazaar.

Then two boys, about our age, struck up a conversation with us through the ubiquitous “What country?” greeting. Wary in this male-centric train, we kept the small talk the smallest. “How do you like the water in Hyderabad?” one asked. I rummaged for the water bottle out in my backpack, held it with the label turned towards them, and took a swig. “It’s good,” I smirked. This elicited a row of genuine smiles. Everyone knows the city water’s polluted, terrible.

The boys exited a short time later. They had given us their seats. They waved goodbye, it was nice to meet you. Not seconds later, Isabelle had shoulder-turned to address the man behind her. Her light hair got another one, I thought.

We passed by the stacked white geometric apartments that meant we were anywhere in the city. We should have eaten dinner before we departed, I sighed. Then Isabelle’s unraveled face bent toward me. That man hadn’t asked her country. He didn’t need it.

“He just told me the whole train is talking about us.”

“Because we are white?”

“Because we are too friendly.”

“What are they saying?”

He had refused to tell her. “Oh no, it was too crude to repeat,” he had shaken his head and left quickly at the next stop. He had waited until his exit to tell her. He couldn’t risk fraternizing, either.

Without pausing, we had both lied to the boys and our location and our exit stop in synch for protection. We had talked about cricket and the iMax theatre, fields of study. We asked no questions in return. While the boys had laughed at the water bottle trick, we sent the passive observers into another kind of hysterics. Our look, our skin, our gender had implicated us without our words.

“Welcome to India,” I truncated my initial greeting into a flat warning. We said little the rest of the way home, even to each other.

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A moment of silence, please

We hired a car to take use from Agra to Kanpur, where I would be visiting the Indian Institute of Technology doing some work for CReSIS for the next week. I was excited to see the countryside. The train had come too late to the station that all we had seen during our ride were the fluorescent lights of houses and passing cities.

Except, there really is no “middle of nowhere” in India. Some is always selling something or chugging along on their bicycle, carrying impossible loads of everything. Even when cities seem kilometers apart and clearly we are speeding past farmland at 80 mph, shacks line the road. Along the way, it was obvious that the rural isolation of Kansas doesn’t translate here. And I have yet to count beyond 10 in between car horns, even in the countryside.

This part of the highway was called the Grand Trunk, or GT Road. It begins in Pakistan and extends all the way to Calcutta. The government recently renovated this road as a part of its Golden Quadrilateral initiative. Last year, I completed a semester project for my metaphor theory course on this road. Riding on the highway completely edified that all-nighter. The term “commuter village,” which Western media coined to describe mass amounts of people commuting on the highway between cities each day for better work, took a new meaning when a multiple buses crammed full of Indians careening between the roadway lines nearly hit us, or us them.

All the way, we saw women sitting side-saddle on motorcycles behind men. They steady themselves with poised, straight backs and dainty hands placed on the motor in back. They remain motionless even as their hair whips from their golden berets and their drivers weave between everyone. Farther off, in the fields, two or three figures in bright red, pink, blue, move through corn or lounge in the shade of a tree. These solid drops of beauty against the red clay brick masonries, the dull brown of the fields, and the cracked grey buildings appear unexpected but not out of place.

While in Kanpur, we took the highway again, this time on a day trip to Lucknow which is a city about 2 hours north. On our return, our driver suddenly stopped. Although the road congestion seems awful everywhere, we have only gotten stuck in an actual traffic jam one time before. Now, a train was coming.

I have never seen this place so silent. Cars idled. A few people roamed about, bored. A beggar in red tatters sat near an intersection, hand extended. When we returned to Lucknow a few days later to catch a flight, he sat in the same place deserted.

The train whizzed past in no time. The minute the tracks bars lifted, every single vehicle started honking, as if on a laugh track. Those unencumbered in the front lines honked for the sake of happiness. Those at the very back honked in frustration. All those in between honked because suddenly they couldn’t wait idle another single minute. We joined into with our own beeping refrain. We twisted into some impossible space between two large trucks, and it was off again into the loud, mad journey of India.

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