The journey was once again very bumpy and dangerous. The only light relief came from the bus’s ticket collector, with his periodic cries of “We stop now! five minutes for tea and urine!”
Andrew shook his close-cropped head in puzzlement when I asked him his future plans. “You know something?”, he remarked. “I’ve been right round the South-East Asia circuit now – I’ve been to Sri Lanka, to Thailand, to Burma and every other damn place – and I’ve found all these places pretty much alike, and very easy to get grips with. But India! I’ve been here over a month already, and I’m still no nearer to understanding it than when I first arrived! I expect I’ll have to hang around until I do understand it ….”
….Nepali women ….were nearly all beautiful, and nearly all pregnant. They appeared a good deal more open and friendly than the women of India, and the relationship between the two sexes here in Nepal seemed altogether more close and natural.
The more I saw of India, the more I liked it. Wandering through the streets and observing the many herds of sacred cows, for instance, I could now view them as amiable, benevolent spirits rather than unnecessary public nuisances. ……..Now I could see some of their value. Not only did their endless patience and calm stoicism contribute some sense of order and tranquility to busy Indian streets, but they also managed to keep the accumulation of waste and rubbish on the road down by eating a remarkable amount of it.
Off the plane back in Heathrow ………I returned straight home and ate a simple meal of rice and yoghourt – the nearest thing to an Indian ‘thali’ I could find.
Then I ran a bath, my first in four months, and discovered on the scales that I was two whole stones lighter than when I had left England. Finally, I climbed into bed, faintly aware of the deafening silence in the streets outside, and slept for a whole day.
I woke up feeling like I had been wrung through a mangle backwards. Then, as consciousness returned, I found myself thinking of my next journey. Where would I be going? Why, back to India of course.
Most people do.