Meera S.

A Drive Through India

The warm, musty air fills my nose as I step off the plane. Although I am far from home, the familiar smell of the air warms my throat. I am almost knocked over by the scores of people on the bus from the plane to the airport terminal, but I hardly notice. Inside the airport, I wait impatiently as we stand in the long immigration lines. The warm air circles my body, and my head starts to throb. My clothes feel as if they have been glued on. We finally arrive at baggage claim. I pretend as if I am helping to search for my baggage, but I sit on my carry-on luggage, knowing that the airport workers will find my luggage for me. My parents grab our luggage and we head out of the airport. As we step outside, I am immediately hit with a smell. I try to ponder what it is – warm air mixed with sweat. Stray dogs wander all through the sides of the airport. On either side of me, I am surrounded by a sea of people who wait for their loved ones. I pass by the entire crowd, heading towards a chauffer driven white Ambassador with my family. I can feel the crowd staring at me as I enter the fancy car, their eyes filled with envy. “Welcome to Bangalore, India,” I mutter.

We make our way towards my grandmother’s house. In the backseat, my brother, my mom, and I are squished together. I pray that the air conditioning comes on soon. I try to forget my problems and look outside, recognizing many areas from previous travel observations. On the left, I see one of the biggest hotels in Bangalore, looking majestic, painted a rich maroon, and adorned with gold trimmings. Employees dressed in elaborate uniforms wait to open car doors and the doors of the hotel to its clientele. I wonder how this man goes by day after day performing such a mundane job to make a living. A boy, surely no older than eight years old, stands on the side of the road, dressed in rags and with no shoes, looking at the hotel in awe. He continues down the road, a stick in his hand, scrounging through piles of trash. Near the boy stands his mother, with similar rags and also bare foot, walking down the road. I continue to look at this pair in awe, unaware that their eyes almost pierce holes through the car windows. Suddenly, I become extremely conscious of the luxurious car I am sitting in, as I notice the mother and her son looking at me.  I quickly glance across the road, but a magnetic like attraction keeps drawing my eyes to the mother and her son.

As we continue to make our way to my grandmother’s house, I see a disturbance on the road. As we near a temple, a grand procession passes near the side of the road. Following Hindu traditions of Northern India, an elegantly dressed bridegroom sits atop a horse, coming to meet his bride. Although the procession takes place on the side of the road, many people on the opposite side stop their daily job of sweeping the streets to admire the procession. The bridegroom is adorned with many jewels, and the intricacy of his clothes alerts me that he is of extremely high status. His bride waits at the entrance of the temple, and I feel that I must purchase a pair of sunglasses before looking at her. The gold jewelry encasing her face is almost too much, and I feel like I might be blinded by the sight.  As we continue down the road, I see a cow in the middle of the road. Although my mother tells me that the cow is to be respected in Hindu culture, I am a little put off by the absurdity of the idea. I punch my brother lightly on the shoulder, a game we play India each time we see a cow, a fairly common sight. My brother smiles as he covers his nose, the stench of the cow a little strong for his liking.

As we make yet another turn, I let out a huge yawn, jet lag starting to kick in. I would like to be in my grandmother’s house, sleeping like a baby. I try to start sleeping when a man dressed in rags comes up to the side of our car. He stretches out his hand, asking for money. I take a peek at him, and am shocked to see a stump where his other arm should be. I start to search my pockets, searching for any Indian money that I may be carrying. Just as I reach to open my window, our driver tells me to ignore the man, and keeps on driving. A small lump starts to form in my throat, and my eyes start to swell. My brother sits awkwardly next to me, putting back the money that he had taken out of his pocket.

We finally arrive at my grandmother’s house. I start to open the car door, but our driver runs out of his seat to open the door for me. As my family and I walk to my grandmother’s apartment, our driver lags behind us, carrying our luggage. As soon as we enter the apartment, I say hello to my grandmother, then I lie down on the futon. In the background, my parents talk to my grandmother while my brother searches over fifty TV channels for ESPN. As I feel myself drifting to sleep, I dream of the cozy life I will have in India and the grand wedding I witnessed. But suddenly, the image of the man who begged me for money comes into my head. The two sides come closer and closer together, until they completely merge, then explode. When I wake up, my head throbs.




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