Sunday, 15 May 2016

Contrasts - a competition winner

Thought I'd share with you a short piece I wrote back in March, inspired by my trip to India. It was a Cloudie competition entry and it won! 
And yes, it's formatted differently because I've copied and pasted from the Word Cloud site - and it's copied the formatting too! Enjoy.

I step out of the way of an oncoming tuctuc, dodge around the bike laden with pomegranates and squeeze into a gap between sari-clad women and a group of young men.
“Mam! Mam! You want?”
“No. Thank you.”
My eyes betray me though, enticed by glittering jewellery and coloured scarves – a richness that comes cheap in terms of rupees.
The jingle of a bell announces sweet treats as the candyfloss seller touts his neon pink wares, the sound quickly drowned out by a near constant cacophony of vehicle horns.
A jolt, deep in my stomach, as I realise I can’t see Mike any more – have I lost him in the crowd? Then I see the heads turning, attracted to the pale skin among the dark.
I’m on the receiving end of a few stares myself. A white woman, here? The crowds press closer and someone grabs my arm.
An old lady, holding the hand of…her daughter? She speaks.
“Hello.” I smile and she grins a gap-toothed grin, the skin around her eyes wrinkling with pleasure and sun and age.
The crowd shifts, a few steps now instead of a shuffle. I have to catch up.
The woman takes my arm again as I move away. “Goodbye.” A wave and a head wobble.
We reach the road. The proper road, not the narrow strip of tarmac crowded by stalls. It’s as wide as a dual carriageway, but a free for all for motorbikes, tuctucs, buses, lorries and pedestrians. It’s deafeningly loud, chokes me with exhaust fumes, and has the first ‘green man’ crossing I’ve seen, which no-one pays any attention to. I step into the road and realise - too late - that I’ve misjudged the traffic because the locals stay on the pavement, leaving me to dodge round several buses, a motorbike coming at high speed with three people on it, and an ox cart.
Then it’s down the steps into the church compound, kick off my shoes at the door, and enter the holy place.
It’s not silent – there are still the echoes of distant traffic – but deep quiet descends. It reaches far up into the vaulted ceiling, stretches blessed fingers into the side chapels, and brings men and women to their knees in the nave.
Including me…
And I know that, right here, right now, I am where I am supposed to be, as the turmoil of life slips away.

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