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wait for the others. You can’t even see them for the sheets of rain. You laugh some more. Drenched, you squeeze back into the car, umbrellas dripping on your feet, shawls laid out across the back seat to hopefully dry before they’re needed again. On the drive home, the Kerala Forest department reminds you: ‘Forest means water. Water means life. Life means everything.’ When you get home, you retreat to your camp bed, trying to reconnect to your own space via the ever-less-white cords of your headphones. Sunitha and Bindhu take cha at the hostel, returning with banana puri and demands for photos. As each girl returns home from their day, questions are asked and stories told. By dinnertime though, they’ve tired of trying to understand your accented English and broken Malayalam. You’re left to eat your curry and rice in silence, listening to their conversations for words

and expressions you think you can understand: ‘Holly’ ‘choor illa’, exasperated confusion. You’re fucking tired, exhausted, over it. The sense of not understanding your surroundings unsettles and confuses you. Always being noticed and looked at challenges your sense of self. Having 8 mothers, as in the 8 women you live with, makes you miss your real mother even more. But as you write your diary that night, you chastise yourself for being sooky, for not controlling your emotions, and for obsessing over your boyfriend’s failure to respond to your message. *** You finally woke up one morning in late November and have to put a cardigan on. The rain was over; winter was here. A week later you were in England, shivering bitterly in your boyfriend’s unheated student house, finding comfort in a pint

of ale, his arms and the English language. The potable water from the tap was icy; showers, though more familiar than the bucket and jug system you had gotten used to, provided none of that essential cleansing. *** Get me the fuck out of this hellhole, I would write, nightly. I’d scold myself, in writing of course, causing my journal to now read somewhat schizophrenically. ‘Stop worrying’ ‘ just chill out’ ‘go with the flow’ ‘enjoy travelling’ ‘ it’s all part of the experience’. It wasn’t until months later, reading an article on ‘ failed travels’ that I started answering questions about my time in India honestly. I was scared, incessantly challenged, lonely. But there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. India surrounded me, drowned me with its incessant, invasive, incredible presence, a presence I didn’t, couldn’t and will never understand. ◊

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Profile for On Dit

On Dit Issue 80.12  

THE FINAL ISSUE

On Dit Issue 80.12  

THE FINAL ISSUE

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