By Elizabeth Jacob, Production Assistant
It was suffocating. No other word describes it more appropriately. Crammed in the backseat of an auto rickshaw with my grandfather’s leather trunk at my feet and my backpack protectively bundled in my arms, I felt vulnerable to the elements that I have landed within. I wrapped my shawl more tightly around my neck and picked up the straps of my canvas backpack to avoid the army of raindrops that had silently created a pool of water beside me which inevitably became my passenger along for the ride. I have never felt so small, yet from landing in this country not a mere four hours ago it crept on me that this place can do that to you. The make shift tarp that was attempting to cover the open windows was utterly useless as constant raindrops assaulted us from all sides while sprays from nearby lorries left us meandering through pothole riddled puddles on the street. Glancing around the interior of the auto, I could see the leather tearing at the seams on the seats, the rust eating away at the metal handle bars and the pasted images of gods and goddesses fading into the layers that were under them creating a divine décollage. Looking out at the view that my champion driver, Rattan, was navigating through was surreal. Distorted speckled drops of red and water were splattered onto the windshield which the small wiper futilely cleaned away but was immediately bombarded with another wave of glistening red drops. We had been making good time so far, so the traffic jam ahead with its bejewelled ruby lights was a sight that Rattan had anticipated and mentioned. Suddenly, my silent puddle of a passenger spilled over the edge of the seat and slipped into oblivion into an already soaked floor as Rattan slammed on the breaks as we entered as a tile into this Tetris traffic puzzle.
The torrential downpour was relentless however the air that it created was fascinatingly toxic as we were stranded as an island within a sea of never-ending islands. If I could bottle up any smell and re-immerse myself in its fragrance it would be this smell of warm wet earth, the smokiness of traffic pipes, and the undertone scents of mouth-watering food savories from nearby vendor carts. This noise is another factor that I would love to record but I veto the idea of reaching into my backpack for my camera for fear of the rain against the lens but I feel it is more to the fact that I do not want to miss being in this moment. The rain continues to rap against the rickshaw and within these small confines the noise echoes loud and thunderous. Cars and rickshaws are continually honking as if performing a mediocre jingle while drivers swear and even my dear Rattan has participated in this chorus of curses at some invisible power who is clearly to blame for putting us all in this uncompromising position. Sitting trapped and drenched, I breathe deep this fragrance of chaos. In all my years I have never felt more awake and more alive. I look down my sodden shoes which are resting on the stenciled ‘S’ and ‘R’ of my leather trunk. I wonder what he would think of me being here, in his hometown. I recall the photo of the carved wooden doors with its vivid mosaic stained glass windows above the entrance and the metal name card that is imbedded on the right side of the door that mirror the same initials that my feet are currently resting upon.
I bring my hand up to knock on the door and pause, realizing there is no turning back. I breathe in that welcoming perfume from the rickshaw and knock. I hear a shuffle from the inside and I wait. Wait to speak the words that have been uttered by pen and not by lips, locked away in a letter within that trunk whose words bleed truth of forgotten moments. I wait until the door finally opens and I gaze upon the person I have read so much about. Who would have thought I had her eyes?