Sea in winter forest green
Unlike shoots of bamboo trees
Ocean’s clippings rise with wave
“If it’s not sex, it’s rice; they always want something”.
Ten Mumbai Minutes
I instantly smell the soil: pungent, metallic earth. The air is different; it is thicker and smells like a different color, maybe a grey-blue. I am in India.
At least ten young men in white shirts, all with short, black hair—some clean-shaven and others with beards—swarm around me and offer rides. They want to make some money and they know I have it. My white/green skin. One of the first insults hurled at me: Gringa. Now, on the other side of the world, Green-ga.
The taxis are ancient English models, heavy metal Hindu altars, Bollywood idolatry. Sulfur replaces soil.
Why are the cars swerving up ahead? What is that in the middle of the two lanes? Oh no, they’re going to hit that man! And that woman? And those children. Why are they lying there? Are they dead? It would take a while before I was used to seeing families sleeping in the medians of highways. Time would cure that, build up shock absorbers beneath my empathetic sense. It’s been some time, but I still think of them, can still see them there dreaming they are not there.
We’ve stopped at our first red light. Our first real chance to make friends we can’t really help and we’ll never see again.
“Tap. Tap. Tap.”
How interesting: There is a beautiful, young woman tapping on the window of the taxi. What beautiful eyes, so big and dark and clear. They reflect the detailed embroidery on her purple dress. She could be famous. She could be a model.
But she has a baby in her arms. She must need directions or have a question.
“Tap. Tap. Tap.”, on the other side.
Now a slightly younger version of the woman, looks through me with the same clear, beseeching eyes. The cab driver sticks his body out of the window and hurls some invectives at the girls before driving off.
One dollar is equivalent to about 45 rupees. Five rupees buys lunch, two hundred rupees buys you the best hotel room in Mumbai. Next time I’m going to put a family up in five-star.