Our small bus inched down the busy dirt road, unable to weave through the traffic as the cars and motorcycles did. The passengers didn’t much care, each dozing off after an exhausting day of sightseeing in the Delhi heat. All, that is, except one who refused to miss a single moment of adventure. Reveling in the serene peace I stared out the window. I’d never see such scenes again. In the magic of India’s setting sun I found no differences between those inside and out.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
Bus rides are boring, uneventful drives simply meant to get you from one place to the next. The seats are small and uncomfortable. There is no place to lay your head or escape from the heat. Ours was, in essence, no different. The fourteen person volunteer group was crowded into a small two by one seat bus just large enough for us to fit in. This was the bus that took us four hours away from our home-stay, to tourist site after tourist site, and finally to dinner. We dragged our aching bodies up the steps and one by one the group members began to succumb to their drooping eyelids. An air of exhaustion filled the cabin, the only sound to be heard a Hindi song broadcast over the driver’s radio. A sense of wonder was the only thing keeping me from joining in their dreams. There was a world outside that a fragile piece of glass was powerless to keep me away from, and I pledged to see it.
The town streets were crowded with western clothed men, colorfully dressed women, and joyous children shaking off a long day at work. Upon seeing us many people excitedly prodded the person next to them, a smile on their face. At this time I would wave, much to their delight, and the smile on their face would broaden. I remember that night, one boy walking with his parents saw me wave to his family. Like a scene from a movie he took off without hesitation, attempting to run alongside the bus, waving and smiling. But he couldn’t match the speed and instantly fell behind. Looking back I saw him panting with a ridiculously huge smile on his face. It filled me with happiness to know that one wave from me had been so special to him. Perhaps, I thought, I’d created a memory for him that the world, with all its violent twists and turns, couldn’t erase. A moment only the two of us shared.
During that bus ride I found I learned more about India’s culture than anyone could ever tell me. Homes and shops were small, the size of a one car garage, with a sheet metal wall to be opened and closed as the door. Parents sat in plastic lawn chairs watching the cars go by as cows stood chained to a stake in their yards. The children paused to look at us, captivated. Neighbors gathered in unused fields for a friendly cricket game.
The country was different. Small one room cubes served as homes as the city thinned. Inside neighbors gathered around a tiny television eager to cheer for their favorite sports team. Men burned their family’s trash in empty fields. And small temples, hardly large enough the god statue within, glowed with the light of a dozen candles set out to brighten them in the darkness.
Bus rides are boring. They simply bring you from one place to the next. But I found them exciting, vibrant, and breathtaking. Because in a country of opposites, there is nothing that doesn’t belong.
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