Written in Rishikesh, India whist backpacking. January 2015.
The dogs barking at your taxi as it rolls in. You’re painted with inexperience, experienced as you may be, but your credentials, street or otherwise, don’t matter here, not now, not ever. Someone smiles, acknowledging your outofplaceness. It doesn’t take long to start talking with strangers as if you were old friends from highschool. You get tips, orientations in half-sentences from people whose name you won’t ever remember. You’ll be lucky to remember their faces, although before you know it you’ve told them revelations that you yourself didn’t realise until now, until your mind was alone to think in a place where there isn’t much else to do; the type of stuff you keep from your best friend for reasons you don’t really understand. Maybe it’s because I’ll never see them again, vanishing before they can conjure judgement. Now I’m getting a tour of the town from the old-timer (who is 21 years old); where to get the best lassi, the max bid for a tuk tuk (its more if its raining, or if its dark, or if the train just came in), the local price for toilet paper rolls. The next thing you know you’re the only guy left in this place who knows the way to the secret, abandoned and overgrown ashram that surely inspired a King novel, the one you explored with your camera and your new friends and your old ghosts. I came into their space, and now their space has been left to me, as I smile to, greet and tour around the newbies, making sure I check my sense of seniority in favour of a humbleness that begets communion. Its the same each time one of us leaves, and one by one or two by two, we all leave. The gathering, the hugs, the wishing of safe travels, the half-promise to keep in touch. And then the taxi is gone, the dogs barking.
The dogs always bark. Its the only thing constant about this place.