It has been another good day. We bumpy roaded to a nearby city and spent the day exploring, dodging rickshaws, finding markets, touching fabrics, drawing stares. It is a place tourists would never visit. It would not make even a line in any guidebook but I was caught, fascinated. Even grime can be transfixing.
There are more people than make sense to me. They fill every place at every hour. But a population of over 155 million, in a country around two thirds of the size of the UK, is bound to be a little crowded! My head doesn’t even have room for the size of that thought.
Life lives on the streets here. The boundaries between in and out, private and public seem permeable, porous, when homes are huts and workshop walls have more holes than doors.
Carpenters fend off hungry goats. Cows pause for thought on roundabouts. Welders spray fountains of sparks like birthing breaths of fireworks. Singers sew to the tap of a foot as coloured scraps draft-drift in ribbons out onto the pock-marked pavement. Little ones with old eyes wipe down the tables and bustle off with plates.
It is awful beautiful. It is life, lovely, demanding, a tiny bit dangerous. Half chaos unkempt, half wonder of ingenuity and effort.
Everything is on sale: inflatable unicorns, vegetables I can’t name, bottles, bits, thingummies and clips.
I have never seen so much being made. I have never been so aware of how much human industry I consume, how many lithe fingers have snipped, clipped, crafted and sweated over the little nothings I buy and then forget, cupboarded.
I take sly secret photos with my phone. Then laugh when I’m asked to pose for a picture by a group of young men who place me in a line up of dead white dress dummies pouting cold red lips. Is that how they see me? Is this celebrity?
I want to remember. I want to keep these sights inside me, to hold the unanswered questions as treasures.
I think might be pouring out of my eyes, falling through my smile. I probably look a little simple, a little lovestruck. A policeman forgets the traffic to follow my gaze, searching for the scene that has lit up my face, but he doesn’t see what I see and looks back a bit baffled.
It is always hard to edge aside an inch and see with a stranger’s eyes. I wonder how my home would seem to one of these jostling passers-by, what angles would catch their gaze. From a distance to me it looks a little dull, matt, flatter and thinner.
Different places must each have a fair share of all that is compelling, yet here I am dazzled, colour-drunk. Travel has reminded me how to see.
It occurs to me that there really are no fixed boundaries. How I see becomes part of the sight. My enthusiasm pulls fuller focus, my interest brightens the scene and draws in the details that would otherwise slip by like silent stories.
I can’t quite explain but I have this strong sense of being present, linked to this; I am the site and the scene. There is beauty is my eyes, so I can take it everywhere, portable and travel-packed.
The magic is at least a little bit mine, inside and out.