Kailash

It’s awfully hard to sleep when there’s an assault of the senses happening all around you, even when it’s half past midnight, you’re fatigued and there’s a small castle of pillows and blankets seducing you to give in. So I devote this piece to the man behind the wheel, the man with my life in his hands (yet another one) as we speed past elaborately painted cargo trucks one after another, hitting the brakes hard as the front wheels lightly touch the ‘rumble strips’ (multiple speed bumps) that were non-existent until the headlights illuminated their form. When I first met Kailash the moon was full, it was a Saturday. It’s been exactly a week unintentionally and as I lay my head against the glass side-door window, my feet on the other, I see the moon has lost half of it’s whole. The stars have presence due to the lack of electricity. Eccentric Hindi music blares from the speakers, I’m thankful I have the entire backseat to myself so I can rest my head a distance from the elated beats and sprawl my limbs out long. Sleeping seems a far off phenomenon in this environment. Kailash is a rebel without a cause. He likes driving Westerner’s, not because of their nature, but because of their ignorance to Indian road rules. He overtakes left, he overtakes right, I can’t understand Hindi but I can understand expressions and he’s got attitude. At first I was taken back, but ever since we hummed Om together in a sacred cave during a brief lull between the on slaught of tourists (trust me, it took me by surprise) I’ve felt we have an understanding of one another. Perhaps because I’m always sitting in his rear view mirror and he’s watched me from afar. Perhaps because I tease him for chewing tobacco and my humour has finally eased it’s way into the heart of closed Indian man. It feels like we’ve made a multitude of stops since our departure a young two hours ago from the ashram for reasons I’m unsure. At one stop we exchanged tools with a young boy, I think I saw him return into his clay hut with a screwdriver of sorts. Then there was petrol, but that one I’ll let slide, it’s an 8-hour drive after all and we all need sustenance, including the vehicle. Tea break was next, heated using a hand-blower encased in clay to ignite the coals that would heat the masala tea, served hot in a short glass with the glares and questions of inquisitive young Indian boys. They blew me kisses once the boy’s heads were turned; the flattery wore off weeks ago. I had inquired with Kailash why our man making tea had disappeared into the far corner with the sieve; “anything is possible in India Hannah.” I think there was a misunderstanding between our dialects; I assume the man returning from taking a piss in the open was whom Kailash thought I was referring too. We had a flight at 5.20pm, I figured we’d be in Mumbai by then, but until then I’d just being reclined on the backseat conjuring up stories, finding humour in the roadside signage “God praises good drivers” “Be late but don’t be late” “Time is money but life is more valuable” and waiting to see what comes first, sleep or another sporadic pit stop. I’m placing my bets/rupees on the latter.