Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A hot afternoon in Ahmedabad.

There were flies in the small café but at least it was cool. The chink of plates and cutlery and the low buzz of conversations gave the impression of busyness, but the busyness wasn't happening round me; I sat on my own slightly away from the other customers. From a pot plant just outside the window a faint breeze wafted a whole summer of hyacinth scent in my direction. The smell wrapped itself round me like grave clothes. I found it nauseating and it stayed with me the rest of the afternoon. Even the heavy smell of cumin drifting in from the kitchen was no match for the sickly, deathly hyacinth. The television was turned up loud though no-one seemed to be watching it. The music from the adverts screamed in my head and a football commentator raced faster than the ball he was chasing with his eyes and voice and even the mad dash of red and yellow football shirts that I caught in the corner of my eye were deafeningly loud.
I walked back to the hotel reeling from an afternoon of sensory overload beneath an over-headed sun. Children kicked cans up and down the street and shop keepers shouted at each other. Scooters scooted around me like demented wasps at the end of summer and it wasn't until later, in the cool of the evening,  that I began to recover from the day's assaults.
At the hotel buckets of water were brought to my room for me to bathe in. Afterwards a sprinkler revived the tired looking lawn while I sat on the veranda. Alcohol would have been too heavy so I ordered a nimbu pani and let the lush garden hidden from the rest of Ahmedabad soothe my eyes and heard. The sounds of the city couldn't reach me from the other side of the high walls: I could have been in a desert rather than in the middle of a dense and clamorous urban sprawl.

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