Weekly Writing Challenge: Traces

Dust to dust. The passage moved in and out of my consciousness while I walked the streets of Delhi as the night took hold of trash covered alleyways and the children who played there. High above the horizon, time marched on, dragging along impermanent glimpses of the day that had been.  Far below the nightly march of celestial bodies, dust continued to move between open-toed sandals that carried me in an awkward cadence through the unpaved streets. Neon lights woke up from their daily slumber as food stalls began to glow the subdued orange of coal fires. The setting sun put an end to work in a city with rolling blackouts and the dinner bells rang out for the weary laborers.

An old man sitting next to his cooking station found me looking through a lens in his direction and, with a disregard for a white man far out of place, gestured with disinterest for a tourists digital memento. The darkness had taken up residence throughout the streets. A fine cloud of dust was simmering in the air and accenting the punctuated sources of light that dangled above vegetable carts while their vendors meandered through congested traffic. Long beacons from headlamps flashed wildly, splashing shadows across the cracked canvas of buildings tightly packed along the old roads. Lights, candles and fires struggled against the darkness in small spheres around me in every direction. Even in one of the most densely populated cities of the world the darkness still finds a way into the corners where the devil hides.

The streets had become a magnetic focal point of my visit and despite the suggestions of guides, I continued to find myself wandering well after the hotel doors had been shut for the night. After five days of controlled chaos I faced a timetable for departure, but felt unprepared for the imminent exit timetable. India had taken me in on a sweltering morning and with complete indifference offered a cacophony of odors, noises, and sites that were so antipodal to Chicago that the first twenty-four hours were nearly paralytic. The highways of Delhi took me past Lamborghinis and into the most impoverished landscaped that I had seen anywhere in the world. The driver navigated pedestrians, cyclists, and oncoming traffic while avoiding potholes peppered along the sporadically paved roads. My life had turned into a full-length film viewed through flash-before-your-eyes moments on a regular basis.

I had traveled from my home in Chicago to a land of more than one billion people in search of a story to share when I returned. In a nation of inequality, injustice, political turmoil and a historical footprint as big as any other country I assumed that dredging up something worth photographing and writing about would be simple. The story of a lifetime was etched from the handshakes, meals, and smiles of India. The people of the country left an unmistakable mark on me rather while I was trying to  scribble traces of myself on the landscape of a country that was not mine.

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