The drive back from Rajasthan

A  Punjabi gentleman by the name of Daljit was driving us the three and a half hours back to Delhi where we’d booked a hotel before getting the early morning flight home.  I have a  ear of driving at night. I think that the  darkness is an open mouth that will at some point swallow the car. Snap. It’s what death in a car crash would feel like.  

We leave The Neemrana fort at 4pm.  It should take us three and a half hours of  the remaining daylight. After a half hour  we pass a  car crash, the family are still in the car, and a few others have stopped to help.  There  are no police except for in the cities, there are no traffic lights either. I don’t see one police car in the entire journey. There’s no AA no RAC and no telephones on the roadside. Half the cars have no wing mirrors and rely on  beeping the horn to let each other know they are there.  Within an hour  we’re stuck in a traffic jam.  Darkness  slid across the sky like a sniper, like a bad omen.  We are in the night in the middle of a torrential downpour on the mane carraigeway from Rajasthan to Delhi. I bury my head in a book as we swerve past an assortment of crashes.

Finally we arrive at the hotel ten minutes from the airport.   As I got out of the car I stood into a deep muddy puddle. It had been raining for three hours non stop. We had driven through my worst fears:  torrential rain and darkness.   Within seconds of getting out of the car. A screech quick like a boxers jab punched the air.  Daljit the driver of our car saw it all. Oh god” he said  and then as another car ran over the body “oh god”.  It seemed to me at first  that nothing had happened. I squinted to my eyes to see through the rain.  And there revealed in the middle of the  road  a sikh gentleman with a red umbrella was directing traffic away from the body.   I looked down by his feet and saw what he was protecting – a man whose legs were behind his head and body twisted impossibly on the ground. 

As we get back in the car to find an ATM machine and return to the hotel Daljit tells us the story of his fathers death four years earlier. He too was crossing a road.  He too was run over and died four hours later. Such deaths are everyday life here.   Daljit drove quietly on.

13 thoughts on “The drive back from Rajasthan

  1. That's what the true tragedy of my country,I remember in our British Council workshop at Chennai, you said how things always moved in a balance on the roads,and I thought in my mind,sooner or later before leaving the country you will have to change your opnion.In one way you are right , everything runs in a balance in my country,but the cost of a slip…you might have to pay with your life.

  2. I remember making that comment about “balance”. I said it on my first day in India. I ahve never seen a dead person in real life. I have never been to a funeral. It was shocking.

  3. hi lemn
    long time no fish. i was at your first gig, shepherd staff in hand, in moss side library. in fact, you invited us – me & my boyfriend, for a meal at pauline's place in whalley range and you showed us the photos – there we were, intently listening. Man, you were on fire even then! glad to see you're still traversing the space waves.
    regarding death…yeah i've never seen a corpse either xcept on TV. perhaps our western culture celebrates youth/beauty and propagates the myth of eternal livity. most cultures have a closer awareness of death, a more prosaic attitude to its proximity.
    get in touch, more things to say!

  4. Hey Sherry. I think that was my first paid gig. Alot of people say “ahh I rememberyour first gig” – and they are invariably wrong.
    But you are right. That was my first gig. I remember the staff – the wooden stick I used to walk with though I had no disability – and I had dreadlocks then too. Such a long time ago. So much has happened since then. That library is no longer there. Moss Side has changed so much
    Good to hear from you. Look forward to hearing more.

  5. Hey again! Thank you for sharing your story. It was among the sadest things I've seen, a couple of times I felt like running on stage and giving you a hug. You have a beautiful soul, again, thank yo for sharing your story. I wish you the very best in life.

  6. hey hooda
    why didn't you introduce yourself to me agter the show. I have no idea who you are and there is no profile link to you. Have we met before? Tell me more? Where you at the show in Umea? I hope so.
    Best Wishes

  7. Damn I think you were at the Hasselholm event. I have to tell you that it was one of the worst shows of the entire three years of this touring production. Why? Because the audience were mainly students! And the show is not for the 16 year old age range! Umea was one of the best

  8. Hi Lemn!
    I was at your performance in Umeå, you went away so fast, I didn't get a chance to introduce myself. I have to say that your performance hit a spot, maybe I was just projecting, but you sharing your story left me richer and sadder. But I will introduce myself if you ever come back to Umeå:)

  9. hey
    I am glad you were at Umea as it was everything which a performance of such a story should be. I was there afterwards and I met alot of people and went across the road for a radio interview and stayed at “news” and at the coffee house across the road. My email is lemn@lemnsissay.I want to know who you are. Do you know my family???????

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