down a pathless path
i passed through villages, that no matter how tiny, still had their own postcode
old fishermen with bent backs and callused hands sat outside the local teashop gossiping, drinking sweet hot chai and eating spicy melt-in-the-mouth vada pav. women with wind-strayed hair lugged babies and possessions from one end of the street to the other, weariness etched on their faces, wrists and ankles shimmering with beaten silver. boys not old enough to wear long pants sat astride scooters with puffed up hair, open shirts, dirty shorts and sandals, revving the engine and doing doughnuts at crossings. old broken down cars and spare parts stood sentry outside mechanics stores while colourful biscuit packets and local fizzy drinks from wayside stalls tempted weary travellers. blown up plastic toys and baubles strung from rickety poles swayed in the wind looking for restless children in cooped up cars.
the road was bumpy and dusty, the worn-down asphalt edges barely containing the dense thick foliage, which grew in boundless enthusiasm after the rains and flickered over me as i drove past. rivers big and small, named and unnamed, slid under bridges, tangling and rambling through forests, peeking through shyly from time to time. cultivated fields whooshed by, then a random home, then deserted-land, then lush forests. the landscapes varied one after the other, but never one or the other for a long stretch of time.
gradually the tarred road became narrower and narrower until it stopped abruptly at the start of a stony track. a bizarre ending to many hundred kilometres of tarmac. the clack bang of the engine pierced the virginity of the air as the car wound its way labouriously over the rough path, until it could go no further. as the engine slowly ticked over and wound down, silence rushed in to fill the space, broken not even by the tweet of a bird. the wind played piper and little motes of dust scurried along while dried grass rustled and scrunched under my feet. i followed the path on foot walking a few hundred metres over a hill until eventually, it too disappeared, melding into the landscape. everything was burnished a spectacular soft gold from the setting sun.
ah, but here was a place of wild and desolate beauty!
i came across wild cashew trees which had just started to produce their fruit. seeing them took me back 25 years to an early evening walk in a forest. my grandpa and i ambled along, him pointing out all kinds of flowers and shrubs and trees and me attempting to remember them all. suddenly he stopped and gesturing at a tree, said, 'ah, now look here, this is the cashew tree'. i looked up at their applet-red bulbous fruit and tempting nuts hanging below waiting for eager hands to pluck them. he seemed to read my mind. "shall we take a few?" he asked kindly. i don't think my head could have bobbed any harder. "very well," he said, "but lets be careful, they contain poison which could harm you"
my grandpa helped me pick my first wild cashews, after which we built a small fire, roasted and ate them. my hands were blackened from cracking open the blistered shells and my mouth stung from not waiting from them to cool
i can still taste the charred smokey hot cashews
we shared that day, eating and eating till my tummy ached with fullness and my heart sang with profound and simple happy-ness.