I am standing on the side of the road along parked cars. It’s my first night in Delhi; Diwali and the air is thick with smoke and noise and the promise of late-night parties and holiday. Thrown like confetti into the heart of a city after so much quiet coldness. But my stomach is lurching and I am with people who I don’t know well. I look around the corner but still there is no sign of N, I lean my head against a car door. R seems worried but also perturbed. I don’t want parties, I don’t want food, I don’t want the promise of a city night life that I’ve always wanted to experience; I am suddenly entirely exhausted. The cold, the roads, the plane; this tail end of my big journey suddenly spirals out of control. I want to be back in the room to throw up in privacy if I have to. I don’t like losing control, especially not in public. Especially not with new friends. I think I am breathing deeply. N finally comes round the corner with something in her hands. Paan. She doesn’t see to understand herself why she is holding it and for a moment it confuses me enough to pull me out of my cloud. ‘I wanted to try it,’ she mumbles. (She didn’t, and when I am better, I will laugh until I am almost sick again when I hear why she has it.)
But now, back in the street in Delhi, outside Nizamudeen with an explosion of fireworks and smoke, I am just grateful to have her back. My condition has thrown a dampener on the evening. We trundle off in the little car back to the guesthouse, the other disappear to their respective parties and N and I go back to the room. I’m secretly pleased to be back. Too much strangeness, too much noise, too much smoke for one night. Maybe I am a villager after all. Or maybe I just need to throw up.
I writhe and moan and N tries to be helpful. But really at the end of the day with such matters, you just have to deal with them yourself. I do not want to get sick. It will spoil everything. I order Coke and get Pepsi. He bring two glasses on a tray, the tall man who makes the parathas in the morning. I feel better almost immediately.
I’m not going to throw up.
The world is not going to end. I recognize myself, my perspectives, my ambitions all over again and the world is beautiful once more. I sit in bed in the dark and the streets are full of explosions and car sounds and people and promise. Tomorrow is Monday. I can’t remember ever feeling that excited, that full of feeling and freedom ever.