Somewhere. a girl steps off a plane and into a world unknown.
Sometime. a boy runs barefoot through dirt streets, late.
Somewhere far away from here, a girl is assaulted by the new world around her. In the back streets of the old city, the country finds her. Senses are excited to the point of explosion. Smells of frying chapatis and smouldering spit and incense and putrid water. Sounds of horns. horns. horns. Never-ending, like one eternal blast from an old tuk tuk, magnified to be heard even in the farthest corner of the country. Sights of rickshaws carrying wardrobes squeezing between oxen pulling carts and people carrying mountains of produce on their heads. Feel the dirt that hangs in the air caress her skin and slowly darken it to meet the colour of locals with every building layer. Feel the heat burn into her chest, the sweat begin to stick. Taste the colours in the curries, greens and oranges and reds alive and vibrant. To be embraced.
Welcome to somewhere like nowhere else.
Sometime a boy’s light feet can be heard padding the pavement, as he runs through a maze of small square houses, late for lessons. He breathes heavily as he ducks under clothes drying in the fierce sun. He turns a sharp corner, jumps over the pile of shoes at the door and bursts into the room full of children. A family’s living-bed-dining-room-turned-classroom for a few hours a day. Hospitality is like heat in this place, everywhere and enveloping. Panting, he backtracks to stand by the rusty old door, broken on its hinges, to ask,
“May I please enter didi?”
Only to be met by a tidal wave of stern words, chastising his tardiness. He stands tall and waits for the words to leave through the door he had come. And when they do, he sits on the straw mat, squeezing between two classmates, heading the threat that if late again, he is out for good.
Welcome to the world where knowledge is more precious than gold.
The girl watches a rusty bus squeeze past her tuk tuk. Everyone going everywhere, carrying a story. A million lives, billions of stories moving around her in a blur. And hers is but one. She scribbles moments on a napkin; her story written as she lives it. Whilst others are lost in the din of city traffic, driving away into silence.
She returns to the airport, flys south. Escaping the city and being engulfed by the humidity of the beach. Quiet by comparison, the small village welcomes her with smiles and sweat. Sweat. Sweat.
She steps into the classroom and into a home. A small, cool room with an old TV in one corner and a wobbly wardrobe in another. The family’s bamboo mats have been rolled up and lean against the wall, and they roll out our own. One simple swap turns a bedroom to a classroom. She sits, and waits for the children to arrive, exhilarated in anticipation. The first through the door is a small boy in long pants, a shiny watch hanging from his wrist.
She smiles, takes a deep breath of humid air, and starts the day’s lesson.
Somewhere. A girl finds hope in the eager eyes of a child.
Sometime. A boy finds happiness in the knowledge shared by an unknown alien-girl.
In a place of 1.2 billion people, stories come and go faster than what time can collect. Some are forgotten. Some scream louder than the horns that fill the air.
These are but two.
Stories of hope. Hope for the future. Hope for happiness. Hope for change.
For in a place where billions of people squeeze to fit their lives side by side, there is one underlying piece of magic that they all share.
It fills the air, and lights even the darkest places with its engulfing mist.
Soaking through skin, slipping in windows, ticking with every second of a too-big-borrowed watch.
It is present. Always.
An undying, undeniable, inescapable feeling of hope.
About the Author: Tamara Lennon: My love of travel and writing intertwine and carry me to the most beautiful people and places on earth. We have so much to learn, and so much to discover. So pack your bags and get going- and don’t forget a pen and paper!