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The International Writers Magazine: Dust Dogs

Fully fledged kick in the head
Colin Todhunter
Tick-tock, the sound of the clock, silence pierced by the passage of time. Sleepless on the bed, jetlagged in a daze. Checked in to the hotel. Filled in this form, that form and got my key. My very own piece of metal. Personal passport to solitude.

Paradise Hotel

Dusty dogs shatter the calm in the dead of the dark on the street below. A bad tempered dispute that gradually dies down only to flare up again every 15 minutes. A cantankerous canine grudge match that lasts throughout the night. The smell of jasmine and sound of crickets fill the air? More the sound of a whirring ceiling fan and menacing dogs mingling with petrol fumes that linger from the previous day's heavy traffic.

The overhead fan churns a stale breeze, wafting the faint whiff of disinfectant sprayed in the bathroom by the wiry woman who cleaned the room before I came. 'Cleaning' did not include removing the hairs and weeks of grime in the sink, nor the cobwebs in the corners of the room. Certain long term occupants stay rent free.

With body on bed and brain somewhere between here and Europe, the mad dash from airport to hotel now just a haze. From clinical cabin crew smiles to morbid airport lounges. From cold sterility to the blackness of an Indian night.

From money changer to airport taxi in the flicker of a memory. Out of a back street and into a hell hole room in Hotel Paradise. Paradise it may not be, but it's nirvana, salvation from endless strangers, constant movement and the weariness of travel and the cows, dogs and vehicles we barely managed to avoid on the journey in.

The clock ticks, and that old Bryan Adams song 'Summer of 69' still hammers in my head. The in-flight entertainment had a solid collection of songs on one of the music channels, but the tale of that long lost summer in 69 just won't leave. It's my over and over inbuilt song for the night to accompany the sleeplessness.

So many people in the world must possess fond memories of Summer of 69. Perhaps it was the first song people danced to on their champagne drenched wedding day, or maybe it was the background music for thousands as they sipped a refreshing cold drink while looking out across some blue lagoon on a dream holiday.

The Canadian singer songwriter Bryan Adams would no doubt be pleased knowing his song has a special place in the hearts of many. He will probably never appreciate the song being the never ending backdrop to a hot and humid night in a dreary cell in some cheap whitewashed budget hotel, with the occupant cursing him for ever having written the song.

Night moves into dawn. People start to wake. The noise begins. The daily routine of slamming doors, voices shouting into cell phones along the corridors and the sound of vehicle horns outside. Just another boring day that repeats and repeats again. But not for me. I spent the last two months wishing I was somewhere else - here. Now I wish I was somewhere else - there. No, not where I had been, but around the corner in the restaurant eating my first South Indian breakfast in over a year.

Anticipation prevails, and tiredness loses out. I fall into the shower, I stumble onto the street. Can't miss breakfast time in my favourite restaurant. The idlis, the dosas, the wadas, the coffee. The pongal, the sambar, the chutneys, the service. The frenzy of activity. The food served fast. The food eaten fast. A fast food place India style. Indigestion delight.

Waiters dash, supervisors bark and customers drink water from metal mugs. Waiters fill mugs from metal jugs and boys clean tables with rags soaked in tap water. Burning incense, belching trucks. Growling buses, gripping heat.

I sit, I watch, I order, I eat. The sambar reduces the taste of the coffee, the coffee diminishes the longing for sleep. Half spice, half caffeine, half awake, half asleep. It's a fully fledged kick in the head. It's a full force kick start in India. Did I ever really go away?
dogs© Colin Todhunter on the web: June 2011
East by Northwest -

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