I am in the backpacker’s India of my late teens and early twenties, in a little guest house with plywood walls that are cracked and sagging. I am showering in cold water, standing over the squatty toilet, toweling off carefully.
When I got up this morning I hurried to the shower, hoping to be the first there. I didn’t need to worry. Apparently my fellow backpackers aren’t up at 7:00 for the shower, not having jumped out of bed as soon as they opened their eyes and it was light. I can’t help it! I need to see the world, the sun is up and I am exploring.
I love this. I paid 50 rps extra to have two windows in my room. One is a little one about 18 x 24”, with a view of the roof of the building next door. I’m glad I paid the extra. The air was unbelievably fresh this morning. It is January, and the coolness off the river is delightful.
I had Indian breakfast at a little restaurant around the corner; bhaji parantha. Fried flat bread and a potato curry. Mosquitoes were biting my ankles and so I brought my legs up and crossed them on the seat (this is, after all, India) and later the owner of the establishment came by and rebuked me. “Put your legs down,” he said. “Sit properly.” I was quickly aware that I am no longer the venerated mother of four, queen of my chaotic household, drinking my espresso and cream amid fluttering limbs of people under eight. I am just your ordinary backpacker, a budget traveler, with unkempt hair (dreadlocks) and Nescafe in my cup. I have traded respect for a bit of peace and quiet for a few days. I notice how differently I am treated when I am alone. I don’t have the weight of my family in a country where family is everything.