There is a low empty ‘chhhhhhhsssssss’ in my ears. The few sounds that there are sound faint and a long way away. Everything is muted. The lowing of the cows, the yapping packs of dogs, and the hoots of cars is missing. And is my nose blocked? I can’t smell anything. Not the thick choke of a heavy exhaust, nor the wafts of cow/human/dog shit, neither the jasmine, or incense, or spices and onions. Has someone pulled a veil over my eyes? Where has all the colour gone? The vibrant blues, reds, yellows, pinks, greens, worn by women, and spilling from the markets as flowers, vegetables and paints. I also have this strange sense of agoraphobia. No one is next to me, there is no pressure of a small form trying to urge me, and thus them, closer to where ever they want to be. And I can’t feel people pushing past me, the brief brush of flesh is gone. There is space, between people, enough to swing a cow.
The streets are grey and subdued. There is no one squatting at the side of the road, asking whether I want shoe shine, henna or bananas. No taxi driver has crawled up to me and asked if I want a taxi. No one has wanted my photo, or looked at my feet to check I am not floating, and am actually that tall. There are no children wanting ‘one sweet’ or just a quick game of silliness. The lively bangra beats are gone, as is the ubiquitous Tibetan chanting, the streets are silent. There are no disturbing human deformities, or spit up the walls, or plastic across the floor, or smiles from people as they walk past, or cows wending through the traffic, or dogs, and monkeys looking for an opportunity to pilfer. In the shops, those that work there ask me with a forced pleasantry if they can help me. In the bars a restaurants, signs on the door tell me that children are not welcome.
I am home. Everything is very ‘civilised’, which at the moment feels very bland. There are no animals, smells, colours, tastes, or people curious, smiling and interested. Where have all the smiles gone. Those lovely wide broad smiles. The only strangers who have smiled at me have been paid to, as part of the company ethos to make the customer feel ‘appreciated’. No one meets on the streets to talk and pass the time. Everyone has somewhere they need to be. All the shops along the high streets are filled with expensive stuff no one really needs, jewellery, the latest fashion fad. There is nothing of necessity here.
It’s all same same, but shifted a little left field. I feel like I am part of a Red Dwarf episode, where they go to some alternative reality, where everything is the same, but there is something weird, like everyone walks backward. In this case, people forgot to smile.
But there is wine…….back into the numbness.