CURIOSITY

THE “OTHER” IS ALWAYS EXOTIC, AND IN INDIA THE AMAZEMENT IS MUTUAL WHEN TRAVELLERS AND LOCALS DARE TO APPROACH EACH OTHER.

Early in the morning, when the sun is still summoning up its power and the land is lit in minor tones, they suddenly appear. Rubbing the sleep from our eyes we see them standing on the shore – a group of men, one with a transistor radio. Initially they cast timid, fleeting glances at us; a careful sounding out of the new and unknown that soon gives way to astonished staring. There is no hostility in the general expressions of amazement and the quiet commentary that you can’t really understand. The murmured Bengali seems a friendly soundtrack to proceedings. Everything we do in our just-woken trance seems to be interesting to our visitors: how we crawl one after the other from our tents, how Andy uses the boat-pump to kindle the previous evening’s embers into a new fire, how Leo empties oil into the petrol canisters, and how Jaja cuts a papaya. Nothing escapes our x-ray-eyed visitors as they edge closer. “Give the people a bit of peace,” Zorba finally says. “Let us just look,” says a man. “You’ll be gone in an hour anyway.”

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