Hung over. Congested. Again. Always. First thought of the morning is to leave India; cancel my train trip and get the fuck out of this place. Very possible at this point. I resolve to only go with the girls on the train trip if I they buy me a first class ticket. Spoiled first world thinking at it’s best.
The day is filled with anxiety as I grapple with the impulse to flee. Running away would be to admit defeat; to declare India the winner and I a coward who can’t handle a little third world poverty. I try to read but my mind is so unsettled that I end up reading the same sentence repeatedly for ten minutes.
Drink two large beers for lunch in hopes of calming down but it has no effect. My nose and throat are caked with mucus and soot. I continue drinking because I conclude no other activity appropriate given my neurosis. Next on the list, naturally, is emotional eating. I find a stand that sells king size Kit Kats; my old trusty sidekick.
Credit Nestle for having such a keen awareness of their market conditions. What I thought was a king size chocolate bar ends up being four small bars wrapped in progressive layers of plastic and foil. Four layers removed until I reach the chocolate prize but anything less and the latent filth of Kolkata would surely find a way to seep in. I wonder if a packaging engineer spends his days trying to outwit the leviathan that is Kolkata’s pollution?
I try to read US news on my laptop but become seized by a stunning fright. I run back to my hotel and hide in my room as if a monster were on my heels. The world is going crazy. Mothers are killing their babies’ execution style; at least that is today’s headline. I wonder if their neurosis is actually a strain of my neurosis, we both being afflicted first world degenerates, and my anxiety from reading their story is really my fear of where my compulsive tendencies will take me? I don’t want to kill babies. Why is madness usually so sanctimonious?
Kolkata must be a preview of the coming apocalypse. What other purpose can it serve? Most of the expats who have conveyed their love of Kolkata have obvious holes they are filling – deficiencies of the psyche reaching for purpose in the harshest urban conditions. But what else is human life if not belonging to a cause and trying to help others? I scoff yet I am jealous of their resolve.
I lean more heavily toward departing India as the day goes on. Kill time by re-watching the same movies on my computer I’ve seen ten times along this trip. If only I could be more like Batman.
I cannot understand why travelers waste their time laboring for small talk in an awkward array of ten shared words of English between them. I feel uncomfortable just being within earshot of this baby babble. Bruno has the best solution I’ve seen so far when approached by the uncomfortably lonely. He speaks in audacious and rapid French, knowing full well the recipient is Korean, and has no hope of deciphering the code. He even gesticulates for emphasis of key concepts and I laugh as I watch the blank stare of the confused volunteer.
I try to drink more beer in the evening but begin perspiring a viscous dew. I know this feeling. My body is oversaturated with toxins and urging me to stop the insatiable overindulgence of everything I am inhaling. Drinking and smoking have been heavy the past few days as I’ve tried to numb the emotions raging inside me.
Paula is sitting on the patio when I return from dinner and I admit my reluctance to travel with her group. I share with her my critique of India, whispering because I don’t want to seem like the jaded westerner who has come to India and only found horror instead of the spiritual illumination so many have claimed to discover. She admits to feeling much the same way. I have never felt more relieved. I officially cancel my plans to join them on the train and she couldn’t be more understanding. The ticket turned out to be standard cabin anyway.