There was little to be seen until the passenger in the window seat next to me stretched his legs for a while. This, just as we crossed in darkness over the Pakistan, India border.
The border was lit for an eternity with fairy lights, the sheer scale gave me goose bumps at the unknown we were heading for and thoughts of the thousands of lives lost battling for this strip of soil and earth. I later discover of course that they are not fairy lights at all, but are in fact 1156 miles of floodlights sanctioned by the Indian government in an attempt to stop infiltration by terrorists. The lights are so bright they can be seen from space!
Somewhere in the seventeenth hour, asleep on the plane surrounded by a sea of dark faces and shiny black hair, DT woke me as we soared above the Himalayas. I had to rub my eyes twice before I understood correctly what he was pointing out were snow-capped giant mountains and not clouds. I chuckle to myself thinking that our pale white faces and DT’s balding head protrude above the other passengers. Perhaps at barely 5 foot I can’t compare myself to a mountain.
In the arrivals hall I try not to stare, but I’m a curious sort and can’t help but admire the grace of the Nepalese, delicate black eyes, strong angular jawlines and cheekbones of a completely perfect expressionless look. Indeed what is there to express as you’re herded like cattle from seat to door, to steps to queue. I’d manage to make some kind of drama out of it for sure, conscious that my face might give away something I’m hiding not hiding, as the customs officer checks my passport credentials.
Unaware of exactly how many time zones we’ve crossed it’s beaming daylight as we make our way to the car park. Bulging behind the meet and greet barriers smiling faces and colourful characters wave to their loved ones. We scan amongst them for Sabin and clock him holding a sign that reads ‘hfbartist’. I take a dose of pleasure that he’s used my email username and wonder if this is a good sign for the creative aspects of the trip. Sabin is of slight build and taller than most Nepalese. He wears a waterproof sports jacket with neat slacks, they’re a little too short revealing his smart dress shoes, the only pair he owns worn with dust and crinkled in the exact shape of his step.
We exchange greetings and thanks for the time he’s taken to come and collect us. The journey is short and as Brits we do our best to make small talk Sabin accommodates in return, it’s clear as a tour guide he’s used to this, it’s equally clear that in Nepalese culture small talk isn’t necessary and in a telepathic fashion we cotton on and just enjoy the silence of the ride. Tumeric yellow roads and buildings along which rainbows of swaying sari’s and sunbleached cream cotton shirts hustle and bustle. Silver metal creating split second reflections baking in the sunlight, horns blaring in the stop start city traffic. We round a corner of green parkland and begin to weave the car up impossible alleyways. I feel like I’m in one of those photographs where the exposure’s been left on too long and all the light and life is flooding in so fast you can’t make it out.