this is what it felt like (to me)

There was a guy laying on the train platform. He was dead. He must of been dead. People were standing around him - trying to shake him to life. But then a train stopped in front of me blocking my view and all I could see now were heads looking out the sleeper car windows exchanging ten rupee notes for cups of watered down chai. Some people got off and crossed the track carrying excessively taped bundles on their backs and holding their child's hand. And they all screamed, "chai chai" but not in unison yet still melodic. And then, "samosa samosa samosa" less melodic but still delicious. And they stared at me from the side lower berth maybe because my lower back hurt but only because I didn't know how to sit yet. I didn't know how to squat yet. Behind the blue tarp they were rolling chapatis on a stone slab. The baby wouldn't stop crying despite living so close to a swingset. And then Deviba said, "I'm so glad your here". She didn't even know me yet. I ate pooja which I thought tasted better than it did but it did because the environment I was in was so warm like monkeys in the trees. Or like hogs walking across the parking lot at 6 am when sleeping in a hotel lobby that wreaks of last nights wedding and jelebi. Empty cups of chai scattered around. Or walking along a busy dusty highway because you are almost to a place you think may serve salt lime soda even if the lighting is sort of sad. It makes you remember a whole terrace to yourself and steaming hot dosas with fresh coconut chutney. Mohapatra's smile, his white shirt, and pressed blue pants intercepting the tray of dirty dishes from my hands on the green marble steps leading up to the main house. And waking up to Ranjita scolding Dude for eating Delsi's rice for breakfast became a rhythm, became a ritual. She went to work while I ate ragi flakes and dahi - the dahi in the orange and red container was the best because it was the thickest. I had to walk all the way to Nilgiri's for it and they didn't open until 10 am. Chaturangas in my bedroom. Jeffy found us somehow at the thali place that no one knew existed but they offered chapati after chapati after chapati. I learned to only do two a meal. Even though the mom was so beautiful and majestic, she was more of a human than anyone knew. I wondered if the unlimited thalis got old and bland in her dark room on the floor where she constantly had to say no to another serving of pickle. At least they washed my hands. I could have washed my own but I didn't understand where the bathroom was so when he was there waiting with the bar of soap and towel, I just did it. When I was in the cold lonely palace I missed the hand washing. It was like I got used to everything being brought right to me that I had more expectations when I was in the fancy palace that was actually just depressing, and even more so when I had to eat corn flakes for breakfast. Like with more money we expect to get better things but we actually don't because people make things better. And dang it, he made the best sweets. Like the one with cardamom and jaggery inside the puff pastry or the incredibly dense yet moist thumbprint style cookie. Both were trying to compete with his bharta but neither could compete, they could only compliment. Picking a peak and then making that your day's pilgrimage became a routine. A routine for only the three days there but that's how you make a place feel like a home. When we had to leave, the flowers were starting to die. "Chai?" he asked as we wrote in the sun next to the tree that will blossom mangos in 3 to 4 months. Dwe, exhale. When her son came to visit there was conversation and whiskey to be drunk - too much of both - but an interesting brain since he grew up in the place but looked different than everyone else. Katti rolls around the fire that we couldn't participate in because we ate too many chapatis. Too many chapatis for breakfast but those were paratha - the ones with layers. Her hands knew how to roll ladoo, she was so quick and fluid. Just like how he remembered my older sister - he knew her as classically radical or radically classic or maybe those words aren't enough to explain her. They aren't. It actually does seem dark when you feel alone so Al Jazeera and the BBC somehow make it brighter but only until the electricity goes out. But when the sun comes up the next morning and the boy watering the flowers in a brown suit smiles at you, it's not lonely. Annoying cappuccino that costs too much but is almost worth it because it comes with a chocolate covered espresso bean. A plate of steamed vegetables with a view of the Himalayas or a cup of coffee on a dark Bhaktapurian rooftop. Hipsters, hipsters, American rock, well-fit pants and tobaggans. No one knows their cool so they are cooler. Momos don't get old. When you think they do, you crave them. Chaturangas in my bedroom. The idli stand near the beach promenade where they serve the sambar in a plastic bag and the chutney is drizzled on top. Banana leaf and newspaper. God, they are smart. Street food is smart. Informal economies create culture - they give a place a vibe. Vibes. I seriously thought the auto driver wanted to gang rape us. Judgmental fantasies spawned by too many chapatis and dark highways with peacocks in the dusty roads and long walks to get anywhere. I'm worried about drinking water all the time. It makes my mouth dry just thinking about it. Games on trains with pen and paper ordering chai to pass the time. We gave him a US dollar because he was interested in it and we had it. The first walk home over the bridge as the sun was setting reminded me why I like to see places. Like universality found in skies. Even if it was so hot in there day after day and sort of mundane, you pine for a routine that once was. Panic attacks in grocery stores, wobbling in the streets. Is it the heat or the ashwaganda? Karthick, Karthick, which one? You mean the hotel or the guy at Cafe des Arts. No not Cafe des Arts but rather Cafe des Artistes. I can't tell what it's called. Maybe it's Karthick. Her legs did look like my sisters especially in corduroy shorts and with dogs. Too much time in a small village train station. We'll walk and then they'll all stare at us until one can speak English and then they'll talk to him. Pure veg or non-veg? Paneer is pure veg. The motorbike knocked him over because he was riding on the wrong side of the road. Sure, buy wedding pants, no one will know when you aren't in a place where it's known. You have to mop the floors every morning because the dust comes in through the cracks in the wood. But the clothes dry in an hour there because it's so hot. Just wash them in the bathroom by hand - it's cheaper and faster and works just as well. Machines. We could use them to go to space but not to have space. He was working on leather shoes so I gave him the leather polaroid briefcase. I left the shoes by the dumpster and the sweatshirt will go in the lost and found. His smile. Her smile. His smile. Their smile. Ginger honey lemon tea when you arrive at 10 o'clock at night and have been freezing everywhere else. But comfort is only memorable in the moment. Or at least when there is white crystal sand on the beach of a river surrounded by mountains. And hours later in a boat with American Koreans who also thought the water bottles were filled too high. He cut off my rat tail before he left and we just let the hair float into the air. I'm just going to brush my teeth with the freaking water. I'll eat an apple and climb a mountain with an American learning Tibetan. Ekum, inhale. Yoga is about a personal practice. You learn this but you learn from. Marshmallow giggling in a Buddhist nunnery provides warmth. It took all day to find the post office so I didn't. Google maps is worthless just get comfortable with not finding what you thought you would find. I keep picking the sweet that tastes like styrofoam because it looks better than it tastes. He always wore that big utility coat because it was cold in the morning. He didn't smile much but he meant to. Cepeda bodega or Swati Cafe? Moong dal and digestives will work. Get the veg biryani - two spoons. I liked the top better even though I had to jump down in the middle of the night to pee. The curtains were thick enough to keep the light out. Oh a cow. Just throw the banana peel on that pile. What am I doing again? Another chai. Or now milk tea. Is it the same? It's best to ride the bus when standing by the door. Air for breath. Dwe, exhale. Trust them, they know where you wanna go. Nay nay chapati. Nay nay nay nay. Asha hugged me and kissed my cheek. She's much shorter but also wiser. Stirring the gravy like she was brushing her teeth. It's too sad to leave people all the time. Fancy dinners with Devangi followed with coffee and cake and trash magazines. Biking on dusty roads that led to sustainability and fresh curd in the morning. French music is better - they feel more. Or feel better. Or feel more honestly. Swee. Chai. My mom. I miss my mom. Bamboo buildings and scooting drills and hammers across to plant dead plants that need more water. Water. Water. He shared his rehydration electrolyte tablets with me and she made me porridge. Company to the German orchestra and a conversation about aimless work and aimless life. Chocolate bars before bed. A dinner with Americans was loud and burgers were on the table. I could run there and it makes you think about compatible personalities and not being too serious. "Ah you're wearing a proper khurti", she exclaimed. But later no one else was when I was there and not there. Dwe, exhale. Bare feet everywhere. Feet adapt. Chai chai. Samosa samosa samosa. Chapati. Ehhhhhhyaaa. Another chai. 15 rupees. Injections without shoes and crying babies. Dirty boogers walking the street. Chaturangas in my bedroom. Am I staring in space or am I meditating? Am I reading about debt or am I thinking about donuts for dinner? Riding a bicycle in pitch darkness because it's fun and you need to get home. Marching at night to avoid potholes. Dogs. Chai. Dogs. Chai. Cows. Chai. Am I? Are they? Am I? Are they? Chai. Dogs. Nay chapati. Nay nay nay. Four times, nay. Cows. Chai. Chapati. Am I? Are they? Chaturangas in my bedroom. Cows. Dogs. Dogs. Chapati. Am I? Are they?
Chai.
Chai.
Cows. 
Chai.
Chaturanga.
Chai.
Ekum.
Chai. 
Cows.
Ekum.
Dogs.
Chapati.
Chaturanga.
Cows.
Dogs.
Am I?
Are they?
Chai.
Chai.
Chai.
Dwe.
Exhale.
Exhale.

Am I?