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Day’s End

 

“Better a thousand times that he should be a tramp, and mend pots and pans by the wayside, and sleep under trees, and see the dawn and the sunset every day above a new horizon.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

Today may finish in so many different ways. This is wearing and stressful over long periods but also enlivening. Today may end in the home of kind strangers, motivated by sympathy and curiosity to pluck me from the road saying, “come stay with us tonight. Rest. Eat. And tell us your tale.”

Day’s end may be far from people’s homes. The sun is setting. In towns, people will be streaming home from work. But out here, the road is empty. I am exhausted. It’s time to stop. The hills I slogged over are dark beneath a pink sky. Ducks fly quickly overhead. I refill my bottles from a small stream. I don’t have a tent, but the sky is clear and warm. I find a flat spot to sleep under a tree on the edge of a harvested field.

I light a small fire to cook rice. My dinner is just rice. It means I only have to carry rice and a little pan. And it appeals to the ascetic minimalism that is important to me on this journey. I settle back against the tree and eat my rice.

Or my day may end walking into a town to find somewhere to sleep after the punishment of the afternoon. Under a radiant pink sky, a cricket match is in progress on the stubble of a harvested field. The bicycles of the players and spectators stand propped by the road. The pitch is pounded earth, the bowling fast and venomous. The batsman swings a big slog and cracks the ball high into the sky. Everyone shouts “Caaaatch!” and the poor fielder drops it. I smile in sympathy as I walk by.

Arriving in the town, I sit by the river to watch the last of the sunset. What a day. I am exhausted. Just another day. I stare towards the sun, along my river flowing with a golden blaze of sunlight. Towards all that I will discover tomorrow on the road. And I realise that I did not come to India for anything as simple and lovely as this wonderful scene. I came here for other things. This is merely a bonus. I feel a surprisingly large sense of satisfaction. This is my lucky day.

This is an extract from my book There Are Other Rivers. I’ll post the next chapter here at the same time tomorrow evening. 

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