Fearing For My Life
So often we plod along, existing, doing, being, in the UK. We tend to forget the fact that our lives are precious and in reality we exist on a precipice of life (this may sound a little extreme…). But in India, I genuinely, and honestly found myself convinced that I was going to die. In these moments I didn’t turn to the God, that as an atheist, I have shunned for as long as I can remember, or frantically found a way of contacting my mother. Instead, I found myself in the Fright or Flight situation, or just plain acceptance.
Incident Number One:
Our visit to Monkey Mountain (unofficially named) managed to instill this fear in me TWICE in the space of about 2 hours. Firstly, the obvious incident which I have discussed where I was literally chased to the top of a mountain and surrounded by approximately 10 evil screeching creatures. It was like that moment in horror films, where the silly weak female character runs UPSTAIRS and locks herself in a room where SHE CANNOT ESCAPE. I did that. But with monkeys. And a mountain. Death by monkey is not a cool way to go.
Incident Number Two:
Also at Monkey Mountain (Please never go there, unless you have a really big stick with you and the ability to stay calm despite being surrounded by twenty thousand monkeys of doom). This involved going up in a cable car, but I think the term cable car is far too generous. It was more like a small box of tupperware with people inside and a shoelace dragging you slowly and reluctantly up the steep slopes. You could hear the metal creak and churn. It did not want to carry us. It was tired, had clearly never encountered much TLC from any engineers and just genuinely was the most agonising time of my life. As the wind blew, so did we. It wasn’t much help that I was sat directly opposite to our peculiar India tour guide who didn’t speak, just stared. Stared at us right in the eye, in a kind of way like he knew we were going to die. But we didn’t.
Incident Number Three:
Autorickshaw journey from Deoghar back to our home, the RTP. Squidged in with Maddy and a couple of our new dancing friends. We are suddenly struck by the realisation that we don’t know our companions all to well and that this journey, at 10pm is probably not our finest idea. The climax of this incident occurs when suddenly the driver stops, and turns of his lights and engine, leaving us completely blind and isolated on the side of the road. Maddy and I panic beyond belief, and she gets out her phone to call Daniella just to put anyone off from potentially killing us etc. The boys get out of the car and we are left alone. We look at each other, pupils dilated trying to counteract the pitch black. Then our friend, Dinkar pops his head into the side of the auto and says ‘What’s wrong?’ and we answer nervously ‘Nothingggggggggg’. And then Nirmal, our other journey companion, jumps back into the auto, with the addition of a pack of cigarettes. Dinkar grabs me, laughing ‘What did you think we were doing? We just got out to buy another packet of cigarettes!’. Relief ran through me, the driver turned his lights back on and we continued our journey home, with no problems or anxieties. Merely feeling a little awkward that we had jumped to these conclusions about our new pals.
Incident Number Four:
If my incidents had subtitles, this one would be – ‘THE NAXALITES ARE COMING’. Naxalites are a local terrorist group, our experiences with them had been minimal, but we had been warned that they did carry out kidnapping, bribery and harassment. So we were aware of their existence but didn’t particularly feel threatened since we were so enclosed in our own little Deoghar bubble. However, on one of our days off we decided to take a trip to what we had been told was a ‘nearby’ waterfall. The journey took approximately 4 hours. Nearby my arse. The pain of this voyage was doubled by the fact that 10 of us were trying to fit in one vehicle, in 30 degree heat. And this pain was then tripled in the realisation that what we had travelled for was not a waterfall, but a rock pool. Despite this, we eventually arrived and had a lot of fun in the shallow waters. Admittedly this was probably the cleanest I had been for the entire trip. Anyway, throughout the whole time we were there I driver was shouting, demanding for us to hurry up because this was terrorist territory, and if they came across a group of people from Calcutta & the UK they would see this as optimum opportunity to wangle some rupees out of us. We got bored of his moaning and reluctantly returned to the car after a couple of hours. We were then obliged to pay off some old men in tea towels, faces drowning with beards. After this, we thought our worries with the Naxalites would be over, but as we were travelling back to Deoghar someone exclaimed' ‘There’s a group of boys on a motorbike with masks on and they have been following us ever since we left the waterfall’. What followed was a James Bond-esque incident, where our driver Harunda dodged, speeded and swerved to get them off our tail. But then after his magnificent effort, the eventually caught up with us, leaving us passengers wide eyed and panicked. Then they simply over took us. They hadn’t been following us at all.