Every Rose has its Thorn is playing. A minute ago, Ozzy was wailing “mama I’m coming home.” Pepper says the coffee is good. We have our noses in our books and the white noise of the coffee shop mingles with the stream of rock ballads.
The food is perfect. Our waitress has just a tiny bit of British accent. The other patrons are speaking in Tamil so we don’t understand. The words drift off into the background where, if you really pay attention, you can hear the squeak of dusty brakes, the strain of tuk-tuk motors and the distinctive toots from two-wheeler horns.
…and she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
There are places like this that expats flock to. The cliché of an oasis is just too fitting to go unused. This one is just a coffee shop but there are spas, restaurants, salons, bars… They are everywhere that foreigners create a perceived demand.
Oh, hold on. Metallica is playing. I need to look out the window.
“What I’ve felt, what I’ve known…”
The stray dogs scour the roadsides. The rickshaw drivers fidget in their autos. Men sit on the back of motorcycles and cling to cargo – bundles of pipe twice the length of the cycle, boxes suited for flat-screen televisions, unidentifiable stainless steel contraptions. Some wear shoes and some are barefoot. Some wear helmets, some sunglasses. Most wear a mustache and if they don’t they wear a beard and headwear that identifies them as Muslim. There are also the women that have their saris needing adjusting from the breeze created from the open tuk-tuk or exposed motorbike.
It has been months since a good rain yet the trees are still green. The crows have a grayish brown neck and shoulder. They perch in the trees and alight in the beds or boxes of passing trucks to inspect the cargo.
It is warm, but not so hot that walking around is oppressive. The air conditioning is blasting in the coffee shop. One table of men are all wearing long sleeve plaid shirts with jeans. A lady at another table dons a scarf .
I accidentally make eye contact with a beggar on the street. She stares at me and moves to be back in my vision after I redirect. Her gaze sobers my introspection. A red SUV cuts through the line of sight on my self-loathing.
We don’t often shelter in an oasis like this. But we don’t often see the real India either. We have one foot firmly in our home culture and standard of living with the other barefoot and scraping the hot asphalt as we do a fly-by of the local culture. We flit between our home and the school. Both immersed in largely recognisable English, with western toilets and familiar foods. We keep vowing to see more of this place and really hope that next year will allow us to spend more time in the real India.