A new book is born – succulent, dark and filled with magic. Here’s an excerpt:
The sun would rise at 5 am. But an hour earlier the dispossessed were still walking the streets of Tiruvannāmalai in a trance-like state, or else as huddled sleeping forms in blankets with only the slight rise of their breath to differentiate them from corpses along the rubbish strewn street. They were the guardians of the night, with their hollowed cheekbones and occupancy of between worlds. Like deer in the morning mist, they were alert for danger and avoided eye contact with the small group of sleep-stained daylight people; whose smell of toothpaste and shampoo hinted at unimaginable luxuries. The sleep-walkers continued their eternal task of searching the dirt road for discarded opportunities and broken dreams.
The emerging tourists hadn’t felt so luxurious in the night. With a wobbling ceiling fan that gasped tepid air at circling mosquitoes, they lay swathed in DDT like hospital patients on sticky sheets. The clamour at 2 am from the restaurant below their lodgings had been extreme; as aluminium platters had been scraped, rinsed, dried and stacked with every process shouted and sung about by the boisterous kitchen staff.
Rising at 4 am, dreading to wash in tepid water from a bucket whilst squatting on some decayed concrete floor, while large cockroaches scurried away from their nocturnal feasting at the flash of the brutal neon light. But she washed rigorously and drenched the stinking room in extravagant splashes of perfumed European products, hoping to masque the inevitable odour of humanity which the sultry Southern Indian climate always leached-out with her warm breath. Tara smiled as her roommate groaned and greeted the pre-dawn with the agony of the young, as she padded back into the room and the ancient plumbing rattled and gasped and the cockroaches returned to eat her detritus. India wasted nothing.