On the back seat of the bus (of the local transport traveling long distances, away from the tourist traffic) one can apparently find discussions that can stay with you long after you have left it. It is possible that the gentle, and on occasion, abrupt rocking of the bus is the cause of this happening, in that very place; that something can be sown and immediately born, rather than nine months later.
It was after living in a village for four months with Tibetan refugees that I decided to take a bus to Benares. I had bought a thick winter coat as kind of a souvenir from a good-humoured Tibetan woman who had decided to set up her one person market on the edge of the village.
I sat on the back seat of the bus to Benares, along with an Indian couple who seemed quite wealthy. In English, we had a pleasant and somewhat instructive conversation that ran away with the time. Suddenly, this intimate calm was unfolded and knotted, as thoughts of my winter coat came to me like a monster of a fish being thrown by sudden waves to the water’s surface.
I realised that I had left the package containing my coat at the ticket booth back at the bus station. After a long while of sitting in silence, I explain to the good and colourfully dressed couple, that looking at them inspired me to visualise myself sitting next to Krishna on the goat of the chariot – in the fresh outside air.
“Today I got this desire,
and tomorrow I will get that one;
all these riches are mine,
and soon I will have even more”. (Bagavad Gita)
The bus came to a halt. In a sparse, but large restaurant we were given the opportunity to eat something. The man of the couple asked me in passing if I had called the lost property office of the bus station from which we had departed. The laughter burst out of me almost in a brutal way.
“I am not sure how you perceive my country, but I know that you have not done so in the right way…”
The winter coat was completely forgotten by the time we boarded the bus, probably because the thought of its warmth made me even more dazed by the existing heat.
The husband of the couple delivered after twenty minutes the following sentence: “Your coat has been found and will be sent to our address. You can expect to see it soon – however, how soon depends on you.”
Three years later, I flew from Mexico City to Bogota and got out of the airplane in the company of a music teacher from San Francisco. She was going to play tennis with a friend in San Paulo and had an hour to kill before changing flights. I also had an hour to wait and we ended up on two plastic chairs. Times and places came and went on the departure board.
“Everybody has warned me of Bogota – they all say it’s dangerous there.”
“I don’t think that a good thief is dressed like a thief,” I replied.
“I’ve also had people say to me that Bogota is the cesspool, the gutter of South America.”
All of a sudden she jumped up, “my Jacket!,” she screamed, “my jacket is stolen!”
“You were at customs,” I said, “you also changed money while I was gone before.”
I recounted to her my experience of my winter coat in India.
“I really love this jacket.” She said, after twenty minutes.
Ruud van Weerdenburg was born 1956 in Alkmaar, Netherlands. Already in early age saved and fascinated by literature. His travel stories were published in Assam Tribune and Hindustan Times. He is working for Radio and Magazines in Vienna. Wrote Libretto for a time-opera “Remember-Rembrandt”. He plays the flute and lives from poetry. He is the editor of “Global-Player” and “Montauk”. “Himmelsglobus”(Löcker Verlag, Wien) is his recently published book of poetry.
Translated from German by Jake Moss who is an Australian writer and journalist, living in Vienna. He is the founder of Vienna-Würstelstand.