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Random Musings
Sense exercise #1 
3rd-Jun-2009 02:46 pm
This is a 'show' verses 'tell'/5 senses exercise that was inspired by my research into the craft of writing. Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and the suggestions on my previous writing post.

This describes my experiences the first day I arrived in India. It is a deliberately non-B7 piece so please read at your own risk and keep in mind that this is an exploratory exercise. If you feel inclined, any critique or suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Stepping from One World into Another

The plane’s thick metal skin was the final barrier to the strange world that I knew lay on the other side. My shoulders sagged beneath the weight of work, a laptop nestled safely in a padded backpack and the daily essentials of living in the obligatory dark travel case and a purse slung bandolier-like across my chest. Tired, bleary eyed fellow passengers formed orderly lines as we waited for someone to let us out. Through the windows were tantalizing glimpses of an alien world that seemed like random images from a broken down projector.

The hatch swung open and we began filing out. I hesitated a second at the threshold, composing myself. I had been researching everything I could find out about India for weeks but those were merely facts. Was I ready for reality?

My first brave step into the alien landscape was rewarded with a tsunami-like wave of heat that almost immediately drenched my body in sweat. My second step nearly made me gag as unapologetic smells of humanity assaulted my nostrils; bodily secretions and the refuse of every day existence baking under the merciless sun. I was definitely no longer in Canada and I knew this would be an adventure that would stretch and challenge my perceptions of the world.

After long lines and seemingly endless bureaucratic details, I found myself peering through the haystack of people in the waiting area, looking for the needle with my name on a placard.

Amidst the noise of strange sounding words and signs with squiggly lines, there were comforting scatterings of English. I was hoping to learn some Tamil but it was good to know that I wouldn’t be entirely illiterate outside of the office during my stay here.

Being able to see the tops of heads was also a novelty that I hadn’t expected.

Bell was the unexpected name of the friendly driver who eagerly took my bags and led me through the maze of cars. This man would prove to be a valuable life-saver for my stay in India. He was a fountain of information and seemed to know where to find everything that I would need or want.

A sea of honking motorcycles and cars was my first glimpse of India outside of the airport. I had been warned that for the first couple of weeks, I might not want to look outside the window at the traffic. Good advice should be heeded, especially in India. Unfortunately, I’m a curious individual who doesn’t like following such nonsensical rules. After all, I have my own car and looking outside of windows is a must, not an option.

This was a big mistake. Within seconds, my hands were strangling the grip on the door and my heart was pounding. I was barely breathing as vehicle after vehicle seemed to pass within millimetres of our car. The idea of a blind spot didn’t seem to be a concept that was taught here and the only requirement for turning or changing lanes was…actually there didn’t seem to be any other than the desire to do it. The philosophy seemed to be, I’m turning, everyone get out of my way. The concept of lanes only seemed to apply when there was a physical barrier enforcing the idea. Everywhere else, the rule seemed to be, fit as many vehicles across as you could without hitting anyone, more than once. It was a good thing that the traffic moved at a slow pace.

The cacophony of horns and beeps was almost deafening. Their use seemed to have been elevated from the role of safety equipment to a form of communication and social interaction.

In the three years I lived in India, even with two of the safest drivers in the city, I was still involved in two car accidents.

Yes, I was in India for three years. It was originally to be a six-month assignment but it stretched to three years. Despite my experiences of that first day, there was a great deal about India that I learned to love. It was a valuable and enjoyable experience that changed my perspective of the world.

Avon_Hooked on Writing
3rd-Jun-2009 07:33 pm (UTC)
Rich in detail and engaging. Your tone, though, is overly formal at times, and when choosing your words I think you should remember that latinate words, according to my cw supervisor, are to be avoided.

The cacophony of horns and beeps was almost deafening. Their use seemed to have been elevated from the role of safety equipment to a form of communication and social interaction.

The noise of the horns was deafening. Instead of a safety tool they had become a way to talk and make friends...
3rd-Jun-2009 08:31 pm (UTC)
Thanks for the valuable suggestions. I will keep them in mind.
4th-Jun-2009 12:29 am (UTC)
I quite liked this.
Can I confess a preference for the Latinate than the Anglo Saxon version?
"Cacophony" conveys a more vivid picture than simply "noise" to me.
4th-Jun-2009 12:52 am (UTC)
I like image conveyed by cacophony for this particular passage too. I suppose everyone has different impressions of the word.
4th-Jun-2009 05:00 am (UTC)
It sounds like Indonesia! I was certain the drivers there tried to frighten foreigners, but I'd just sit there with a completely calm face, looking out the window (or not if it was one of those jeepney things) so they never got the satisfaction with me. :-)

[Edit] I agree with crycraven about the overly formal style; it doesn't match the subject which calls for a more casual, vivid style. This reads more like an essay.

I have yet to catch up on your story as I couldn't keep up.

Edited at 2009-06-04 05:05 am (UTC)
4th-Jun-2009 01:21 pm (UTC)
I was certain the drivers there tried to frighten foreigners, but I'd just sit there with a completely calm face, looking out the window (or not if it was one of those jeepney things) so they never got the satisfaction with me. :-)

You're braver than I am then =) I've never been to Indonesia. How did you find it?

*nods* about the formal style. That's the problem I'm having. I am able to get the details on the page now and it creates a visual image but it comes across flat, like a list of details. *sigh*

About catching up on my story...I would find it hard to catch up ;) It's not a rush thing. I prefer that people read at their own comfortable pace and only if they're interested in the story. All the stories have been different to some extent so I don't expect people to like all the stories. I know you've expressed that you don't like Chandaran society in the current one.
4th-Jun-2009 08:48 pm (UTC)
I liked it; friendly, lovely people! I was going to go back to do some work there--I had the visa etc--but they didn't get things set up in time and I did the work here. :-(

Maybe you're trying too hard? Write as if you're telling a friend.

I don't much, plus I've been writing stuff of my own and I'm nowhere near as fast as you.
4th-Jun-2009 09:13 pm (UTC)
Maybe you're trying too hard?

That's probably it. I'm thinking about it too much rather than letting it happen. It becomes no fun that way and I lose the momentum.
4th-Jun-2009 08:58 am (UTC)
Wow, living in India for three years; what an amazing change of life style.

I enjoyed reading this, it gave me a real sense of the culture shock you experienced. I rather like the word "cacophony" used here. I haven't been to India but for me "cacophony" certainly conveys the overwhelming intrusion of the traffic noise that I've experienced in crowded cities like Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai.

Nice exercise in expanding your writing skills. :)
4th-Jun-2009 01:26 pm (UTC)
India was quite the culture shock and made me realized how fortunate and insulated I was living in Canada. It was a great experience.

Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai...how did you find them?
4th-Jun-2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
My visits were only for holidays, so of course this gives a very different impression. I had two weeks in mainland China, travelling in a small group of 6. It was a great holiday; I've always liked travelling in Asia. Now I've just realised it must be ten years ago that I was there because it was the 10th anniversary of the Tiamamin Square massacre (20th anniversary yesterday!).

Our little group found the people wonderfully friendly and, despite the language barrier, very approachable. We were of course quite a curiosity to them, particularly in the rural areas.

The most amusing thing I remember was the advice given by our Shanghai guide about crossing the chaotic roads.

"Don't run", she said, "you will scare the drivers." :P

4th-Jun-2009 09:11 pm (UTC)
"Don't run", she said, "you will scare the drivers."

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