By Casey D’Souza 

I peer through heavy lids as first light peeks through the shades of the airplane window. Squinting, I watch as the clouds dance to the sky’s silent, a diminuendo of red into orange and finally, blue. The somewhat familiar landscape draws closer, buildings inching towards me. After fifteen hours in transit, I arrive in the country I’ve only ever explored through my parent’s stories, brought alive by the nostalgic glint sparkle in their eyes.

This city is alive, a throbbing vein of twenty-two million people. Despite winter’s onset, the humidity refuses to be chased away, polluting the air with the gasping desire of its people. Like clockwork, sweat oozes and mosquitoes hunt for blood, creeping their way under my clothes, tearing into fragile, foreign skin.

It is a constant cacophony – a dissonant symphony of beggars’ pitchy cries, religious chants echoing from marble temples, the staccato calls of hawkers, and the ever-steady bass line of beeping from every angle. Daring individuals puncture the continuous flow traffic of traffic, darting to the other side of the road.

Wind coursing through my hair, I am swept into the swift and steady current of the crowds boarding the train, grasping the silver bars for dear life. The ebb and flow of the masses brings me to a trail of cross-legged men and women assembling garlands, like breadcrumbs strewn through a rushing forest of desire. Under the corrugated tin roofs, I lose myself in the maze of stalls lined with woven baskets. Each basket overflows with fresh blooms in colours as rich as the scent of spices in the air – orange and golden marigolds, fuchsia and mauve chrysanthemums, pure white jasmines, blood red roses.

I find myself strolling across a rickety, worn down bridge, a flower garland draped around my neck. I nestle into the foliage of a three hundred year old rainforest, escaping the scathing heat of the sun. I breathe, intoxicated by the musky scent of red earth, threaded by the sharp perfume of greenery and vanilla, cardamom, chilies, turmeric and cloves. Humidity wrestles through my once protective shield, a glue between skin and cotton. Sweet relief is found in lavender infused water trickling down my spine; glue is nothing but a distant memory.

My toes slowly sink deeper and deeper into the sand; the air here is cooler, saltier. Waves crash against the shore like a stampede. Paragliders and jet skiers are ushered back to shore and the tourist crowds dwindle. The sun kisses the brightly coloured Portuguesestyle houses goodnight. Transient wisps of golden clouds scatter amid the backdrop of a lavender sky over a glittering ocean. India is sparkling.