: Arrive Without Traveling: India :

an excerpt by James Marcus


We were leaving Cochin. The driver, a smiling man with epaulets on his white uniform, had been hired for us by the hotel. Since he spoke Tamil plus just a few words of English, our communications with him were limited, and that gave the drive a certain air of mystery. Minor confusions, which could have been straightened out in a sentence or two, kept hanging around. There was the question of when exactly we were no longer in Cochin. Or how long the drive would take. It would have been good to know these things. But we were aware—or I was, anyway—of being a Western tourist in the Third World and not wanting to be a fussbudget. Given the speed at which he was driving, we would certainly get there. Also given the speed at which he was driving, we narrowly avoided many other cars and trucks. The incessant danger of crashing made you want to not look out the window. The interesting, lush, non-American terrain made you want to steel yourself against a possible wreck and look out the window after all. Look, don’t look, look.