I'm planning on entering a competition in the Guardian (english newspaper) to win 2500 pounds towards my travels and the chance to write weekly updates for them to print in the paper and put on the website. To enter you have to write 500 words explaining what you want to do with the money, i.e. where u want to go and what challenge you intend to set yourself. The best 4 letters will be featured in the paper and the readers will vote for the best 2. My first attempt ended up being over 1000 words long, but after much brutal editing I have come up with this. let me know what you think:
"So what's your plan now?," my friend asked me as we sat drinking our beers.
"Go to India," I replied immediately.
"What??!... But you just got back!! You can't travel forever Billy!"
"Why not?," I asked.
"Because! You need to get a regular job so you can get a good credit rating so you can get a good mortgage and buy a house!."
Right. And then I suppose I've got to change the rooms using MDF and a handmade stencil, go bargain hunting and fill the attic with worthless junk to sell at auction, build a Roman column feature in the garden using cement and an old drainpipe, and then finally sell-up and start again. Ok, yes, I could do that. Or I could wander around India armed with nothing more than a very large smile and a very small guitar, trying to find the most interesting characters in the world and hearing their stories. The most fascinating encounters always come in the most unexpected places. For example:
Whilst filling my water-bottle at the local well in Pushkar, I encountered a man squatting by the pump wearing nothing but a tea-towel wrapped around his waist. He was washing a dirty rag, which on closer inspection revealed itself as his one and only shirt. I gave him a smile and we started chatting. The conversation seemed fairly typical at first. Name? Married? But once he found out I came from England it all went rather surreal.
"England!!" he exclaimed. "Ahhh, I like very much English movies! Hitchcock he is my favourite!!"
I was speechless.
"What movies he make!" he sighed, gazing off through the cows and pigs eating a pile of nearby rubbish. He then listed about fifteen of Hitchcock's movies, commenting on particularly good performances by actors I'd never heard of. We continued discussing Hitchcock's directorial technique for some time while he squatted in his tea-towel and pounded his soapy shirt on a slab of rock. Unable to contain my curiosity any longer, I asked him how he knew so much about movies.
He told me he'd studied film at university in Gujarat, where he'd lived with his wife and children and held a respectable job. Then in 0000, the earthquake struck, killing his entire family, destroying his house, and almost claiming his legs. He only escaped the amputations by dragging himself out of the hospital window and using his life-savings to pay a private doctor to operate. Left with nothing, he hitched to Pushkar, and has been there ever since, living in a makeshift tent on the edge of town. He considers himself a lucky man. He survived.
India is a country overflowing with stories, some already happened, some waiting to happen. Rather than searching for these stories, I plan to draw them to me like The Pied Piper, wandering the country playing my small guitar out in the open and allowing them to find me, like they always do; the discovery of each story a story in itself.
So, there it is. Man, if only I could win that'd be so damn cool. 2500!! oh, and a digital camera as well!! Actually, more than the money I just want the chance to have my travel writing featured in the paper!!! ok, tara for now...