“Lie back and close your eyes,” he says in a lulling, hypnotic voice. I can picture his dark Jain eyes and his black, glossy curls. We obey, and lie back on the cushions, legs pointing towards the open door. “Pay attention to every sound you hear!” he says, and walks outside to have a pee.
I take a deep breath and listen.
Bucketfuls of water being thrown over cement. They are washing away the bloody paw prints of an anonymous, injured dog. The blood was like glue, thick, crimson blobs, and we had to sidestep it carefully to make our way down the wobbly stone steps. Bucketful after bucketful, an Indian woman washes it away.
Birds chirping in the trees after the monsoon. Hindi music playing next door. Usually the piercing, climbing notes of bhajans hurt my ears, but this devotional music is different, an intoxicating woman’s voice that makes the hairs in your ears stand on end, waiting for more. I feel a tingle go down my back, and listen. Listen.
A rickshaw chugging up the wet, steaming street. Happy laughter from the café across the way. A dog named Ellie barking like mad at what I assume is a pack of Punjabi youths, their collars starched up, their hair slicked back with oil. Ellie hates Indian men. It’s probably because they kick her.
Rolling Hebrew, laughing girls. I can picture their dark Israeli hair, kinky, tied back in knots. I can see the cloth bags slung over their shoulders, feel their confident air. I can practically smell the cigarette smoke and musk, but they are across the stream from this tiny room where I lie on my back, and I know that my imagination is toying with my senses. So I just listen.
The flute. The flute that is all over India, floating down from the mountains, dancing out of doorways, rising on the mist, and mingling with the rain. It is everywhere, but I hardly hear it anymore. My neighbor in Vashisht played the flute from sunup to sundown, and after a month of that repeated melody, I stopped hearing the music. Now, with my eyes closed, I hear it again.