I’m in agony. My head hurts from the relentless clanging of metal and glass around me, from a massive hunger headache and from the icy winds blowing right through my cap. My spine feels like it’s on the verge of collapse, from being mercilessly compressed and decompressed. My shoulder is bruised, from being flung off my seat and into a piece of roof-piping, and my lower back has been jabbed painfully by an exposed bolt, into which it keeps crashing. I feel like I’m sitting inside the mechanical equivalent of a rodeo horse and a pogo stick put together, and I mentally flinch when I realise that there are about five more hours of this to go — and it’s now raining, to add to the fun.
The driver, Sanjay, is about as far removed from my condition as you can get. With a smile on his face and a whistle on his lips, he steers the vehicle ever upwards, bend after excruciating bend, rut after massive rut. When it breaks down on a couple of occasions, he steps out in the rain, with only a sweater protecting him against the elements, and fixes it himself. When he gets tired of using the hand-operated windshield wiper, he gets out, again in the rain, plucks a few leaves off the mountainside, rubs them together in his palms and spreads the sap over the windscreen; it works like a charm, with the windscreen staying un-fogged from then onwards. I marvel at his nonchalance, his sheer toughness, his casual ingenuity, his unflinching good humour — I would find it near-impossible to maintain any sort of equilibrium in conditions like these.
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