The auto-rickshaw bumped its way down the mad, chaotic road.
It swerved around brown-skinned bicyclers, slow-chewing cows, darting women, bowl-legged men, and groups of uniformed school children. A cacophony of horns assured me I was still in India, in case there was a chance I’d forgot.
We careened around one corner, nearly hitting a man, and then raced forward into the burning red brake lights of another car.
I inhaled sharply, but our driver slammed on his brakes at the last second, and stopped an inch from our neighbor’s bumper.
When traffic picked up again, I decided to avert my eyes from the insane progress of our journey. I looked out the window, and my eyes landed on an old man sitting in the middle of the road.
He sat cross-legged, resting back on his hands. His eyes were closed, and his brown body was streaked with dirt and dust. Traffic whizzed by him unseeingly, and the people in carts, on bikes, and on foot hardly seemed to notice him.
But I noticed. He was buck naked.
His penis hung down between his legs, and his chest was bared to the setting sun. He had set a filthy mat down on the road, and it was upon this mat that he sat.
Little kids skipped by, and vendors pushed their carts past his naked body. Rickshaws swerved to avoid him, and mangy dogs skipped by on lame legs. No one noticed him but me.
I considered mentioning him to my enthusiastic Indian guide, but decided against it. I knew what the guide would say. This was India after all, where the very strange is actually quite mundane.
So what? I imagined him saying to me.
It’s just a naked man sitting cross-legged in the middle of traffic. What’s the big deal?