Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Over road from Kerala to Delhi - A note on a few days of the journey

I decided to join my sister's fiance's father on a trip from the South to the North - he's done it quite a few times before.

We started in Kerala, which is probably the first place in India into which early humans from Africa entered. Unequivocally beautiful place – I was in a jungle village with four homes and a church (now that I read that it sounds quite a Marquez-esque situation..).

Anyway, first day we traversed some of the Deccan plateau, the cotton belt of India, and up across the Western Ghats. We managed a fair bit, about 700 kms. I was surprised by how good the roads were – often 4-lane, and actually cemented. Of course, regardless of the roads themselves, the traffic on them is still very much Indian – so vehicles and non-vehicles of all shapes and sizes give each other company and fight for space. And with the drivers possessed of a quiet assurance of ignoring the multitude of rules that exist (they really do exist! On paper.)

The next day, over some parched land. And then, after a while, across a rushing, happy river with screaming, splashing children and washing women. Through dirty little Indian towns; in which, in Maharashtra, does one find men in starched white Nehru caps & kurtas walking about. Then one sees three red buses in a row – and you know there are three idiots driving them, continuously trying to overtake one another, and only when one of them has to stop to drop off a weary passenger is that possible. So essentially, for the entirety of their journey they remain as it is – three red buses in a row. Also, there are overloaded Tata trucks – laden so that they can hardly climb the gentlest of slopes, or loaded so heavily to the left that the driver has to constantly keep the steering towards the right just to go straight. The horns of these trucks, very distinctive – imagine a long twitter of a single bird, brought 2 notes lower, and amplified to a blare (you know how it is, I'm trying to describe it, don't know if its worked!)

And that, is a little story of an Indian highway scene.

And next morning - through parched destitution. Over land ravaged for more than a century by the British, continued by newly independent Indians, yet to realize and recover from its injuries. This is Madhya Pradesh, the central provinces. I have traveled extensively through Rajasthan, the desert state of India – and that is a land that has come to terms with itself, whose people make the land colorful with their music & clothes dances language. But this, this land looks wounded.

A flash of yellow, a patch or two of mustard perhaps, and a little girl in pink through the empty fields – that is all the color here. Children shuffle along outside their homes, looking down. Trees, many naked, many seeming to lean on the wind for support. That deep scar from which an orange truck takes away rocks must have been a river.

In time, over generations, all this too shall pass.

And that… is another story!


Frozenswirl said...

still mesmerized by your travel tales! I'd really call these eternal tales really...could share generations after generations!

nalin said...

thanks K!
as if some things don't, won't change... I imagine, that like with all other things that memories are composed of, doing the journey a few years down the line, one will try and notice the details and find that everything has changed. Then, the same journey many years later, one will only tend to take in the larger bits of the picture, and find perhaps that all is still the same.
Memory has nice way of smooth(en)ing the edges and retaining the best bits.