The last few weeks have been very busy, but I’ve managed to find a few minutes to write a quick story before my next hiatus. The Diwali Holiday and the Hindu New Year are fast approaching so our school gives the students and some staff two weeks off to celebrate the Diwali festival season. I leave in a few hours for Mumbai where I will travel with my Dad for a few days and later my girlfriend Meghan for the rest of the holiday. I’m so excited to spend time with the both of them and be able to experience other parts of India. My city is by no means small, but I have felt its walls closing in on me as of late. I came to India to teach and to experience life somewhere else but also to travel. I feel like I have seen everything in this city (which of course is not true) and I’m so anxious to see the Himalayas, the Taj, caves, heritage sights wildlife, beaches, people, eat different foods, hear different dialects and languages, view festivals, museums, and if I’m feeling really crazy maybe eat an egg or some chicken and wash it down with a beer. I’m a squirrel in a cage that can’t wait until my train arrives and I can really cut loose.
It’s a crime but I have been here two months and have only left town twice. The day I met my roommate he told me that “everything is possible, nothing is impossible all that matters is your interests, enthusiasm, and dedication to the cause.” I don’t think he was referring to traveling anywhere because as it turns out, it is actually impossible. The stars have to be perfectly aligned for you to go anywhere. Working Saturdays blows most travel considerations out of the water immediately. Two, there needs to be a road or railroad tracks between where you are and where you want to go. And three, that road must be somewhat passable. Navigating these roads makes you feel like you are taking part in a defensive driving course. On a major highway it is common to find all types of vehicles; two, three, four or more wheeled vehicles passing you, parked, overturned, beeping, coming AT YOU , and sometimes driving reasonably. Several times I have come across large car swallowing holes in the middle of the road probably a result of sinkholes and less likely the result of highway improvement construction but never less they are usually marked by placing a radiator sized rock on the road right in front of it, I guess the guy going the wrong way down the road is on his own. I read a sad article the other day about a three wheeled vehicle that overturned outside of Rajkot killing two of its occupants. The article said that the tricycle was carrying twelve people from gondola to Rajkot when the accident happened and that investigations were currently underway. I wondered what there was to investigate, I’m not a crash scene reconstruction expert but I knew the cause it was a dangerously overloaded thing on something that by definition is technically a road. It’s so frustrating to read things like this. Six people on one motorcycle is the most efficient use of a motorcycle or the most negligent use of a motorcycle (depending on what country you’re in) that I have seen so far, three adults, two toddlers, and a baby. I remember hearing myself that first day in Delhi, “shouldn’t that child be in a car seat?” I read or see things like this daily. I suppose most of this goes unnoticed here. You can call it blissful ignorance but with one death every 9 seconds traveling here can be hazardous to your health.
Number two on my list of things I don’t like about transportation in India is convenience. Two weekends ago I was given a Saturday off and I was determined to take advantage of this time and get the heck out of dodge (it’s a neighborhood in Rajkot). I got on a train at 2:00am that night that rocked me to sleep. 5 hours later I woke up 75% of the way to my final destination. From there, a rickshaw to the bus station where I would try to arrange the rest of my journey. I asked the guy in the information booth which bus would take me to Diu. He pointed over my shoulder and said “number two bus”. I looked where he was gesturing and stopped myself from saying, “you mean the one with wheels on it.” You can’t make this stuff up. Finally the bus with wheels loaded up. We immediately pulled into a garage where they put an additional wheel on top of the bus for good measure; I figure it was to keep the roof on. This bus was a Frankenstein, the bus cemeteries at each bus station let me know that these busses were continually recycled. Seats, wheels, bodies, engines, windows, transmissions, brakes (I hope) are all interchangeable, whatever it takes to keep them on the road. I figure parts of the bus I was riding on dated back to the bronze age. We stopped once to switch busses, something had broken on ours, and three short hours later I was there. All in all it took a little over twelve hours do go the equivalent of Connecticut to Boston. My buddy Eric told me yesterday that the pleasure is in the journey, but I’m still looking. Diu was amazing, I spent more time traveling than I actually spent there but the payoff was worth it.