How does one describe the last week in India? I think I’ll have to break it up into little bits. First, it is about the people and with over a billion of them that’s a lot to talk about. All of these people seem to be on the move and the number of ways they can do so is incredible. Rarely do you ever see any mode of transport with only one person on it. Quite often you’ll see a moped or motorcycle with a complete family onit. Mom is purchased ever so daintily sidesaddle on the back with the baby on her lap and Dad is driving; the two year old is taking it all in like a dog with its head out the window while seated up front on the gas tank between Dad’s arms. Even on the ever present bicycles, the girls ride sidesaddle on the back. We have seen camels pulling wagons, or donkeys or horses (small compared to ours with bushy manes) and in Jaipur there were elephants on the streets as well. It was not unusual to see herds of goats or sheep on the side or crossing the roads. When it comes to larger vehicles, there are trucks that look like our gravel trucks and some say goods carrier and some say personal transport. These will be filled to overflowing with people all hanging off the sides. We were feeling quite cramped in our Toyota SUV which seats 7, but every other vehicle like this would be carrying 10-15 people!!
The driving here is not for the faint of heart, and we have been doing lots of driving. The major highways are divided 4 lanes but that is loosely describing it as they are constantly under repair and at any time you can look up and see traffic coming towards you. They honk to ask you to move over and sometimes they pass on the right (it is right hand drive here left over from the British) and sometimes they pass on the left. Our driver Lal is fantastic and we even survived a couple of hours of night driving last night. Most of the time we are on one lane roads and trying to pass as we honk to get others to move over. The little kids (2 years old) play by the side of the road with the cars and motos whizzing past. Oh, don’t let me forget the cows. They are everywhere and just wander freely and people honk and go around them. They are not for eating, only for milk. In the North here we do see them pulling carts.
Delhi is an amazingly green city, in fact the second greenest capitol in the world after London. There were acres and acres of unexpected parks and the one with the Mohatma Gandhi memorial had lots of huge trees.
India is truly a secular country and all of the religions coexist quite nicely. They honor each and every religious holiday which is very refreshing. They are predominantly Hindu (75%) 12% Muslim and also Buddhist, Christian, Sikh, Jain and others.
The people are indescribably warm and you feel like you never want to make any large gestures or even raise your voice. In Punjab we saw more Sikhs and now we are in the far North headed to Buddhist country.
I think the highlight so far must be the rickshaw ride on the second day through the markets (narrow alleys) near the big mosque in Delhi. We were up high enough to be able to see, and every other sense was on overload. There were people selling everything imaginable out of little tiny kiosks along the way. There were big vats of things boiling and people lined up for samosas and some kind of bread. Kids were coming to and from school in their uniforms along dust covered alleyways.
Amazingly, they really do try to keep their own little piece of real estate clean with brooms. They sweep their area while crouched on their haunches (that little move we try in Yoga that hurts so much is how they sit all day long). They are also very personally clean and there are always people getting their hair cut or shaved in little kiosks by the side of the road or sitting on the steps of the building. Every chance they get, they pour buckets of water over their heads to bathe themselves.
That’s enough for now, but suffice to say that you need a lot of time to see this country. Today we fly south to Madurai where we will link up with the first of the 2 NGOs that we will be working with here in India.
Stay warm at home as we see it is cold there, Holly