Comfortable private transport, unlike accommodation, is inexpensive in India, and so I hired a car with a driver for four days to explore the northern rural areas of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh states, and deliver me to my final stop in Delhi. Which brings me to considering the way people travel on the roads here… I was impressed by the ingenuity and grace of women riding sidesaddle on the backs of motorcycles with babies in their arms and a second child artfully folded between father and mother. It is no news that helmets and safety precautions are only the vaguest of suggestions for drivers of all vehicles. As I people watched from the backseat of a car which was itself diving in and out of traffic with wild abandon, there were many times I just closed my eyes. Motorized pedi cabs (tuk tuks) intended to hold two adults in the back regularly hold 6 to 8 while trucks tear down the potholed roads with 30 people perched high on top of the load. India has a crazed new love affair with the car, and has produced a number of very cheap ones, most recently Tata’s Nano, which sells for about $2K. In the country, there was still room on the roads, but in Delhi, as with other cities, the roads seemed choked past capacity already, with unbearably dense air pollution, and I wonder how this country will adapt to a car revolution.
I found myself surprisingly drawn to India’s northern countryside, with its vast, flat expanses of farmlands, village paths, and huge shady trees. Here is where I came across some of the sights I found most magical. Families of wild monkeys playing by a river, a working train of a dozen camels haughtily towing massive loads, a cattle drive of hundreds of miles (led by barefoot boys) taking over roads, snake handlers, and ingenious rail thin men who ran entire shops and tailoring businesses off lovingly customized bicycles.
Cities in India were a surprise for me because I usually find many things to love in urban settings and am less in tune with countrysides. This trip, it was reversed. In cities, I found the level of harassment as a woman on the street made it difficult to discover or enjoy the beautiful aspects, and the urban overcrowding, slums and pollution for me outweighed the aesthetic pleasures. In the country, I felt relieved with the presence of open clear sky, space for people, and quiet.
On the last day in Delhi, I went to visit Raj Ghat, the cremation site of Mahatma Gandhi, and spent my final hour at midnight watching the dessert wallahs ply their trade on the sidewalk. Eight hours later I flew to England and spent a gloriously peaceful two days in the quiet hills of Devon.
For more photos, please check my flickr page.