20 November 2006

From The Recycle Bin

Sorry for the dearth of original thought... rewind to March 2006, moving from Rewa, MP to Varanasi... back during my days in The Free World. I'm really missing Ladakh... Summer of 2008... Mongolia, here I come!


I was pretty disillusioned the end of my stay in MP. Things are reeaally sad there. Rewa is nothing but a bus stand and a train station. Typical dog-eats-dog world. If you happen to carry a backpack, be ready to be hounded by a dozen touts, bus conductors, auto-cheats... they'd yell all the places known to them "Railway Station!!? Allahabad!? Mandla??? Jabalpur!" All except Heaven, Hell and Varanasi.

We decided to check out the trains... we learnt that it costs 10-15 max to get to the station by auto. So this chap comes to me and says "rly station? forty!" And I yell at him for trying to cheat me... and he apologises profusely... "reeeeaally sorry, sir... sorry! sorry!! sorry!!! ok, 20!"

While loitering around the bus-stand, katan came across a couple of prostitutes... 500 was the going rate.

Katan asks for the newspaper and the news-stand guy hands him some soft porn mag. Katan says "No, English newspaper!" And the guy picks out English soft porn. Fed up, Katan asks for "The Week" magazine... and the other guy gives him a 2-min big-bro talk on why porn every week is good for him. He did get the mag eventually - oh, I mean The Week.

These buses are really interesting and funny, but only after you finish the journey and look back. This is how it works... they'd draw a straight line from the starting point to the final destination, and pick out all the little towns and villages within 25 km on either side of that line and make sure that the bus passes thru every single point... much like a shoelace or something. So the average speeds vary from a max of 40 kph to lower than 20, which happened during that 8 hour session of bone-crunching thru interior MP. I could run faster than that.

So we reached Allahabad late that morning, really sick of the heat... luckily we found an air-con bus - our 11th bus ride of the trip... we'd had enough. The next bus ride would've been to hell. There were little kids - no more than 8-10 yrs old, selling all kinds of stuff... one of them had a bunch of magazines in his hand. He held out an array of 5 mags, ranging from devotional (Some Goddess sitting on the cover page, holding a Veena) to informative (like All-India Road Map compressed into a 40 page booklet) to local soft porn (ugly fat women scattered all over the cover... they couldn't have fit in any more pictures in that little space)... the guys sitting next to me picked out the porn and started bargaining and teasing the kid, who was unmoved. The kid, all of 10 yrs max, held firm, even educating the men on why the mag would be worth the price... and the men eventually bought the mag. These kids should be sitting in some classroom... and there are so many of them. That's the sad part. Underdevelopment, filth, lack of hygeine... all that is fine in comparison to these kids being deprived of education.

All along the bus rides, there would be people giving us their addresses, and requesting us to help them get a job in madras. There is absolutely nothing happening in these parts. No jobs, no development. People just sit around all day, do nothing - well, not nothing, if you include playing cards under the banyan tree, sitting around the pan shop spitting their lives away... no jobs. There is no sense of urgency, or even purpose, in anything that goes on there.

Anyway, we arrived at Varanasi, extremely tired and dehydrated. There is nothing worse than checking out a bunch of hotels for a good room, when fatigued. There was one Indian who shooed us away because he doesn't entertain Indians in his hotel. We were too tired to protest. We ended up in a good room, with TV and all, and more importantly, with a super view of the Ganges.