Sunday, June 19, 2011

Never a dull moment when back in India

I was excited to be returning to India. Something was drawing me back, so  much so that we decided to leave Nepal before our visa finished. We figured there was so much we were yet to see of the country with relatively little time, so we hopped on a bus and headed for the border.

As we inched closer to India the heat and humidity began to climb. When we reach the border some 10hrs later, the contrast between Nepal and India is stark, despite the two being separated by a mere 'Welcome to India' sign. Beyond the border all I can see is hordes of people, barefoot beggars and scantily clad children. The streets are overflowing with rubbish and as if on cue as we step into India it begins to pour, a reminder to us that it is monsoon season. I look back across at Nepal and begin to doubt my decision.

We have planned to spend the night at the Indian border before heading to Varanasi. In the pouring rain we find the only hotel in the area and ask to see a room. The room turns out to be reminiscent of a prison cell with nothing more that 4 concrete unpainted walls with a bed in the middle. The bed is unmade, has clearly been slept in and has fresh mud trampled through the sheets. We decide get on the next bus to the next town.

As I step on the bus I am gobsmacked by the sight of a young girl of maybe 5 or 6 years old holding a newborn baby clearly no more than 24hrs old. The baby is naked and the two are saturated. The little girl holds the baby as through she is a limp doll and she devours a cookie perhaps given to her by  a stranger. It is not until Brent points out that the bus has no windows that I realise I am staring at this child while ankle deep in water, getting soaked through the windowless bus. We find a different bus, equally as wet and dirty but with windows to shut out the rain.

We haven't traveled more than 100m when we pass an horrific accident. A truck has collided with a motorbike and both rider and passenger have been killed. As we drive past a few meters, an angry Indian throws his pushbike in front of our bus. Brent and I are sitting upfront next to the driver and look to him confused at why the man would do this, when seemingly out of nowhere a mob of Indian men come charging at our bus with batons and sticks.

Without turning the engine off the bus driver leaps from his seat to shut and lock the back door. This causes people to panic and try to escape. The men outside begin violently smashing the bus and yelling in Hindi and the babies and children inside begin to cry, adding to the drama and consequently my fear of being trapped on the bus. I know full well that if you are in a traffic accident in India the best cause of action is to get out and run, for the people will relentlessly and indiscriminately attack you, but we have not caused this accident so I am confused as to why we are being targeted. The bus driver has left his window open and a man outside tries to climb in. I am not sure if it is the fear in my eyes or the fact that he probably won't fit through that makes him retreat, but I am somewhat relieved when he does.

After sometime the focus moves away from our bus and we somehow learn that the people, over a hundred of them, are 'striking' due to the accident. We are unsure of why our bus was targeted but were told it had to do with our bus being a government bus. The people have stopped attacking the bus but refuse to let us leave. We watch the commotion for over an hour and it seems that the two deceased have been put in a rickshaw for the people to come and view. The whole scene is chaotic and animalistic and I can't help but wonder how these people could possibly unite in a natural disaster or crisis. After sometime we realise we aren't in any danger anymore and we leave the bus and walk up the road to find another. Third time lucky, we get on a bus that gets us safely all the way to our destination. We check into a hotel in the middle of the night, which is no more than a bed, bucket and hole in the ground, but after the day I've had I'd be happy sleeping outside with the cows! Tomorrow we have another full days bus ride to Varanasi - hopefully it is less eventful.  

1 comment:

  1. Wow...... where ever you guys go there is always something happening. Just loved the photos from the base camp climb, you can write well and you take awesome photos.