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The Journey


March 2001

An amazing part of my journey is facing its end. Do we ever look forward to the ends? Depends what kind of ends we are talking about and depends on our angle of observation.

Still in India. Slowly processing endless palette of the most colorful country I have ever visited. Too much of everything. Digesting is slow and painful. Beside often desenterial coses are here those tremendous ups and downs of the place that changes with tremendous speed as you walk and paddle the bike along too crowded streets packed with the population of one billion people.

In the middle of Hindustan there was that fabulous Buddhist monument, where last Buddha reached enlightenment. Bodhgaya. The most amazing thing was the coexistence of two so different life styles of the people who practice either of mentioned religious. It was great place to be and felt specially lucky to be there on time of Prayers for World Peace. Thousands of monks in dark red robes were chanting under the hundreds of years old trees. It was great feeling that stayed unexplainable for a couple of months.

Varanasi is probably the dirtiest place on the globe. Men walk with the barrows with dead bodies along barely one and a half meter wide streets, to the holy river Ganges. Burning of the people takes place 24 hours and from the terrace above looks like an odd industry. No feelings, no tears. Some smoke and ashes, unpleasant smell and that is the end of the life. For now. New one is apparently due to be here soon, Hindus said.

Kumbh Mela and 32 million Indian bathing on the confluence of two most sacred rivers in India. No wonder, the biggest religious gathering in the world. My eyes grew a couple of sizes as I was watching bathing folk while one mother was washing a little butt of the baby after he did his thing and the old women was washing the dishes after having the dinner on the sacred bank. Young people were praying in the groups and washing the faces just a yards away from the mentioned activities, cheerfully pouring the water of the river over their faces. Holly Men were bagging for money and curse all those who did not reach in the pocket deep enough. A little money must be worst than no donation for naked man doing mainly nothing but growing their hair. But indeed. It was right here where they dropped the ashes of the father of the Indian nation and of big part of Gandi's family.

Taj Mahal was superb. Bearing in my mind arhitecture only. I was told by the ticket counter : "...because of your white face, Madam the ticket would be 20 $ USA." And how much would be if I change the colour, Sir," I was curious. "Just 20 rupees, Madam," he smiled at me and sold me 50 times more expensive ticket as my face was not the right colour. If the same rules were applied to Indians abroad they would scream racial discrimination. So I eventually saw the famous Taj but the memory is bitter.

Rajasthan would be my choice of what I liked the most in India. Lovely palaces, forts and charmingly dressed people make the desserty part of India memorable. The significant difference between rest of India are reach Maharajas, still inhabiting the area, who, beside the money, poses a significant knowledge and sense for preserving the traditions and history.

"Do you know what Hindus have learned in the history?" asked me young computer engineer working in Canada but recently visiting one of my favorite spots in India, Golden Temple in Amritsar. " No idea." " Read here in the history book: they have learn that they can learn anything!" " Ups, sharp opinion..." " But true one!" He was persistent while he was placing his head comfortably in a big, colorful turban. " Is that why Indira Gandi had died?" " Yeah, we gave her a couple of months since she had ordered the attack on the nost secret Sikkh temple."

Since I remember I hate these political discussion but somehow they started to get interesting here in India. So many different people swimming in the same soup should like each other more than those people do, I used to think.

One of the amazing Hindu qualities is this tranquility and silence. They can tolerate more than most of the people can. Either this occur because of their believe or any other reason, reminds another question. As I am on my way to Pakistan I would undoubtfully have enough opportunity to hear Muslim opinion on this matter. I am looking forward to the time (if ever) when will be able to put together a complex understanding of this part of the world.

The other day I was guest at the place of two elderly Indians. Sir spoke good English, as majority of the middle class do. We spent some fabulous time together chatting on all those unsettled issues of Indian corution, how Marshal Tito got the tiger cups from Nehru and they were placed all over Yugoslavia's ZOO's, why Indians are still loyal to the old tradition of arranged marriages and so on.

As the old man was educated, appeared wise and forward looking I could not resist search his opinion on Indian traffic and road conditions as well.

"Ej, my young lady, here I would have a question for you! I haven't seen much, but have been traveling to Europe couple of times. I have never been able to understand why anybody wants to drive in India? In my humble opinion either you are suicidal type or does not value the life properly," he was smiling gently under his long, pointed up, gray mustache. I have never in my life sit in the car or any other vehicle except train. Indians, nice people are idiots on the road."

"Well, if I say something like this some coterie screem about racism, sadism, etc." " I am willing to help them to understand," he was persistent. As his wife served us spicy chicken curry, rice and chapati in the house full of kids and big eyed grant children, we were looking toward the mountains where the road took me next day.

As usually, when you need it, you get it. Whatever may be. As me, I needed some piece and time away from nerve wrecking time on the Indian roads. Dharamshala was The place to be! On time, again! As His Hollynes Dalai Lama was having the public teachings and what can be more useful than listening his thoughts about the teachers and teachings, love, patience, anger, happiness, etc?

The place was packed with spiritual westerner, Buddhist monks and those outstanding Tibetan people. And yes, 3 Slovene were more than what I expected. Was great to catch up on the homy scene and got the Slovene book to read after so many years...

What kind of opinion you should have about the Indian accommodation? Needless to say you may get irritated when at 10 p.m., while you are in the bed, somebody walks into your room and is pulling the cover off you. "What a hell is going on?" " Excuse me, can I take your warm cover and give you this one instead?" squeezed short boy in his late twenties while offering me an old, washed out, thin cover. "Can you get out of my life before I help you, please?" I am trying hard to be polite in the middle of the night to the strange man entering my room unannounced.

Well, thank God there are places like Hotel Amritcar International. Governmental place. Would expect that is full of slow people and dubious service. Talking to them throwed me out of gear. Absolutely great service, outstanding stuff and helpful director made the previous story less darker. Fortunately, there are places even here in India that would balance all those annoying things and get the scale in neutral if not on a positive side.

Of course, apart from the traffic of what I simply can not change my opinion neither for a bit.

Leaving Daramshala in a short run, just 200 km to Amritcar. Early morning on the road is supposed to be the best time to escape from the busy areas. Just in case you do not meet the wild TATA truck driver completely on my side of the road, wide not enough for both of us. Ditch is not too bad as it is just a meter deep, about half of meter wide and ends up with the concrete wall. Short but fast calculation made me decided that being in the ditch would be (at least slightly) better than getting tangled with the monster. The score? Broken mirror, I stopped counting the scratches as soon as I crossed into India.

Good morning ride proceed toward the lowlands. It is getting promising warm. Snowing stopped. Approaching the village tells me from the distance that most of the villagers have got up already. As usually, I slowed down and rested my thomb in the horn for a couple of km. Behind me, on the safety distance of 2 inches big, white buss is pushing me, horning and blinking with all possible lights working, as slowing down in the crowded areas is just not necessary if you are have a big vehicle. A slightly different rule apeals to me as more useful. I am on those two volunable wheels...

As getting up does not necessary man waking up as well, sleepy youngster in his thirties, with a huge, pinky turban cut straight into my right side as he joined the traffic on the main road, coming from the side road. Traditionally in Indian style, without any look at all. This time I earned just a hole in my right saddle bag and hit the car who was passing me on my left at that time, by the way. Too many scratches to count...

My heart is already hanging somewhere in my throat as I am balancing out of all this mess. Turban head is smiling at me and yelling: "No problem, no problem Madam! I am sooooorry. No, problem, all OK!" Keep dealing with the traffic around me I am preferably staying away from expressing my opinion on the matter. As my beloved Australian BMW friend said: "My thoughts on India cover a broad area. I am an expert on none but having spent a little time there I am entitled to my opinion...even though it may be a bad or wrong one..."

Here I go, my life. I am appproaching the angels and saints every couple of kilometers. Almost there, at the end of todays short adventure. Another 26 km to go. Riding with the speed of the Snails family I am avoiding alive and non alive obstacles along the road. Can clearly see the kid of the same age as my first friend from the bicycle accident was, around 20. She is staying pendent in the middle of the road. As she is looking at the traffic approaching from the opposite direction, she turned back and started his trip on the side of the road she started her journey. I am approaching with the high speed of 20 km/h, breaking and horning hard. I am not sure what the others want to notify when using the same signals, but I feel like the idiot telling whole world that my driving license did not bring me sufficient knowledge to be allowed to participate in the traffic. Well, as I better do as the Romans do, keep horning and breaking.

And why you should announce to the others what a hell are you doing in the traffic? Just for a fun I would say. In a split second she changed her opinion again, jumped now straight into my front side of the bike. Good for me again as she survived and the only place where she marked my bike was ripped off the cover of my left saddle bag. I love scratches... The power with she literally ran into me must been tremendous as she ran me off the road completely. She may precalculated the situation as I missed the metal post for a thickness of the hair.

Do not pretend to be unable to see how lucky I am! Having all the blest of the Indian roads make you thing slightly different as if I would be sitting back home, surfing the Net and read the other motorcyclist's story...

And my personal admiration to German Josef for riding with a broken arm and 15 stitches in the elbow after running over the bicyclist. You are my hero! African Steven, keep up good spirit after cutting the scuter on a half and paying to the bicyclist to have his head sown and put together again. Raul, feel sorry for you and the incident while Hindus bit you up on Nepali Indian border after you had hit the holly cow. Must be great to know the cow in this country is worth more than a human. Zvone, I am expressing my condolence on the death of the girl under your tires. That is what I am deadly afraid of.

To all rest of you on the wheels in India, wish you simply survival.

Off I am to Sri Lanka.

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