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Thursday, 23 October 2014

India: Cycling in a Land of Extremes - Page 2

Written by Dale Fehringer
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We found many such extremes in India – beautiful and ugly, colorful and plain, rich and poor.  For example, we saw a young woman in a bright yellow sari walking down a road with a five-gallon bucket of water on her head, holding the bucket with one hand and a cellphone to her ear with the other hand.  We watched a new Mercedes Benz car blast its horn as it zoomed around a camel cart loaded with straw.  And we saw homeless people cooking and sleeping on sidewalks outside magnificent palaces. 


But there was also a constant: the friendliness of the rural people.  They seemed happy to see us and welcomed us into their villages.  Especially the children.  To us it appeared that the people in rural India have very little, but they seem content with what they have. 


Work in Progress


We started in New Delhi, a sprawling city of 13 million people and heaps of traffic.  We were there during Diwali, a multiple-day festival that includes gift-giving, parties, outside lights, and fireworks.  We took a rickshaw through the narrow alleyways and crowded streets of Old Delhi’s spice market, which is a raucous and aromatic scene.  The traffic and the smog were overwhelming, and after a couple of days we were ready to leave Delhi and cycle in the countryside.  On the way,we noticed several construction sites, where crews were putting up high-tech office buildings and high-rise housing units.  A road sign read “Work in Progress,” which to us symbolized India’s current condition. 


Women of Rajasthan


We were enchanted by the women of rural Rajasthan.   Their natural beauty is enhanced by dark skin and pearl-white teeth, and they wear vibrantly-colorful saris as they go about their daily chores.  We saw beautifully-dressed women fetch water, do laundry, milk cows, and work the fields – always smiling – and we enjoyed exchanging greetings with them as we passed them on the roads. 


Typical rural villages have dirt streets, a few basic businesses, and small, ramshackle houses.  Most of the homes have electricity, but few have running water and many have dirt floors.  To get around, the locals walk or pedal antiquated bicycles; for longer distances they travel three or four to a motorbike or ride on top of crowded jeeps. 




Avoiding the Cows


It took some time to get used to seeing and dodging the cows that roam Rajasthan; standing in the roads, lying on the sidewalks, and grazing in piles of garbage.  Cows are sacred and they aren't slaughtered.  They aren’t disciplined in any way, either, as far as we could tell, so they walk, stand, and lie wherever they choose.  Cars, buses (and cyclists) go around them, amid traffic jams and a cacophony of horn honking.  We were told there are steep penalties for hitting them, so we carefully avoided the holy cows.


We asked why it’s OK to milk cows and use them to work in the fields but not eat them.  The answer we got was that cows are considered holy because the Hindu God, Krishna, was once reincarnated as a cow, to help the people by working for them and giving them milk to drink and dung for fires.  By honoring this gentle animal that gives more than it takes, Hindus believe they honor all creatures.     

(Page 2 of 4)
Last modified on Friday, 24 October 2014

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