Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Travels in India

Found a story we wrote when in India in 2001

Down town Delhi is today vibrating to the sound of tanks, missiles and the gloriously costumed camel corps as India marks the 53rd anniversary of the adoption of her constitution.

Security is suffocating following a suicide attack on the parliament six weeks ago and a machine gun attack on an American trade centre a week ago that killed four policemen. None of this has dampened the exuberance of India’s teeming multitudes. With only a fraction of her one billion population on the streets the capital is grid locked. A national holiday here is embraced with every shop, office and factory closed without exception.

The government has taken decisive action and eased the restrictions surrounding use of the national flag. The front page of the Times of India announced the decision to allow ordinary Indian’s to fly the green, white and orange tricolour but not at night, upside down or too close to the ground.

Flying in with us on Virgin Atlantic, the radical protest band ‘Seize the Day’. On route to Uter Pradesh (spelling?) they will support the growing resistance to the governments unqualified embracing of the biotechnology (GM) industry.

A positive move has been the governments attempt to tackle the smog & pollution of its capital city. New regulations have seen the introduction of auto rickshaws running on clean gas fuel. These green and yellow, three wheel carts now heavily out number the old polluting two-stroke petrol driven models. Drivers of the old yellow and black models have a very harassed look in their eyes. Standing out like a sore thumb they know that round each corner could be a squad of Delhi police (motto: ‘With you, for you, always’) waiting to pull them over and extort Rs50 baksheesh before allowing them to proceed.

India though has not lost none of it’s capacity for wonderment, an elephant swaying down the road with half a rain forest on it’s back, a fruit and veg market that would put Sainsbury’s to shame, a traffic code that would leave even an Italian transfixed and helpless.

Despite the light rain of this morning, room service informed us that Republic Day is a ‘dry day’ and so they were unable to restock our minibar.

Taking this news in our stride we took a walk down to the River Yamuna, a black slow moving treacle that oozes through Delhi in no particular hurry. There we found a shantytown dweller trampling wild growing marijuana as he hand sprinkled pesticide granules on a crop of pumpkins, struggling in the dry sandy soil of the riverbank. Dressed in rags they looked at us with open eyes and hearts, “welcome” they said.

Tomorrow we leave for Nepal in search of clean air, Yetis and temple balls - we’ll keep you posted.

Martin & Paulo

4 comments:

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