Sunday, 15 April 2007

On the Road

Driving from Agra to Ranthambhore. Agricultural landscape - small scale. End of the first harvest - fields are full of people working. Small holdings. People and animals coexist. Washing rituals at the pump. Grain stores - woven like enormous baskets, straw up piled up against the house. Dotted along the road are villages, or watering holes, sometimes the equivalent of just the corner shop - selling sweets, fanta, water, a few plastic chairs outside.

A barber. His shop a chair inside a lockup shed. Cut-throat shaves and hair cutting.

Vehicles on the road without number plates - homemade by farmers for farming. Long open engines like tractors mounted on a platform, long steering wheel posts, similar to the first cars without windshields. Putput along the road, sometimes pulling a load of grain, sometimes loaded with farm workers - western dressed men and women in colourful saris, yellow, pink, blue, red.

Families on motorcycles. Dad driving, 2-3 kids squeezed in the middle, mum on the back riding sidesaddle. Nobody wears a helmet.

Trucks carrying grain in huge canvas bags so full the load hangs over the sides and off the back. So full and overloaded can't quite understand how the truck manages it.

Jeeps full of workers speeding down the road, overtaking, people clinging to all possible available space - on the roof, hanging onto the side, standing on the open back door flapping one hand on the roof rack. People walking out of the fields with bundles of twigs, huge bags of grain, stacks of waterpots, belongings, balanced on their heads.

Then sporadically a town. Shops painted deep yellow with red and black writing or coca cola adverts painted in red and white. Houses painted blue (shades of aquamarine and turquoise or pale blue) or pink. Throng of people, cows, goats. Stalls - cloth, fruit, vegetables, eggs, motorbikes, rickshaw wheels. Crowd of men around a 'cafe' (water, fanta, food, chai).

Brick works. Stacked bricks, rectangular ditches and chimneys puffing out smoke. Rows of masons, all manner of carved stone vessels, domes, gods, walls. Ready to be assimilated into new buildings.

Goat herders, cow herders, sheep. Every once and a while a seemingly discarded shrine with a dome and idols. Kids playing cricket. One game had a plank for a bat. Another had a pile of bricks for wickets.

And when we ran out of road we were on a track covered in lumps of rock where the road was being resurfaced and expanded, travelling with local traffic, barely slowing down.

Peacocks and hens in the fields like grouse.

Deeper and deeper we get fewer vehicles, worse road, more men in traditional dress so they fit better with the women in saris.

I'm feeling very western - consumerist, excessive, privileged. Luxury of being able to be unhappy and dissatisfied. Bound by things, ownership and ambition. All of which seem pointless here.

Closer look at the pictures here.

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