Sunday, November 6, 2011

The road to Rajasthan


                                          Our roof top view over Delhi, waiting for breakfast

We left the smog of Delhi this morning and took the long road to Bikaner in Western Rajasthan, We will be with this driver for 14 days as we tour Rajasthan, probably the most well known of India's tourist destinations. The car is a little beat-up Tata, and  the roads are pretty bad... plenty of red dust and lots of unfinished sections. Driving is pretty scary, in fact no tourists rent cars to drive themselves but rather take a car and driver.It took 10 hours to get here, and several times we held our breath as we passed donkey carts, camels, wedding parties , sacred cows and other vehicles of many kinds. And then 2 hours before arriving our car had a flat tire. Our driver was calm though and within 15 minutes he had changed the tire and we were on our way. 
The scenery is beautiful, almost biblical ,with women dressed in colorful saris, leading their goats and sheep through the dry fields, carrying large pots or baskets on their heads. Bikaner is near the Great Thar Desert making for a dry arid climate.Fields are covered in low brush and lots of sand. Tomorrow we will travel by camel for a few hours and then sleep in the desert under the stars.
As we drove today we passed troupes of goats being lead to slaughter. Tomorrow is the Muslim Eid and on that occasion a goat will be given as a gift, slaughtered and then eaten for the feast. In Delhi we walked past a huge market where the goats were being sold. The goats are very pretty, often brown  with larger white spots. They are small so I assume they are young goats.
This is festival season and the next month it is an auspicious time for weddings. We have been told that there could be as many as 30,000 weddings in India during this time! On the road today travel was slow due to the many wedding parties in the streets, complete with music, drums, people dancing and the groom mounted on a horse, as he and his family paraded to the bride-to-be's house. Each wedding party lets off huge firecrackers. The sky in Bikaner is ablaze with fireworks, which we enjoyed during our roof-top dinner. These festivities make our North American wedding celebrations seem very quiet in comparison.

I am intrigued by the iapparent insoucience of the people here. That is not to say that some of the things we have seen could be a cause for concern if looked at through our Canadian eyes. In Darjeeling for Diwali, little children played in the streets setting off firecrackers without supervision. They were having great fun especially when an anxious tourist passed by just as the things went off with a loud bang. Perhaps the thing that is the most worrying is the common site of mothers carrying their babies on the backs of motocycles, or sometimes young children sitting in front of the driver, straddling the gas tank. With the smog in Delhi and the dust on the roads here, I cannot help thinking that those little children are getting a face full of dusty, dirty air. But they look quite pleased with themselves as they sit in front of Daddy on his motor bike. Today the prize-winner was seeing a young mother sitting side-saddle behind her husband on the motor cycle, holding her young infant in her arms as he suckled at her breast. He had no idea of the precarious situation he was in, feeling secure in his mother's arms!

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