Freedom by foot

On the 9th of September 2011 we set out from England to the continent by ferry to begin our adventure in earnest. By foot we will make our way to the first destination, which is Milan, from there we will be flying over to Bangalore for an archaeological conference (as you do) and an escape from the harsh European winter.

At any and all points in our little wander we will be on the look out for interesting and exciting places and people to learn from. Our journey begins with a zeal for experiencing ancient and traditional life & new innovative ways of living for the future.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

'The Inglish, the Inglish, the Inglish are here!'

 Dharmapuri, Andhra Pradesh 
One bus One Car
800km & 18 hours later 

Happy to be leaving the bustling city life and getting submerged into rural India, Marc and I teamed up with Brian and headed off North. A bold reminder of Indian bus stations hit us head on as 4 hours past before leaving the bus station.

love . hate . love . hate
love . hate & more love.

India and Marmite correlations begin to come back to me. Do we love the constant honking of horns whilst watching infuriatingly as all the buses bottle necked out of this tiny gap given as the main exit to the station, or the soiled toilets filled with mosquitoes, the most hideous human deformations you can imagine being presented to you and watching people sleep amongst rubbish and grime. Adverts for face whitening cream and cement. . The young Bengaluruiets swagger by in their tight jeans and fashion tops heaped with shopping and talking on their mobiles mingled within them the tiny under nourished lady sweeps the rubbish around the other rubbish, achieving nothing.

Or do we love the colours of all the clothes, the wide variety of people, modern to traditional wearing part of the nation with pride. Do the sounds only blend to create a joyful and wonderfully hectic symphony of Indian life. Did I fail to notice the trails and tangles of sari's in the toilets, creating a palace of rich fabric and a unique insight into how these woman arrange their attire. Whilst I frowned upon their rubbish did I forget that Forty-seven percent of the total plastics waste generated is currently recycled in India; this is much higher than the share of recycling in most of the other countries (the recycling sector alone employs as many people as the plastics processing sector, which employs about eight times more people than the plastics manufacturing sector). And whilst I made these observations and judgments did I notice all the people sitting gawking at me, thinking who is this strange pale creature, wearing those strange clothes, looking at us?

Arriving in Dharmapuri gave no relief to these questions, but it was quite a relief to stop traveling and enjoy the wonderful home comforts of Dr. Jai's home. His house sits down a small alley, and comprises of about 5 rooms, one kitchen, 2 bedrooms, an office and a living room. Despite its modest size, he welcomes a large percentage of his male students to come and live with him, as most of them come from poor agricultural villages up to 20km away from Dharmapuri. This results in the house being full of laughter, sounds, songs
and a whole team of great cooks, who prepare all the meals. Ramesh is a particularly keen cook and takes hold of the kitchen most days. People sleep everywhere possible, except the allocated space for Jai's ancient finds. A whole wall covered in Iron bits, slag, ore, crucibles, tuyeres, swords and blades, canon balls and bits of pottery, not to mentioned the stacks of books and further shelves of slag. After I explored this new home for a week (as Marc and Brian already know it well from previous trips) Brian, myself and Marc enjoy our first home cooked meal in India before heading out on the streets!

Of course in rural India no white man or woman can walk the streets unseen. People are surprised, happy, overwhelmed, shocked, frightened and indifferent. Responses are never the same, we were greeted by many typed of people, mostly wide smiling grins and 'The Inglish, the Inglish, the Inglish are here!'

We took a trip into the temple and received puja, all of which was great and really confusing, but I felt at home to have a multitude of coloured dots on my forehead again. I was surprised at how openly the temples were charging money for everything and selling things outside, but as Brian said to me, well at least their upfront and open about it. I laughed, of course I'm sure this had no reference to the church of England.
Jai took us to the Godarvi river, even a few months after the monsoon, this vast river is already running low. I cant imagine just how dry the summer is here. The river is beautiful and of course there are children swimming, women washing and sari's dotted all over the large boulders on the rivers banks. Briefly we saw the college where Jai is principle, its size is also modest and impressive they can fit 250 students in all at once. Jai has a very liberal approach to teaching and isn't afraid of telling people either. Its nice to see that someone, so rural is giving young people such an open minded education, backed with a lot of support and passion. Also thankfully Jai hates the beating, gender inequalities and many other injustices I saw happening in lots of schools. He really treats his students as family.

Anyhow, after our walk, we crashed and recovered with a snooze. As Brian only had one more day with us, note: not happy about this, we got up early the next day and went around some of the sights from the project 2 years ago. Never did I think I would enjoy seeing so many heaps and piles and more heaps of slag, but I really did. Mainly because it meant we drove right out into the fields, just away from villages, where I got a chance to see the agriculture, and learn some plants. Most of the crops seem to be rice, cotton, pulses, turmeric, chillies and maize. Ox and cart rule the dirt tracks between paddy fields. The pulses are planted as hedges to protect the fields of turmeric. all blossoming yellow, the pulses sway in the wind. everything is green, lush and hot. I get a chance to sink my teeth into raw turmeric for the first time, its sour but refreshing like lime. The people are very busy harvesting rice, their bodies show the years and strength they have earned and endured for this essential crop. Cotton is also being harvested, the white gold for these rural people, the trucks steam down the roads like giant pillows packed so full of cotton they are fit to burst. 

Brian left, I think on the way to being a bit poorly, we wish you a safe journey home Brian - thank you for your wonderful company and exciting talks about our time in Georgia to come. Marc and I stay on in Dharmapuri for 9 days in total. Jai really put his self out to make sure we saw what we were interested in and of course balanced this with us doing what he wanted! We chatted to his students a number of times, once in his college (lots of incredibly shy giggling girls, hard to think they are only a few years younger than ourselves). There was also a big picnic in the hills one day underneath shade of the trees next to a small pretty temple. they cooked and feed over 100 people. Indian fellows certainly know how to quickly organise a huge feast. We sat on big rugs and ate in shifts of 30ish people. Being served food by those yet to eat. Highlight was eating battered deep fried green chillies which I sat with the girls and deseeded before cooking. Sadly I saw these delights later on, face to face in the bottom of a bucket. Maybe my body doesn't do complete Indian food just yet!

A real highlight of our stay was spending time with Satya's family who were pot makers. We walked the streets and back alleys and came to a pretty little labyrinth of houses where there were 3 families making pots. There is so much to tell and so much detail that I will write about it in the places and people section of our blog to do the experience justice. But to give an idea we tried, watched and made poor attempts comparatively to make some wheel thrown pots. We then watched them beat the bottoms and surface of the harder sun dried pots. A couple of days later we helped them load their kiln and saw the whole process through to Saturdays market where they sell their weekly wares. For a weeks work we were astonish at the price of the pots, only 20/30 Rs. for a big one or 10rs for a small bowl - roughly translated as 25p. Amazingly skilled people and lovely lovely warm smiles. We really appreciated this opportunity to be so close and involved with local craftspeople. Though not to forget the blacksmiths, hidden in the shade of the tent by the side of the busy road, a small family make axe head and small curved knives (like a bill hook but more crescent moon like) in the small hearth. The bellows powered by an old man turned the peddle of a bicycle which turn the handle of the bellow, pointing into the ground and heating up the charcoal. When a pieces of iron is fully red hot the father and son (10yrs old) beat the metal with big hammers in a alternate pattern, very fast and for fear of the wife whose holding the steaming thing in place on the anvil. PANG,PANG,PANG,PANG,PANG,PANG,PANG,PANG,PANG,PANG, - throw into the filthy gutter water to cool and start over, whilst they small boy returns to his other job which is roasting goat heads and feet over the charcoals. brilliant.

So we left this area of India with a huge amount of knowledge and happiness. Also thirsty for more. We jumped upon a train at 3am which took us to coastal Andhra Pradesh (or AP). From here, Vijayawada, we traveled on the maiden voyage of the longest train in India, though we only went half its full distance -  Vijayawada to Guwahati - just over 2500km and 45 hours. The full journey is 4286km and almost 5 days journey 82.3 hours. Here we kindle a surely much shared love Indian trains. Next destination. Guwahati, Assam and onward to the far eastern frontier.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for this blog --it is just wonderful to read about your journey,it warms my heart!! And keep writing, its brilliant!Lovexx