… curious faces…
As I had said before, travel in India is not easy. The bus that I took from Agra to Jaipur was an all day long affair. I checked with my hotel as to the cost of the ticket and I was told that it was two dollars. Later, on the bus, I talked with several other travellers and they were shocked at how much I was overcharged. Apparently the actual cost of the ticket was only a dollar and my hotel charged me a 100% commission. I was only in India for a few weeks, the cost seemed minimal to me. Many travelers I have met are on a serious “budget” and actually survive on US $5 per day. Yes, that’s including food, hotel, touring, and transport. India is indeed affordable.
As I shrugged off the “overcharge” of my ticket, I remembered back to a conversation that I had just outside the Taj Mahal. I met an Italian doctor who works in London. He was traveling with a mate from London and the two men were touring around India. The doctor had just finished a 6 month “Doctors without Borders” tour in India. He explained his philosophy on paying too much in other countries. A taxi cab ride in India may cost 15 or 20 cents but when a taxi cab driver charges a westerner a dollar, and that person pays because its easier to pay than to haggle over eighty five cents, he says that this is a huge dis-service to Indians. Now, the taxi cab driver will ignore locals because he wants the big western tip. Locals become angry at tourists and the practice also inflates the cost of taxi cabs for everyone. Additionally, the perceived value of goods is warped and the tourist’s visit is disruptive to the area being visited. He explained that in his opinion, tourists should always strive to pay (and tip) the same rate as the locals.
So, I thought about my $1 dollar overcharge on the bus fare. Hmm… well, I’ll try to get the “local’s price” in the future…
I took the above photo early in the bus ride; by the time the bus arrived in Jaipur, it was standing room only. The bus was completely filled with local Indian people; most had not appeared to have bathed in months. The boy below was clothed only in a t-shirt and was stark naked from the waist down. He seemed genuinely curious about me and stared for about 15 minutes. I was happy to entertain him but was constantly worried that he would decide to use the toilet as he stood talking to me as I had seen on the street so many times. He was young and I was not completely sure that he was toilet trained yet and the thought of him “slipping” had me on edge.
Later in the bus ride, the top luggage areas filled full of people until I had a pair of unwashed feet in my face. I shot a photo of Rainer (the nice German fellow I met on this ride) to give to him later. The two Indian men in the top photo were “standing room only” as the bus completely filled up. The bus was hot, it was smelly, it was uncomfortable. At each stop I struggled to shoot photos out of the window as a blur of Indian people, culture, sights, sounds, and smells rushed past my senses.
I saw all sorts of animals including buffalo, camel, elephant, and of course, so many cows…
Even though the following photo is a bit blurred because the bus was moving so quickly, it still captures the beautiful colors of the Indian women’s clothing. The traditional clothing was always so bright and vibrant and provided such a strong color contrast to the grey and tan of the dirt roads and buildings.
A few times along the day-long bus ride we stopped at little markets to pick up and drop off passengers. Not wanting to leave my luggage, I negotiated out of the open window to buy bottled water, bananas and nuts.
It was a treat to be able to see the local people as they went about their lives raising children, selling their wares, or bringing food back from the market. The people who I met on the bus were friendly and curious. Those that could speak English asked where I was from, how long was I travelling, where was my wife? and why didn’t I have any children? They often translated for those who did not speak English. Rainer and his girlfriend chatted with some other locals, with me, and with some other westerners on the bus. Despite the heat and smells, it was a grand adventure and we were having a splendid time.
As we neared the state of Rajastan, hills seemed to grow from the horizon and soon we were snaking our way through mountain passes. The Raj, or people of Rajastan have a fierce reputation as warriors and maintained autonomy from the Mughals for many centuries. Even in the current Indian government they maintain a strong sense of autonomy. As we entered the state, the mountain fortresses on each hilltop attested to the warlike resolve of these people. I was quite excited to see these fortifications and I wanted to explore all of them. In looking at them, it seemed that they were just “some old buildings” to the locals looking by how dilapidated they appeared and the level of modern buildings and telephone wires that sprung up around them.
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