En route on the “super fast express” which took 6 hours to cover 245 km, I phoned Narveen my next host. I thought it might be prudent to see if he had actually arranged the shared taxi for the second 6-hour leg of my journey. My Indian SIM card gave me exceptionally good coverage everywhere, even rocketing along at 40 miles per hour on the Express. I casually did a Google search for my final destination to see what the road trip looked like.I realized it really was miles away from anywhere, and the small track-aka-road leading to my destination was all hairpin bends. Should prove to be an interesting ride.
Sometimes I am at a loss for words. Rendered speechless. Being someone who is verbose by nature, this is a rare event. Some might suggest a celebration may be in order.
Such was the case when I found myself in the esteemed company of the school principal, Narveen, and Nicole, another Workaway volunteer from Denmark. We were to undertake no small task, which was to take the message of education up to the surrounding villages in the high Himalayas. Narveen assured us that it would only involve a small walk of an hour or two. As it turned out it was a two day trek to six villages. A journey of a lifetime with so many superlatives that resulted in my inability to find suitable descriptions that went beyond words.
Handbills are passed around when we stop at a village and posted prominently on mud walls extolling the benefits of kids attending school. I wonder if once they leave these educated kids will ever return. Doubtless they would ultimately be headed for the siren song of some IT school in a far away polluted city. That’s the double-edged sword of what’s on offer here. Everyone assumes it’s a good thing having your kid being able to recite the main exports of Moldavia, or know which monarchy most successfully laid waste to their neighbours. But perhaps there is an argument for ignorance being bliss. What I notice up here is big smiles, a neighbourliness that’s warm and inviting and definitely communal, and peace and harmony. I know there’s a romantic in me that yearns for a simpler time. But are we a whole lot better off with our fast-tracked money-seeking infotainment developed world? Could we, as the author Neil Postman speculates, be “Amusing Ourselves To Death?” Our parasite has resulted in the relentless persuit of “more”, that seems to lead to mass unhappiness, and the general unsustainable pillaging of the world’s resources.
Several times during this trip I have been driven to distraction by the all-encompassing riot that is India. Delhi is in extremis. Compound that with blistering heat, and it becomes obvious to me why this is my least favourite spot. But visit I must to try on my new teeth.
This time I return to the warm embrace of Swaraj and his friends who drag me out to the market to buy fresh Afgan bread and lassis for breakfast. I am easily persuaded, and we join Anand and his Italian wife Lucia on their rooftop nearby who have also prepared a spread. It’s a very warm welcome, and after a 24-hour journey from the hinterlands I am starved.
There’s slow, and then there is contemplative. I chose the latter frame to appreciate the scenery passing by at walking pace. I seemed to be in a state of suspended animation, possibly induced by the previous night courtesy of Indian Railways sleeper class, or it might be that hypnotic clickety-clack of the wheels of the train moving at a pace that seemed to be very much in sync with my mood. Clickety-clack, Clickety-clack, wheels turning on the track.