Autobuses and Ashrams

A short note on traveling by bus in India.

Before I left the UK, a friend advised to make sure you get a seat near the front of any Indian bus. I had forgotten this advice for my first journey, and spent most of the time airborne a couple of feet off the back seat. The drivers see speed-bumps more as a challenge than an indication to slow down, and if you are atthe back, you spend most of the time either crashing your head against the roof or returning to the terra rather-too-firma of the inadequately cushioned seats.

On the bus ride up to Munnar a few days ago, I managed to secure one of the front seats. This was an entirely different experience – it takes a while to understand that the madness on the roads is in fact a sort of organized anarchy. Everyone (including pedestrians) has to stay on high alert. So in a strange way it feels safer, although there are many more tight calls. Most of them involving buses.

On today’s return journey from Munnar to Cochin, we came across a sign on an Indian road that said

“DANGEROUS ZONE
DRIVE CAREFULLY
NO PARKING”

Given the perilous nature of most roads in India, this was slightly concerning. If the Indians think it’s a “dangerous zone” then it’s a fair bet that you’re a couple of steps closer to reincarnation than you planned. We survived.

I particularly enjoyed transferring knowledge from the world of Scottish Country dancing to the domain of the Indian bus. Those of you familiar with cross-country prancing will know the “crossed hands grip”, used to increase strength while twirling a young lassie. A similar cross-handed grip on the bar of the seat in front provides stability above and beyond your lurching neighbours.

From tomorrow I will be in the Sivananda Ashram in the southern tip of Kerala for some time, hence the double post today. Click here for my daily schedule. I’m not sure what I am more concerned by – 5.20am wake-ups, the fact that there are only 2 meals a day and that they are silent, or the requirement to chant during Satsang.

Those of you intimate with my chronic inability to sit still and my astonishing lack of flexibility will no doubt share some of my trepidation. It will be an interesting experience, and one of the more unusual ways to spend Christmas.

I will be in the Ashram for up to 2 weeks, though I may be able to post briefly during the weekly day off. Happy Christmas to one and all.

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Filed under 'mind the gap' journey 08-09, All posts, India '08-'09, South India

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