Our circuitous route to Delhi was to take a long time to cover.
About three hours down the road from Ludhiana, we stopped for a toilet break and then found out that the road ahead was blocked by another demonstration. The solution was to turn off and head for the state of Uttar Pradesh and then head down towards Delhi.
The rest of this blog entry has been written purely to remind us (in our older age) what a colourful, varied and packed place India is. It is also a record of the extreme poverty within which many Indians live and the wealth of many people.
India is the second largest sugar cane producer in the world and hence the roads are crowded with cane being taken for processing.
You might think this trailer is overloaded - actually it is quite conservatively loaded.
Parked across the main road near the processing plant was this lorry waiting to go into the mill. Every vehicle coming in either direction had to stop to work out how to get around it.
We only saw the cane being cut by hand (as in this photograph). Labour is usually cheaper than machinery here.
This obviously is a smaller trailer not loaded as much as the earlier one.
It is being pulled by a bullock however and it walked along at a very slow pace making its way towards the factory
where there were hundreds of similar trailers awaiting unloading.
As we drove towards Delhi, we came across many brick kilns and it was common to see workers manually making unfired bricks in the fields and leaving out in the sun to dry before firing.
It is estimated that there are unto 150,000 brick kilns making India is the worlds second largest brick producer. Therefore brick manufacture is a significant source of airborne pollution.
For around 8 months of the year (not in the monsoon season), migrant labour families seek out jobs in kilns which are slightly better paid than other low skilled jobs. Workers are of all ages from children who are not in school through to the oldest adult.
The Government has estimated that 8 million people are involved in making bricks
There are reports of serf labour being used to manufacture bricks in some parts of India. Generally the poorest groups will be found working in the kilns. A report on brick manufacture and the almost slave labour involved can be read here from the BBC and here from the Guardian.
Most small towns in India seem to be very similar. On the outskirts the roads are lined with small stalls selling everything.
Here sweets next to firewood -living in a shack does not stop the entrepreneurial spirit in India.
What looks like very fresh vegetables are being sold under cover from a proper stall
and if you have no stall (yet), you sell from trolleys made from old bike wheels.
There always seems to be someone who is prepared to sell anything - here plastic shoes.
Vendors sit patiently by the side of the road waiting customers for their single product - nuts.
Location never stops someone running a business.
Although this house is almost in the town centre, cattle are being bred in the front garden.
Further into town, shops and businesses take over the roads. This is a dry-cleaning delivery van!
Buses are an essential part of travel in India and we attracted some attention as we went past the very crowded bus station. Riding on the roof of a bus is still common here.
One characteristic of India which we do not quite understand is that all of the shops in an area sell the same thing. Here we are driving through the Lorry Tyre section of town. Every shop sells Lorry Tyres and is in competition with its neighbour. Elsewhere there was the wooden bed making section, the welding section,
the bike repair section ………...
This photograph has little to do with town life even though it was taken in a town! As usual there is more than one person riding the bike, in this case three.
India does not pick up its rubbish. This piece of land is testament to the Indian ability to recycle anything of value and leave the remains lying about. If only there was a demand for small pieces of plastic bags……….
A Dhaba is a roadside dining place usually serving cheap reasonably freshly cooked food. After about 8 hours on the road, we forced a stop for a meal if only to ensure that our driver got a brief rest.
I think the name of this Dhaba translates into something like “The Pure Devotee of Lord Vishnu Restaurant”.
The menu was extensive.
This was a vegetable pulaw which cost 70 Rupees (about 80p), tea was 10 Rupees
and very cheap. The total bill for 8 of us with bread etc came to about £10 - around £1.25 a head.
One area for improvement was the toilets - we needed them but we wished we did not.
If this amount was to be thought too expensive, then there are millions of smaller stalls selling what looks like very nice food but obviously bringing with them a certain hygiene risk for a western stomach.
Typical of those we passed are these two establishments, I wish we felt brave enough to have tried them.
Health and Hospitals
Obviously we have been working as part of the Indian health system for many years and hence have visited a number of hospitals, health clinics, outreach centres etc.
High quality health care is readily available to those with money. This brand new private hospital boasts that it provides the highest quality health care. Health tourism is a major foreign currency earner for the country.
This Dentist (in Ludhiana) provides home visits for 1000 rupees (90 to the £) and basic consultations cost 200 rupees. Having been given a guided tour of the establishment,
and Pat having been a quick check-over, and being told “your teeth have been very well maintained”, I would have no concerns at all about hygiene and the quality of equipment available.
Most high streets have First Aid / Health advice places such as this one
Here I noted that some of the advertising is in English, perhaps because it is the common language across a country with 22 official languages, 150 spoken extensively and 1652 languages (including those not native to the subcontinent) being spoken by the population.
This place seems to be sell herbal products as well as some more conventional medicines.
Driving on Indian roads is not of those of a nervous disposition nor for anyone who is not prepared to drive as if there were no other vehicles on the road. Lane discipline is an alien concept, white lines where they exist, are purely for decoration. You do not stop to let anyone out or in to your side of the road, you do not stop for anything unless you really have to. Your side of the road can be any side of the road, or all sides of the road at the same time or the middle road. Despite this, we saw very few accidents and only had one (as far as we know) vehicle hit our coach. Our driver took no notice and kept on going.
This is a good example of what we describe as a “Marigold Moment” (the scene in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel where they are in a coach heading directly for another coach). We are overtaking someone who is already overtaking someone and driving as fast as the driver can go. Coming towards us is the same - a lorry overtaking a car which is trying to overtake a tractor. So everyone is heading directly for everyone else - however we all missed each other !
Eventually after nearly 13 hours on the road, we arrived back in Delhi in very good spirits. Our driver had been given one speeding ticket (which we gallantly paid for him - 200 rupees) and had only one accident for which we did not stop. Driving off the main highways is to be recommended but only if someone else is doing the driving and time is not important.