India 2 – Karnataka

I restart to question the meaning of life, cycling in India in the first place

Cute CreatureIsn't it IndiaColoursplashSomnathpur

Arriving in India is questioning almost everything. Not even the meaning of cycling, no… way further than that. It is suddenly being trowed in an enormous washing tumbler on a dry program. Full speed. Where ever you appear, so does noise, colors, music, smell of flowers, death, open wounds, misshapen body’s, and the smoke of fire and incense. I can see clearly that people in India are trying to obtain more and more. Not too many seem to care about the misery of others. The poor, the homeless people. Dogs are the most unfortunate, being kicked at, fooled with. Are this the people who believe in reincarnation? I understand the system well enough that I won’t take care for the poor homeless either, because what is the use of handing over money to a drunkard who makes his wife pregnant over and over. Children growing up on the pavement. Isn’t it the women who need to get aware of their rights?!

There they AreMirrorChai Search

What you get to see here is humiliating for human kind

There are so many people in India that I start to wonder why in heaven’s name people want their own children. Of course I understand the power of nature. And not that I am advocating adoption. Not at all. But it dawns on me once more and deeper than before that I don’t see the need for my own. Many children in India are just left alone, by themselves. Fuck off, help yourself. Not even the parents can be blamed for their deeds. More and more is coming towards me.

Orange FreshSo TiredJuicy Drinky

It’s not that I suffer a culture shock, its just that India managed to stay India so clearly, so sharply and harsh. Not one country is as India. Has it to do with Hinduism perhaps? Not that I have too much space to think for that, or want to judge at that, I have to keep my wits on the traffic, or I will be killed. Traffic, like people behaving in the streets, seem to do so with merely self-importance. This works well for traffic, and for myself, but not always. Mostly perhaps for me, not being used to the rough behavior, pots smashing to your legs, people closing you in, touching all ‘funny things’ on your bicycle. Upon seeing the sadhu’s, although utterly poor, and perhaps not always completely chosen for, maybe even not a real sadhu, I can’t help thinking: ‘Oh, what a wonderful life, nothing to have and nothing needing to be done.’

Big and SmallThe bigger OneA Lot of Buddha's

The first thing to understand is that the West is the Same and India is the Other, the West is normal and India is abnormal. The West is rational, India is irrational, the West is active, India is passive. The problem arises when the West tries to fit the large round pegs of India into its small

square holes. For this it needs to be reformatted, its categories altered, and its elements be universalized. This is the foundation of Imperial Knowledge. The first step is to give a bit of order to the chaos of Indian culture, which is made possible by essentializing India. But, of course, essences don’t really exist. Once we have a grid, the Table of all Things, we want to know whether exactly each thing can be found on it. How about religion? What is the religion of India?” Cartouche asked…

Autobiography of a sadhu, Rampuri

Temple ArtLet's Eat

Meeting the eyes of sadhu’s walking from place to place, I feel a deep connection. Perhaps because he hasn’t got this madness in his eyes, nothing of it but quiet friendliness with a bright shining of knowledge, thus I am not a weirdo anymore. I am silently greeted as being normal. Those little things, like the soundless passing of cows hoofs on tar, water buffaloes turning of their head in a most slow and almost obtuse manner, little girls who literally hold on to each other in fear when they see me passing.

Halebid back

Halebid front

My bicycle Shanti is my other half, like a cow and his farmer

What I clearly miss is the connection with Nature. I feel no cyclist anymore, but a mere tourist on a bicycle. I feel only half a unity with Shanti, my bicycle, as she is often parked away from me. In the cellar of the bar, surrounded by empty whiskey bottles and dirt. She needs to be on my side, she’s like my cow, I want to take care for her… like the farmer who washes and caresses his buffalo. The adventure and challenge of cycling are no more. Well, they’re still there but on a whole different level. The most simple connection with Nature, squatting down for toilet, have become difficult with people everywhere. Buildings and inhabitants seems to be all over. And each night I watch out of the window -if there is any- and I see a perfect spot of Earth to build my camp on, instead I am sweating in a dirty, hot concrete room. Each night I have to haul my panniers and bike at least two flights of steps up, while I long for sleeping in my tent. Contradictory, I miss normal contact, contact on a normal level -I don’t even ask for deep philosophic- I badly need a SIM card too! I miss company…

Paratha Maker

Co WorkersA bit of AllClassic all The Way

Entering Karnataka feels immediately different. Very much different from Kerala. Suddenly it’s all agriculture, the standard has gone a few pitches lower, and I prefer this. I cycle distances around 80 to 90 kilometer and I have to manage to end the day in a place where there are lodges as I am not camping in India. Of course, in India, I always manage. One such place is in beautiful named Shravan Belagola where a 17.5 meter high statue of a Jain Buddha is cut out of a single rock, called Gomateshvara ‘Monk of the White Pond’. It is said to be the world tallest monolithic statue, and to get there I have to climb 614 steps.

Green Saddle

ClassicLittle cuty

What is the meaning of life?

I wanted to stay longer, the room with its fine price of a euro a day fits me, run by the local Jain organization, has more the attitude of an ashram, tough noisy, and with guys watching through the window. The food, thali’s, are delicious. The surroundings astonishing. But I feel such an urge to cycle. When I wake up I even start to ask myself what the meaning of it all is? I see so little significance, of life, of being in India. Now, this effect álways dawns on me when I am in India and then I just need to relocate where it’s coming from. Finding where this feeling’s coming from and figuring out how to change no significance into meaning, however meaningless. First of all I clearly miss a goal: I cycle towards Delhi, and then? Is India the last of the stations to cycle towards? Where am I going after? Am I going? Where? When?

Poisening BeautyBeing PaintedBelur Belur

I decide to stop pondering over what will, might, can, could happen. I stop thinking too much. I start seeing India through the eyes of a newcomer. ‘This is my first time in India’ as I now see it, and although India is not the best country to cycle in, here I am! The beauty lies somewhere else, in very small things, like dogs playing together, walking side by side, their stomachs empty, their ribs visible. Boys walking hand in hand, the nail of their pinky painted pink. Guys giggling is most unsexy, reaching high in decibel, dressed in ultra tight pink legging-like trousers. Girls go completely crazy when they see me, or totally withdrawn by seeing a foreigner, a real real alien.

Floating on a RiverBeautiful CooperationHelmet Not Cool

I decided to move from hotels, simple restaurants to street stalls to eat. In each hotel  I am regarded as water ignited by an invisible source into a huge flame: kitchen staff and workers all sit around me to watch. Not in street stalls, rats might be walking past me but at least I am not watched as a complete insanity. As always, the poorer the surroundings, the more comfortable the approach.

Why? Overload?See the Details

Starting to enjoy cycling slowly, I notice smiles on my face when a tractor with high-pitched female voices blaring out of rather huge loudspeakers set up in his tractor. I notice how insane the traffic is, when you are not in it, and how normal it is when you are part of it.

Milky DayUh... WHo are youSpoiled Little Buddha

India never is what you think it is

I stop next to the road. Need to make a note where I write my goals on. I have seen 3 temples in a week. That’s too much. I can never see all the temples in India, certainly not by bicycle. I don’t even want to. Than, the most funny thing happen: the ónly place I wanted to see in India, I skip, I just cycle past it, by a few kilometer. And I am heading to a most touristy place I never wanted to go to again. Presumption. Conditioned. Condemn. Judging. India never is what you think it is.

It dawns on me that I don’t want a copy of what I have already experienced in India. But a combination of possibilities which I know where to find them.

What I asked for -contact, company, depth, insight, answers, a SIM card, a goal, and a few beautiful garments- is all coming to me soon…

Shravan BelagolaOh... I want once MoreThe Big Magic Book 

Knowing the nature of people, it’s logic to attract loads of attention when you are the only Westerner in town. Knowing the nature of Indians, it’s quite another experience. It took me a few weeks to get accustomed to India -although I have been here many times- on a bicycle it changes everything. Since I have lowered the daily distance, I am enjoying more, stopping more and thus more open for the people around me. On such day, when a Muslim riksja driver with a lush curly beard and shaven mustache tells me his idea about my route it’s obvious I am not going for the 110 kilometer ride, which was already quite impossible with time spend on a puncture. Instead I will settle in Pavagada, after a short flimsy interview where my meal is paid for and after offered a tender coconut by an old coconut wallah. Big coconuts have at least 500 ml delicious juice, that’s a lot when your tummy is full. ‘Drink’, I am encouraged by the interviewer while an audience of 15 men is watching me.

Jain Family get Blessed

On such day I am lodged in the temple rest house, surrounded by large loud families who have all clean shaven skulls and are excited to get darshan or do their puja. Walking through town it dawns on me nothing will ever match India. It is a mayhem of little pieces of existences everywhere you watch, some right on the street, some above street level in small cubicle concrete spaces. Dogs are half smeared in sewer dirt, pigs run the streets. Heaps of purple marigolds and sacks of puffed rice grains. Beautiful woman who remind me of the nymph of Krishna and slender young man with pronounced collarbones. And everywhere the heavy sweet smell of jasmine and incense. And everywhere, at times, the usual, a holy man who needs money, the homeless who needs it too, the beggar who begs out of convenience, the chai wallah above his spattering fire, the men who dress like a woman, holy cows enlightened watching the world placed in the middle of the road, monkeys dangling above your head. But most of all, seeing the traffic and being part of it, delivers furtive laughs.

LonelyAgain!ContradictionsFound some Great Roads

And then, a … kilometers later on, I am in Hampi. I had set out a sort of route, along temples and caves and monuments and places of interest. Well, India being one big place of interest, I decide to change a few things as not to become my own slave. And suddenly, I have found rest. In the middle of a new age hippie enclave, started way back in the seventies. Among half nakedness… GREAT!

 At Home

The month of March and April 2014 into Karnataka

 

 

6 responses to “India 2 – Karnataka

    • Dear Dany, my next posts are much more positive, I found it hard in the beginning, thus my comments are a bit dark and not to optimistic. Eventually I start to love it again. Many more posts about the country you are born in, will come, and they will be with a more happy feeling. After all, I keep loving India!

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