What is India's secret to happiness
Travel report - Yes, don't stand still: Resting in India is not an option
Don't stand still: You can't rest in India
1.3 billion people live in India. If you want to get ahead here, you have to fight your way through the masses. Resting is not an option, pausing is a luxury. But patience is what you need in this huge country. A journey through the subcontinent in four companions.
He has to be clean-shaven, well-qualified, tall and definitely from the high Khatri caste: the ad on the marriage page of the Hindustan Times is unmistakable. The advertiser's family has clear ideas about the daughter's future husband, just like the families of all the other Indian men and women willing to marry who turn to the Indian newspaper in search of Mr. and Ms. Perfect.
The newspaper is on the bench of Mohan's old tuktuk. Mohan is not clean-shaven, nor is he tall. He found a wife anyway. And to support his family, he struggles with his rattling tricycles every day through the crowd in the streets of the three million metropolis of Jaipur, the capital of the old Indian Maharajah sub-state of Rajasthan. "Wind Palace" calls Mohan back and points to the facade of the palace, covered by dozen oriels, in front of whose gates the traffic is rolling towards its ultimate collapse. The air is thick, the metal bars of Mohan's vehicle hit hard against the kneecaps at every hole in the street, and from everywhere the traffic competitors are pushing into the few gaps on Jaipur's congested slopes.
Somehow things are moving forward, but freedom of movement is severely restricted. Not only on the streets of Jaipur, but also in society here in the north Indian hinterland. This is shown by the wedding advertisements in the "Hindustan Times". They are strictly sorted according to the caste belonging to the advertiser. There shouldn't be any disorder, no borders should be crossed. The ancient caste system divides Indian society into more or less privileged groups to this day. Since 1955 it has been forbidden in India to be discriminated against because of caste membership. But the reality is different. Just recently the case of a man is being heard in an Indian court who dared to marry a woman from another caste and who was then murdered with machetes by relatives of his wife.
Mohan has never heard of the case. And anyway, he doesn't want to talk about castes now. His focus is on the road. As part of the green tuktuk flood, it rushes towards the center. And then suddenly there is a zebu in the way. The cattle stoically look into the sheet metal avalanche, do not waver. The Indians believe that if you never sin in your life, you will be born again as a zebu. Here in Rajasthan, people not only drink the milk of the sacred cows, but also their distilled urine. And if one of the animals is on the street in the evening, then you just wait. Coming too late is not an option here anyway. Punctuality is secondary, and that is precisely in the city that has been home to the world's largest sundial since 1734.
Rose water and no spitting
Change of scene: In Old Delhi, the morning sun shimmers silver through the smog. Jeswin Joseph stands out from the gray morning with his orange T-shirt. He instructs the troops for the bike tour: “You need three things on Delhi's streets: a good bell, good brakes and good luck,” he says and gets on his bike. The journey begins through the winding streets, past colorful ones House facades and a dusty tangle of cables that testify to the attempt to bring a bit of modernity into the old rooms. Oriental heaviness is in the air, and the scent of fried dumplings and rose water mixes with it.
Jeswin keeps looking around to make sure that everyone is still firmly in the saddle. He stops in front of the old spice market. “This is the favorite place of work for our city police officers,” says Jeswin. "Here they can distribute buses to the ignorant traders every minute." Jeswin puts his bike on the side of the road and leads the group up numerous stairs to the roof of an old house. The view goes down into a «Haveli», a huge inner courtyard in which half-naked people wash themselves in tubs, bake bread and slowly get into the mood for another hard day at work.
Take a deep breath, then we get back on the “Delhi by Cycle” bikes and surrender to our fate. There are nine million bicycles in Beijing, the musician Katie Melua once sang. It feels like there are at least as many in Delhi. And everyone seems to be struggling through the chaos of the old town this morning. Soon you think you've seen everything: people sleeping on the floor in all impossible positions, buildings that rebel against the urban wasteland with their filigree decorations, traders who sell apples and bread as well as chicken feet and songbirds for sale. And when we finally find a way out of the madness and fortify ourselves with fresh masala tea at one of the street stalls, an elephant suddenly stomps past us. The show is perfect, the surprise as big as the gigantic pachyderm, which - no joke - stops at the front of the intersection when the traffic light changes to red. A little bit of order in the lively chaos.
None of this can be felt 20 meters below us. The ultra-modern wagons of the Delhi Metro have been operating here in the north Indian underground since 2002. Air-conditioned, exquisitely cleaned, with a separate wagon for women and a strict ban on spitting. Nothing can be heard of the city noise, nothing to smell of the stench of the 20 million metropolis. The metro is a different world: a world that only a few can still afford. A new pricing system was introduced last year. A subway ride across the city is now four times more expensive than a bus ticket. The idea of getting the masses out of the unearthly bustle into the relaxed underworld did not work. Instead, the metro has only widened the rifts between those struggling to survive and those who are fine. They don't even meet in traffic anymore.
The secret of bleaching
Conditions are also clearly regulated on the overland train from Delhi to Sawai Madhopur. In the front are the air-conditioned carriages with the upholstered leather seats, in the back the non-air-conditioned carriages, through whose lattice windows warm air flows in and in which the people on the benches move very close together. Most passengers travel to Mumbai, 1,400 kilometers, 24 hours. Supervisors strut around in the corridors. Inspectors leaf through their thick stacks of paper and check that nobody is in the wrong car. Vendors scurry around with drinking water, coconut carvings and books. A man in uniform is standing in front of one of the toilets, doing something busy. "He's been sitting in there for an hour," says the uniformed man, shaking his head. Ten minutes later, the same man in front of the same door declares, with the same busy shaking of his head, that someone has been in there for a full two hours and cannot get out.
At some point, time no longer plays a role in this rolling convoy. The wind in the corridors of the lattice class shreds reality into lots of colorful stories. Somehow everyone here has to bridge the hours. Many sleep, a school class wants to know from the reporter how he manages to be so pale. A bearded man in a red turban laughs and says he is on his way to his mother-in-law's funeral. And somewhere far back, a wandering priest with an orange cloak is sitting on the ground, smoking weed and showing his steel arms. He is from the international mafia, the world is crazy, the train never arrives here, and only those who smoke are allowed to take a photo. Why not actually. Maybe time will pass a little faster then.
The author was in India at the invitation of the tour operator Travelhouse.
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