Two days ago, I started my journey from Delhi towards the mountains up North. While I have experience of touring on a bicycle in Thailand, this was my maiden attempt of touring in India.
There is an uncertainty about this mode of travelling. On most days, I would not know where I would get to sleep at night.
In Thailand, I had the option of staying at Buddhist temples. So even if I did not know which town I would end up in at the end of the day, I only had to find a temple to spend the night safely.
In India, it turned out to be much difficult. I did not know where I could stay at night. Since my motive is to see as much of the local culture and community as possible, I try to avoid staying at hostels.
On the first day, I looked at the map, early in the afternoon to check where I would tentatively end up.
I saw a village named, ‘Gharaunda’ on the map about 40kms away. ‘Gharaunda’ is a Hindi word that translates to a ‘little cosy home’ in English.
All of a sudden I felt a sense a relief dawn on me. I thought as if the name of the village was a sign. I thought as if I am cycling towards a cosy little home.
And I continued on.
On the way I saw a board :
‘Karnal – 50 kms.’
On looking at the board, I realised that an old friend used to stay in Karnal. I had no clue I was going to pass through Karnal so it came as a pleasant surprise. I called my friend only to learn that he’s been transferred to another place but his mother still lived there.
He called his mother and arranged a stay for me.
That night, I truly slept in a ‘Gharaunda’, a cosy little home.
The next day, I found out I will pass through the city of Mohali. I asked a friend who’s studying there if I could stay with him. He happily agreed to host me.
Again, I found a cosy little home, the second day in a row.
After bicycling so much everyday, the moment you find a place, you fall asleep instantly. Having found a place to sleep, I rested myself ready to be taken to dreamland.
It all works out doesn’t it?
In bed, I got thinking about the landscape I had passed through in the past two days. It was the most polluted landscape I have ever seen.
Within the first hour of cycling out of Delhi, I saw many homeless labourers sleeping on footpaths.
It was an unsettling sight because in my mind, I had no clue where I would be sleeping that night. I wondered if I would have to sleep on the pavements like my friends sleeping on the roadside.
I am grateful to have found shelter on both days since I left Delhi. I used to think that since I bicycle so much under the full sun, my hard work earns me a bed to sleep on in some mysterious way.
But my labourer friends, who would work everyday in the summer, who would feel much more tired, and be much poorly fed,
Always have the same shelter. A six feet feet space on a pavement under a flyover.
There is a tragic fixity in the fate of the downtrodden.
No matter how hard they work, they will probably sleep at the same pavement all their life.
All they can do is, work hard enough to earn a little food and a deathly sleep that takes them through the noise of traffic at night.
I write this sleeping on a comfortable bed at my friend’s hostel. I am tired after an 8 hour cycling day.
But the experience of witnessing the life of daily labourers in Delhi up and close,
Only leaves me sleepless.
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