Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Grand Trunk Road

I wanted to do this in chronological order, but how can I delay answering Nadi?

The Grand Trunk road then, is 2,500 Km of poetry. It has been a constant part of India through four empires (the Mauryan, the Mughal, the British, and democratic India). It is a river of life, a catalyst for trade, a creator of wanderlust, a fount of stories, an enabler of dreams, the physical manifestation of great travel.  It has been called  the Sadak-e-Azam, the Grand Trunk road, and even its modern, humdrum name reflects its importance: NH1.

I have read about it and lusted to travel its length. And so living in a hotel the front door of which opened out onto The Road is surely the best of locations. From there we saw trucks, buses, horse-carts, cycle rickshaws, pedestrians..If we chose we could have bought biriyani, dahi, jalebis, samosas, fruit, pots, chillums, rope, condoms*, electronics, clothes, marble. We quite literally inhaled the breadth of the sub-continent.

Which brings us to why it is the worst of locations. Living in the middle of the river of life is not a restful experience. It is always noisy, and gets noisier at night when trucks ply. I like the tunes they play on their horns, mind you, but not all night, every night. And they belch exhaust and churn the gangetic silt..

Wonderful for the travel experience, terrible for the rest it allows.

*I mention these because here I saw for the first time the vending machines actually being used. A government initiative to make condoms more accessible to high-risk groups, the vending machines are often sadly misused. Not here, where India's excellent outreach program has worked and the CVMs were sans grafitti and displayed in accessible areas.

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