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Published: January 27th 2013
We got on our bus this morning (which is emblazoned with "GLORY TO JESUS" across the front windshield) and headed towards Pondicherry. After 4 hours of travel, we stopped at a temple, though we didn't go inside, so we could do some more shopping in the plentiful shops and stalls along the street. I got some tiny clay pots that you are supposed to put a bit of oil and a cotton wool wick, so they can burn like they do in the temples.
We got back on the bus for 2 hours, headed for a river bank where we could apparently wade inside. However, it turns out the bus driver took a wrong turn and wasn't able to take us to this particular riverside park, because the bridge for vehicular travel was a few km back, and the bridge ahead of us was intended only for motorcycles and very small cars and bicycles.
Exactly as Vinit was explaining this to us at the front of the bus, the bus lurched forward, and we found ourselves testing the structural integrity of this 1km long bridge, as well as the patience of people who couldn't cross from the other side until we had gotten all the way over. When I looked out the window of the bus, I couldn't even see the guard rail, I just saw straight all the way down to the shriveled river far below. When we looked out the front, the entire bridge was hardly wider than the width of the bus, and seemed impossibly long. This is not how I wanted to leave this world, but there was nothing to do but hold on and hope.
We did survive. Once we got to the park, I saw the children's playground, which is equally inhabited by human children and monkeys. Across the road is the river. We parked, and we walked down to a place where the steps lead straight into the river. This is no Ganges, but it was cool to see a river. The landscape of the river, with its flat water and occasional patches of land in the middle, was a welcome calm, especially on such a high energy trip with many people.
The Dr was the first in the water. She just dipped her feet in, but it was enough to make me desperately want to get in, heedless of the warnings about bacteria and everything else. I mean, if a doctor is inside, I can go, right? A note about the Dr: we all love her. We have already discussed that we will do anything she tells us. Her supernatural abilities to give meds to the sick ones on our trip, explain about Indian history and culture, and shoo the lecherous men away, have given her an aura of omnipotence, which we all seem to respect. The Dr's husband is another story. His abilities are more limited to talking your ear off, repeating himself, and, being hard of hearing, not answering the questions that you actually asked. However, he's also proving himself to be a bit of a rabble rouser and a mischeivous prankster. He goaded everyone for not going in the water, saying that I was the only bold one. He convinced me to go deeper into the water, up to my knees, until the Dr started screaming at him from the top of the stairs.
There was a round boat with a paddle at the edge of the shore (first step). Some people had caught fish and had left them in nets in the water, I assume just to keep them alive. I picked one up, for a picture, and when I put it down,the woman who owned these fish came shouting down the steps. Apparently I had put them down in a way that the fish could have escaped. I apologized, and she was very gracious.
If I had been alone, I would never have touched that net. My tentancy when traveling is to air on the side of caution, and not touch what isn't mine. But in a group, I AM bolder, and more rude. I suppose the same goes for most people.
After all the things we've done and visited, I would say that this stop was my favorite activity so far on this trip. These people we not expecting us, they didn't try to entertain us, they didn't try to sell anything to us, they were just living their everyday life and were kind enough to let us visit.
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