The eight hour bus ride from Pokhara, Nepal to the Sunali border of India actually took more than twelve hours. It also didn’t take me all the way to Sunali, but rather dropped off 5km away. So I am stuck in the back of a cyclo-rickshaw that is inching its way to immigration office. Over the course of a half hour, I am able to catch my first glimpses of India, or rather my first obscurities. The closer we get, the thicker the cloud of pollution enveloping us grew. I thought China was bad, but here the haze is so bad that the even the ground at my feet appears faded.
For the last three hours that I’ve been in the country, this dense cloud of pollution, smoke or something else equally as harmful to the lungs has extended in all directions, completely obscuring every horizon. The visibility is so bad that if I reach my hands out in front of me they have already begun to disappear. While I have heard plenty of stories about this problem, I figured them all to be exaggerations and am now surprised by their drastic understatement!
Aside from the unbreathable atmosphere, all of India’s other infamous problems that I was warned about have already reared their ugly heads; Anarchic driving over excessively cratered, unkempt roads is the standard. Touts and hustlers have been harassing me every minute since I crossed the borderline, and are more persistent than their Nepalese counterparts. It is apparent that overpopulation and poverty run rampant!
I enter the crowded train station, stepping over endless huddles of poor families wrapped in blankets as they all beg me for money. Waiting in line to buy a ticket out of Gorakphur (a.k.a. hell on earth) I feel a hand try to creep into my pocket. If my hand wasn’t already, I may not have turned around in time to scare the would-be pickpocket into running out the door! I wonder if depression and fear are the only two feelings I’ll have in this country?
Due to some pointless bureaucracy, I am stuck in the town overnight before I can buy my ticket to Mumbai. Throughout all of the anxiety I find one strange observation worth mentioning; the omnipresent bright-neon astroturf vests that seems to be in fashion with the men of this area. I just don’t understand it… and I feel many more instances are sure to come. While I’ve only been in the country for a few hours, I’m already tempted to leave! However, India is a vast and diverse land which I can only hope holds more promise than this sewage pit of a border-town. So I will hold off my decision until I see other parts of the country and meet with a few friends further south.
Tags: - Reflection, - Transport & Travel, Asia, Crime, Gorakhpur, India, Pollution