India, Day 7 - Onward, through corn and potholes.
After the youth meeting in the morning, we went back to the flat and ate lunch. With us for the meal was my next host, who had driven in to pick me up. We had met once before, two years prior, so we spent the meal breaking ice and getting re-aquainted. He would take me back to his home in one of India's poorest regions, and I would assist him in his projects for the next week. I bid a grateful farewell to my hosts, and we were off. The drive south was a learning experience of its own. I saw something I had yet to see in my previous trips to India: the use of the highway as a threshing floor. Dry ground is a hot commodity during monsoon season, and when the sun is shining, the highway becomes the most convenient way to quickly dry and separate corn. I entertained myself during the drive by leaning out the window, garnering curious looks as I took snapshots of the laborers we passed throughout our drive.
As interesting as the scenes in the images might be from a standpoint of simple cultural differences, this was an introduction (of a sort) to one of the aspects of India which I see as a slight negative, and that is the population concentration. There are so many people in India, and they are grouped in such massive clusters, that even in the open spaces of rice country, there is often a feeling of exposure--like it is impossible to be completely alone at any time, because there always seems to be children in the bushes.
I began to form this opinion as we whizzed past the farmers using the highway as a drying platform for their harvest of corn. Technically, such a practice is unlawful, but it is tolerated because utilization of any and all available space is necessary for farmers in certain regions to make their living, however meager it is.
On a separate note, I was also reintroduced to the close-quarter, wheel-borne jiu-jitsu match that is Indian traffic. The cars pass literally close enough to touch, and the relatively minimal number of accidents that occur, given the number of cars on the roads, and the poor quality of the roads themselves, it's fairly amazing. Check out the photos to see what I mean.