Friday, February 10, 2012

Around the World: Tea

February 10, 1992

I have no intention to do anything in particular today.  I am sitting in the hotel garden, drinking endless amounts of tea and enjoying the honoured guest treatment of the kind restaurant staff.  Outside the confines of the hotel garden, I can hear the bustle of India.  Rickshaw motors and honking horns are easily drowned out by the serene sight of flowers in bloom and the sensation of grass beneath my bare feet.

My to-do list is done, having already completed the must do tasks of laundry and a shower, or more accurately, laundry in the shower.  The roads are a packed surface, not paved, so there is always fine particles of dirt hanging in the air.  A shower is refreshing to get yesterday's dirt off you, but clean only lasts until you step outside and are instantly re-dusted with a new dirt coating.

I am joined by another hotel guest from Texas who arrived late last night from Nepal.  Daniel is also enjoying a day of drinking tea in the garden.

Nepal is not far from here and easy to get to by bus.  The trip north, says Daniel, was pleasant enough and he enjoyed trekking through the Himalayan foothills of Nepal.  The trip back, however, was a little more exciting than he had hoped for. 

Shortly after crossing the Nepal-Indian border, his bus collided with a cow.  A farmer appeared, saw the state of the cow, and started beating the bus driver with a large stick.  The driver managed to escape while the farmer continued to beat on the bus, breaking several windows, including the windshield.  The passengers just hoped the farmer would take his frustrations out on the bus and leave them alone.

After about an hour of being held hostage by the bus assaulting farmer, the police finally arrive with the terrified driver.  The farmer confirms that this is the man who killed his cow.  An officer explains to the passengers that the driver is now in police custody.  The farmer will go back to his village and when they learn what happened, the entire village will be incensed.  The villagers will hunt the driver down and kill him if they find him.  The police will take the driver to jail because it's probably the only place in the state where he will be safe.  

Now, Daniel finds himself among forty other tourists, on a bus with no driver somewhere in northern, rural India, and very close to a village full of angry, homicidal farmers.  The police need to gather evidence and tell everyone to wait on the shoulder of the road.  The bus is in a frightening state.  The windows are all smashed and there's an indent on one side of the hood, followed by a long smear of blood along one side.

After a short wait, another bus arrives to continue the journey to Varanasi.  This bus is also missing a few windows, has a big dent in the hood and blood smeared down one side, but made the rest of the journey without further incident.

I take mine with a splash of therapy

Outside the confines of the hotel garden, I can hear the bustle of India.  This garden is a great insulator, a place where the bustle of India is not permitted entry.  And Daniel and I have not yet had enough tea.

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