If I told the roads in Nepal weren’t the best I’d be cutting the roads some slack. Honest. We had a seven hour car journey yesterday back to Kathmandu. In England, three hours, tops. It eventually took fifteen hours.
Now we were travelling on the main road to Kathmandu but having gone, maybe, thirty kilometres the tarmac disappeared and the road turned to compressed mud, with a lot of potholes, humps, dips, and the occasional obstacle (oh, don’t forget the continuous dust cloud).
That said, the traffic doesn’t slow down! The road is packed with lorries hauling to and from India. Hundreds and hundreds. Tour coaches that would fail to pass as aged school bus at home. Cars, and thousands of motorbikes. Add to that the fact that drivers behave completely differently from anything you have ever known and it’s chaos. The rule seems to be you slow, even to a standstill, to make way for an overtaking, oncoming vehicle! Blind bends add to that thrill. The driver sounds his or her horn to say “I’m going to pass you”. It’s a friendly gesture. And if you can’t over take on the outside and there’s space on the inside, well what would God have place it there for if not to allow for overtaking? And while this is going on motorcycles are passing on both sides, weaving between vehicles. It seems accepted that if the only oncoming vehicle is a bike then you overtake and the motorcyclist will avoid your oncoming car by riding as far to the side of the road as is imaginable!
And it all works, until it doesn’t.
Yesterday was the day it didn’t. Two hours into our journey we hit a traffic jam. It went around the next bend. After a while our driver ascertained that two vehicles had collided.
Then a lorry carrying paramilitary police passed.
It was hot. People were out of there vehicles. I walked down the road to stretch my legs and see how long the queue was in front. I noticed three wedding parties on the road side, dressed in fine saris. The dust was doing them no favours. I returned. Some Indian ladies in the coach behind us brought us some snacks and water. Then one of their party returned from her walk and told us that the two vehicles that had collided were a lorry and a school bus There were dead children! The waiting suddenly became insignificant.
So we settled down for the wait. As I talked to other travellers, the best I could (I skipped Nepalese language classes at school). I learnt that negotiations were taking place at the scene of the accident between the parents of the dead children, people from their village and the drivers. The negotiations were to establish how much the parents were to receive in compensation and traditionally the road would not be cleared until a settlement was agreed. Add to this the hot, frustrated drivers in the queue and…two lorry loads of police in very basic riot gear (it is Nepal!) passed. Negotiations were obviously not going well.
And here’s the lesson I’ve been learning on this journey, as you will have seen from the previous letters, life has a finite value and for many, many in this world there is a degree of acceptance of the hand they have been dealt. They deal with each day as it comes. I can’t imagine sitting at the side of the road and negotiating the value of your dead children and neither can you or the people we know and move amongst on a daily basis.
There’s a line in a song by a band, way before your time Pogue, called Marmalade which says:
This world is a bad place,Reflections Of My Life
A terrible place,
I don’t want to die
That’s it isn’t it? We cling on and refuse to accept our lot. Yes improve yourself, better yourself, but find a place where you are happy, where you are content because if you don’t your time on this earth will be a desperate thing. I fear in the West we’ve created a myth that we can only be happy if we continue to reach for more. Go to your local bookshop and see how many books are there on Self Development and Self Improvement. We’re encouraged to think we are incomplete, missing out, living a subnormal life.
Maybe we’d do better to make the most of ‘this day’, wring every ounce of life from it. Count our blessings and practice gratitude. Love the ones we’re with. Enjoy what we have.
We resumed our journey four hours later.
Yours, Namasté as the locals say,
One thought on “This day…”
WOW. Just WOW. Perspective…