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“We're on the other side of India from the recent devastating earthquake, but there was a devastating flood here a few months ago.”

On the Way to Mayapur
By Vipramukhya Swami

CHAKRA (West Bengal, India) - February 4, 2001:

Our party arrived this morning at the Calcutta International Airport. After breezing trough immigration and customs where everyone kept saying "Hare Krishna" to us, we met our pre-arranged taxi driver and began our journey north to Mayapur about a half hour ago. The trip should take about 3 or 4 hours. We're on the other side of India from the recent devastating earthquake, but there was a devastating flood here a few months ago.

In this article I will chronicle our trip as we go, giving you a picture with words of the experiences of this part of India. I'll even throw in some digital pictures to boot.

The flight from London on Royal Burnei Airlines was uneventful. We arrived in Dubai on schedule. We had to wait around for three hours to catch our connecting flight, which left on time and arrived in India more or less on schedule.

We pre-booked a taxi via e-mail before leaving England, and so we had a reasonable vehicle waiting for us when we emerged from the Calcutta terminal. The vehicle is a Tata Sumo, which resembles a jeep. It's fairly spacious for an Indian made car. There are four of us plus the driver. Some of our luggag3e went on the roof in the rack. Some of it is in the back.

The Tata Sumo Jeep we took to Mayapur

This "special" vehicle is costing us Rs. 1400, which is equivalent to about 20 pounds, or 30 dollars U.S. We will split that between the four of us. Not too bad for a three hour taxi ride.

Typical Indian Traffic on way to Mayapur

The roads leading out of Calcutta are congested. Fortunately, the airport is on the northern edge of the city, and since Mayapur is north also, we can quickly get to the country and rice paddy fields. But right now we are in a congested area just north of some train tracks. We had to wait for the train to pass, and then make our way across the tracks with all the other traffic.

Man carrying vegetables to market on a Rickshaw

Speaking of traffic, it's not just cars. There are cars, trucks and busses. There are also bicycles, rickshaws and motor scooters.

Boy carrying hay on Rickshaw

And there are pedestrians - a lot of them. There are guys sitting on the side of the road selling dobs. A dob is a green coconut. For a few rupees they hack the top of the coconut off with a machete, stick in a straw, and you've got a very safe source of liquid to drink.

The safest thing to do in India these days is drink only bottled water. It's not a good idea to drink water from every place you find it - especially from water faucets. Bottled water and dobs is the way to go.

It's not hot. It must be about 72 F. The sky is blue, and the sun is mild, though noticeably much higher in the sky than back in England where we just came from. Of course, it's a lot warmer than it is in some places of the United States right now, which are covered in snow. There's no snow here. We're in the tropics.

In fact, on the way to Mayapur we'll pass the tropic of cancer. The tropic of cancer in the north and the tropic of Capricorn in the south are the northern and most southern points the run reaches in winter and summer. Anything within that area has the sun directly overhead twice a year.

But early February is not a hot time of year for this part of India. It's just right.

West Bengal endured a massive flood of the Ganges a few months ago, but we don't see any sign of that here. As I write, we're passing many farms growing a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, and we often see a banana grove. We see lots of cauliflowers as well.

The road here is quite good. Its been newly resurfaced. The driver is going quite fast for conditions. He has to continually blow his horn, which is the system to let pedestrians and the vehicle in front know that you're there and coming through.

It was surprising that the road from Calcutta has never been better, especially considering the recent massive flooding. But when we reached the turnoff from the main road to go to Mayapur, we were met with the typical half-paved single lane pothole filled bumpy ride. Here we were only able to go a few miles an hour, frequently going around chickens, horses, and people.

We finally arrived in Mayapur around 2:30 PM. More on Mayapur in the future.

© CHAKRA 06 February 2001

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