Intrepid makes sure that its travelers experience the reality of the country they are visiting. And, in India, this means riding on the long-distance busses and on the trains (and NOT in first class). They are invariably uncomfortable - the seats are sized for people about 2/3 our height and weight, they are almost always packed, and there is no air con. There is a silver lining though - you get a chance to see life as it goes by, outside the well traveled tourist pathways.
From Periyar to our next stop, Madurai, was a 8 hour journey on a "local" bus (meaning it stopped at every little town along the way). It was 95 degrees. The sun shone in on us the whole way. The but was newer, but seats were about 16" wide. It was standing room only for most of the trip. Bus drivers in India are famous for the aggressiveness, pushing ox-drawn carts off the road, recklessly passing on blind curves, and blowing their horns incessantly. This ride was no different - except we actually got in an accident. Fortunately, we were stopped. Another, even more aggressive bus, tried to squeeze by us in a traffic jam and scraped the front half of one side of the bus. Neither driver even bothered to get out and look at the damage...
The bus stops for shorter or longer periods, to pick people up. One one of the longer stops, at a bus station, it wasn't long before a beggar girl came up and asked for money and "one pen" (the standard request). I took her picture from the window, showed it to her, and she was astonished and thrilled. Quickly, a couple of her friends came up & I took some more pictures. That brought even more kids running. They all thought this was marvelous fun.
Then the vendors started coming by to sell things. A guava vendor started out asking 10 rupees apiece (about 25 cents) for his fruit, which was clearly ridiculous. The Indian passenger sitting next to us said they should be 1 rupee each. They weren't very attractive fruit, but the seller was so hopeful. So, I made a deal with him to buy his entire stock (about a dozen) for 10 rupees - then handed them out to the kids. The fruit seller was happy, the kids were thrilled, and I got some great photos.
Most of the pictures on this web site are of either unbelievable Indian sights - temples, palaces, carvings, ancient ruins, or of the people of India (such as above). But we never show you the picture of a typical Indian village. And most of India is villages - about 560,000 of them. Throughout the 8 hour journey, we rode through town after town that looked pretty much like the one you see here. Ramshackle buildings, many with no obvious purpose. Men sitting around, doing nothing. Tiny stalls selling candy and crackers or vegetables. Tuk-tuks lined up, with no one needing a ride and the drivers sound asleep in back. Random animals wander the streets. The word that comes to mind is suffocating - because of the heat and the dust, but most of all because of the lack of anything to do. Look out the window with us as we go through a typical small south Indian town. It's about a minute long (I've slowed it down a bit). Makes your hometown look pretty glamorous, I'll bet.
For some reason we never could determine, in southern India, the horns of the oxen are brightly painted and at times decorated with streamers, knobs, etc. Kathy found this fascinating, and collected a set of horn fashions for your viewing pleasure.