Thursday, July 28, 2005

Road to nowhere

Two days ago I prepared to leave my Ratnagiri hotel at 5am to catch a bus to Goa and onwards to Gokarna. At precisely that moment, the lights of the entire town went out, and it began pouring. It was so dark that had I shut my ears, I would not have known it was raining. Luckily a passing milkman on a scooter gave me a short lift, leaving me to the only road with a streetlamp on. I wish it wasn't. On both sides were gutters overflowing with excrete which slid downhill during the torrent. There was so much of it that it didn't make sense to tiptoe around it. But at last I reached the end of the street where (and this was a day for great timing, really.) the streetlights went out, plunging absolutely everything into darkness. The kind of black darkness that is suffocating because it is so claustrophobic. It is a scary darkness because you can't hear a single other sound than rain, and you expect to be mugged or fall into a manhole, or be run over by a car. And then there's the rain which is so heavy you can barely see passing cars.

Fortuately I literally bumped into a rickshaw, whose driver left me at a bus station. At 6am, wet and itchy, a busload of passengers left for Goa, just as it fell even harder. On the way to Goa the skies brightened several times, but it became gray rather quickly, and there would be moments when visibility in the day was so low, the bus had to crawl on the highway. Bridges were on the verge of being submerged as we passed them.

I later found out that a few hours after I left, Ratnagiri was swamped completely. It's been madness. Travel to Gokarna, travel back to Goa, spend the night at the station, go to north goa to catch a bus to bombay, then travel all the way back to Karnataka on a hunch and an assurance from State Transport staff in Goa that buses leave from Belgaum to Bombay. And then be told in Belgaum that first one must go to Kolhapur in Maharashtra to travel forward to Bombay. No one knows what's open or what's closed. The trains aren't running. The systems are down. There are people panicking in bus stands in Goa and Karnataka and Kolhapur and, like ants, are trying to reach their destination by retreating and approaching from different angles. It can be fun, but is very very frustrating to travel 200 kilometers in the wrong direction and then be told where you were last was the right place to be.

I have this niggling feeling that's growing by the hour: it isn't Bombay that's isolated, it's the rest of the country that's isolated from Bombay.

More later. I'm pooped. This travel business can make you wish you were a computer programmer at times.

1 comment:

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