I've tried repeatedly to force myself to sleep on this long bus ride from Dehli to Manali, knowing that I will be much better off if I can get my body to adjust to Indian time, to this 10 1/2 hour time difference.
I suppose it does not help that I am so curious. Even traveling in the dark hours of the night, I cannot take my eyes off of the Indian countryside: huge abandoned buildings in the middle of vacant fields; small, scattered communes of makeshift tents and scrap pile shelters; homeless Hindu men, some seated in meditation and some curled up in roofless sleep alongside ditches; huge piles of dirt, a result of endess and forgotten construction.
I've woken three or four times now - once to a middle-of-the-night rest/food/coffee stop, again to the man behind me succumbing to his motion-sickness, and once more to the large, black shapes of mountains towering beside this curvy road upward into northern India.
And my first sight of the stars in India.
[Jeremy Current singing "Mile Long Driveway."]
We've stopped to drop our first passenger off in a small, slum-ish ares - lightly populated with a few gathered around a tiny fruit market stand.
I wish I could sleep.
But I cannot - no, I am fully awake now, so I will write. If anything, I hope this writing can serve as a way for others to get a small perspective of India, at least from my seat here on a traveling bus.
[Foy Vance singing "Shed a Little Light."]
The world is beginning to light up a bit. As we draw closer to northern India, I can now more easily see the landscape - huts carved into the steep hillside, surrounded by layers and layers of mountains - if not the Himalayas, surely the outskirts of them. A dark river (Beas) cuts through the base of these giants, encased by huge white rocks on each side.
The sun and its' colors are finally peeking out from the corners of the mountain chain. This really is a stunning scene to wake up to. I was told Manali at its' best is the moment the sun begins to show. I am now thankful for a lack of sleep...
My camera is down. I have chosen to see this world with two eyes for now. Roadside shrines. Huge, elaborately-decorated Hindu temples set deep in the side of a mountain. I look to my left and I am face to face with a bright blue Hindu god, carved into the rock. I look straight up out of my window and I am at the mercy of the cliffs. I look ahead and see an Indian man peeing on the roadside.
Some things are universal, I suppose.
Stray, vagabonding dogs line the sides of the road. Sporadic groups of goat and sheep herders. The occasional monkey or two climbing around on the rocks. Beautifully-dressed women tend to their gardens. Men begin to open their shops in the village markets. Others stand or sit and stare out at passing cars or just out into nothing.
The land becomes more and more beautiful the further north we drive. The buildings are just as colorful as the dress of the people. I am fascinated by the temples and shrines here. Thet are everywhere. Such value placed on icons, statues, brass cows. A dependency on thousands of gods to bring blessing to this way of life.
We have been traveling for 13 1/2 hours on this bus now.