Posted 12.3.09, updated 16.3.09
09.03.2009 - 11.03.2009 25 °C
On my way to Delhi I decided to take Akhil's advice to make a stop in Bhopal. This way I can make this long trip taking two night-trains instead of a long 24 hours journey. I would stay 2 days in Bhopal and sleep at his mother's place who lives there. On the train I was again in sleeper class. When the train departed our coach was full of Indian people who unfortunately didn't speak English and one Ukrainian guy. I chatted a bit with the Ukrainian and accepted some Rum until he got on my nerves and we all pretty soon went to sleep. Since i can't really sleep in those trains until I'm completely exhausted, I cover my head with a shirt and listen to some music until I'm tired enough. So far so good. Now I don't know how much that Ukrainian guy had drunk, but at some point when looking out from under my shirt I noticed the guy wore only his sleeveless shirt and was naked otherwise. Oh swell! Nudity is not only frowned upon in rural India, it's one of the biggest taboos. And here I am as the only other white guy in the company of a naked man in a train full of probably conservative Indian people who assume that we are friends because we talked and drank together. The problem in India is that all the freaks, most of them on a spiritual trip, seem to congregate in this country. God, how I hate them! Imagine those hippies trying to explain to me (to ME!!!) what energy and vibration is. I don't mind them going on about Karma, Aura, and whatever gods they believe in, I'll also listen to a guru or Yogi master talking about energy, but for fuck's sake, don't try to explain energy to a physicist when you know fuck all! (Sorry for this short foray into vulgarity). Ok, back to naked guy. I decided to adopt the ostrich tactic, since arguing with him about pants would probably just wake people up, who didn't seem to have noticed so far. So I crawled back under my shirt and hoped that the problem would just go away. It didn't. The next time I peeked out I noticed that his bunk was empty. Great! Naked guy went for a stroll. Ah, there he comes, sits on my bunk (NOOOOOOOO!!!) and asks me angrily what I'm doing in his place and where his stuff is. I tried to discreetly direct him to his bunk while emphasizing the virtues of pant-wearing, but of course by this time everybody was awake and looking at us. A rather heated argument ensued between us, since as a drunken freak he of course obstinately refused to wear anything. The young Indians were laughing at him, whereas the older ones were all looking at me with very disapproving and offended looks, as if it was my fault! At this point I decided they can all go to hell and I demonstratively washed my hands off this situation by going back to the safety and oblivion of my shirt-cover and mp3-player. I awoke in the morning finding him tucked in his sleeping bag. During the morning he was wondering why I didn't talk to him and asked me if I was angry. I felt like throwing him out of the train.
Bhopal is a quiet city (at least compared to Mumbai) half way between Mumbai and Delhi and the capital of the local state (can't remember the name). There's not much to see, so here's a picture of one of the slums, it's the most colorful place I have seen in the city:
Bhopal is most famous for the 1984 Union Carbide accident that killed thousands of people when a leak in one of the US-owned chemical plant's tanks leaked, releasing tons of deadly MIC-gas into the neighborhood. I will not go into the details here, but it was the usual scenario: Big company wants to reduce costs – negligence in technology and maintenance – poor people die – small compensation is offered – responsible people get away with it. The Bhopal accident was exceptional in scale with over 20'000 deaths and over half a million people suffering from illness to genetic damage. The site of the (now closed) chemical plant is surrounded by a stone wall. I went to the entrance and tried to get inside to take some pictures. I was stopped by some security guards who asked me if I had an authorization from the governor. I didn't. So they made it very clear that it would in my best interest to go away. Now. That way. Yes, go! It is difficult to resist the persuasive power of 4 armed security guards, so I went along the wall and climbed a bit to take some pictures above the wall. No chance, all of it is guarded by people in civilian clothes. Again the question about the authorization and again the pressing suggestion to leave the premises. I could maybe have bribed my way to a picture but I decide it wasn't worth the potential legal trouble, I wouldn't want this blog to be closed down. I'll have to make my own site if I ever have the time so I can upload non-pc pictures. Anyway, whatever is enclosed in those walls is well guarded, even 25 years later. Here's a picture at the front gate. Andreson was the chairman of Union Carbide at the time of the accident and enjoys his retirement in Florida.
Akhil's mother accompanied me to Sanchi, a Buddhist sanctuary and a World Heritage site. This place is situated on a hilltop and very quiet and peaceful, it was a refreshing change from the UC site. Here are some pictures.
The main stupa:
One of the four gates into the encircling wall:
Does this shirt make me look fat? :-)
The view from the hilltop. All the area (I have seen) around Bhopal consists of large wheat fields. Many hungry mouths to feed in India...
In the evening we went to have dinner with some friends of hers that live in Vidishda, a small village nearby. There's just nothing that compares to home-made samosas...
The next day was a national holiday due to the Holi-festival. It is the festival of colors and people paint each other's faces and throw color at everything and everybody. It's really fun! Too bad I didn't know when I went grocery shopping, or I would have taken the camera with me. Well, here's how people decorated me. It was great luck that I was wearing my already ragged shirt that I intend to throw away (since three months now, but I'll dump it any day now, really!)
I am now in Delhi and looking at secondhand Enfields, the standard Motorbike in India.