“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.”
As I take three or four large gulps from the water jug on the rickety bench I feel that familiar sense of adrenaline, fear, and anger rise up inside of me. When I lower the pitcher I see them, watching me intently as they always do. Indian men.
Though their names may change, to me they are all the same. I feel naked. Their piercing greedy eyes undress me, leaving me vulnerable yet prepared to fight as I toy with the rock in my clenched fist. I have three more in my pocket and pepper spray tucked into my bra. I’m prepared, I have been through this before. In fact, I go through this everyday now. I’m cycling through hell.
“Every trip to a foreign country can be a love affair where you’re left puzzling over who you are and whom you’ve fallen in love with…”
India is… Well India. It is dirty, it is beautiful. It is chaotic, busy, and tranquil. It is frustrating yet rewarding. It is rude and friendly, peaceful yet scary. And it is everything in between. There are Hindus, colorfully dressed in beautiful saris and suits. There is a wonderful Sikh community, easily spotted because of their colorful turbans and peaceful nature. There are Muslims wearing full burkas, and there are Buddhist, especially in the mountainous regions where many Tibetan refugees live. There is extreme poverty. Children running around cities without clothes, begging for a bite to eat. There are also beautiful farming communities where everyone is self sufficient. Part of what makes India so interesting and immense is how culturally diverse every area is. Though there are many similarities throughout, the clothing, attitude, type of house, and lifestyle changes dramatically every few hundred kilometers, as if you have just entered into a whole different country. It is impossible to know India, it is impossible to even scratch the surface, which is part of the reason why India holds such appeal, especially to us cyclists.