From cool hill stations down to humid, hot plains in 3+ hours. Body adjustments in store again. Sunny most of the way, where did the monsoon season go? Took the metro from Kashmir Gate bus terminal after a quick McD dinner stop and got off at New Dehli train station. Tired and late (it's dark now) we hope a bicycle rickshaw to Ajay's GH where we have reserved a room. A shower and shave and I feel alive again after sweating our way from getting off the bus.:-)
India is a land of exceptions I believe. By this I mean, there are certain rules people/countries live by but the way India and Indians deal with their chaos is by allowing a certain latitude for exceptions. For instance, we were told yesterday that what sets the Deluxe and semi-deluxe buses apart from the regular state buses is the fact that Deluxe classes allow no standing in the aisles, all passengers must be seated. Well, for at least 2 hours of today's ride I guess the interpretation of that rule means no more than 6-8 passengers standing as long as it's not for the whole journey! This type of exception is played out again and again in different ways everywhere here. Another example, this time straight forward bribery, is the 'rule' that vehicles going over Rohtang Pass wait on one side or the other while traffic traveling in the opposite direction completes the journey since it's supposedly a single lane road. According to our host at Veer GH in Manali, that only works until some driver pays off the police on one side or the other who then gets to go regardless and this starts a dangerous mad rush over the mountain, many times with predictable results as we ourselves witnessed. There are Expressways in India but do you suppose only motorized vehicles are allowed on them? No, I saw bullock carts and ever a whole herd of CATTLE traipsing down the 'Expressway'! Exceptions allow 1.3 billion + people to function amid chaos.
Indians don't see the lack of maintenance, the uncompleted buildings, the mounds and mountains of litter, the cow dung and cows wandering lazily down highways of speeding vehicles as anything to be concerned about. Contradiction is not part of their psyche in as much as it contributes to a general sense that this is what living is all about - exceptions and seeming contradictions. The great difference between China and India is the degree of personal freedom...in India it is limited by caste and/or religion depending on what part of the country, in China by government or political connections...& degree of wealth now in both countries! For Tea Party folks or libertarians I'd say India is the closest you can get to your 'ideal'! For folks who would rather see a more harmonious, equitable, and yet very investment friendly country, try Singapore...after our discussions with Sue and Yang (see entry 8-2 in Kathmandu) I am convinced that US form of democracy is heading for a monstrous brick wall in terms of the political system!
We spent the day getting our visa application in to Bangladesh and finding out about Myanmar visas in Katmandu. Took the entire morning going back and forth to the two embassies (close together) which did not open at the times indicated on their websites. Since we were paying our tuk tuk driver to shuttle us back and forth and waiting the end result was a costly transport in addition to finding out that the Bangladesh visa is $150 US! Our search for a Bangladesh guidebook was partly successful in that we found a new one in Khan Market but still hoping to get a used one we headed for Connaught Circle where Bonnie hoped to find another pair of pants.
Our search proved unsuccessful on both accounts and the heat (38 degrees C. = 100+ F. and high humidity) proved too much so we retreated to Ajay GH and our AC room after a short one hour visit to the Tourist Concession ticket office at New Delhi train station to get our onward train tickets towards Nepal. Here it really pays to be a senior citizen, our tickets ended up being half the price quoted in the LP!