April 2nd, 2018

Bharat was indeed bandh today

There is no such thing as a dull day in India.

No. Such. Thing.

Trust me.

Take today, for instance.

We left our friends Shefali & Christopher’s house in the Tirthan Valley at 7 o’clock, to head home to Delhi.

Our car was loaded to the gunwales, because we’d had a puncture, and had to put on the emergency tyre, which is smaller than the actual tyre, which then had to go in the boot because it wouldn’t fit in the prescribed place, thereby reducing luggage space…hey, you are following me here, right?

So, yes, as I said, loaded up with fishing gear + my hiking stuff + Bahadur’s tent and camp cots and sleeping bags, we headed down from cool Himachal.

We could only drive slowly, because of the emergency tyre, but that wasn’t a problem in the hills.

Finally made it to Chandigarh, where we were supposed to meet a friend who would take us to his tyre man to get a new tyre…

…can you tell there’s a “but” coming up here?

BUT….Bonnie told us that there was a “bandh” (strike) today, which we naively thought would make the traffic lighter.

We also learned that the tyre was not actually ready and waiting as we hoped, and that it would take “some time” (pretty much a given, here) so we decided to soldier on to Delhi with the emergency tyre.

And then we found the Bharat Bandh, the all-India strike.

We hit the roadblocks.

And the humongous traffic jams.

And the road closures.

And traffic U-turning out of the jams, and coolly driving the wrong way down the highway (guilty as charged, yours truly at the wheel 😛 ).

And the mass of ill-tempered, Delhi-bound cars jostling and pushing for room on narrow country roads.

What a palaver.  (And this dramatic photo, above, isn’t mine, by the way.  Just to give you a taste of the kinds of protests happening.)

We asked directions from a friendly bus driver, who cheerfully told us there was no way we’d make it to Delhi before very late tonight.

At the thought of all that mess and – let’s be frank – the ever-present risk of trouble erupting, we decided to drive cross country and head for Chhachhrauli, where my brother-in-law farms, and spend the night there.

Despite warnings that all the small towns close to Chhachhrauli were also “bandh”, we actually had an easy drive through villages, studiously avoiding the towns.

And here we are, finally, in Chhachhrauli and planning a very early start to beat the rumoured continuation of the “bandh” tomorrow.

There are already 9 people dead as a result of the protests, so we came off super-lightly.

We didn’t see any ugliness at all – other than the usual horrid, selfish driving from our fellow Delhi-ites – but we saw a fairly novel form of protest: trucks and combine harvesters and tankers and lorries all parked on the highway, not exactly blocking the highway, but certainly reducing the space for the rest of us.

Like so.

As to what is the exact cause of the “Bharat Bandh”, I’m sorry, I can’t speak with any real authority here.

Mr. Google will be of more use, to explain why people are protesting, but here are a couple of useful links;

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/sc/st-act-ruling-centre-to-file-review-petition-amid-bharat-bandh/articleshow/63574756.cms
And
https://www.news18.com/news/india/bharat-bandh-live-will-bring-modi-govt-to-its-knees-says-mayawati-as-five-die-in-violent-protests-1705153.html

Watch this space, to see what happens in this totally un-dull-country tomorrow…

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