Gilded Serpent presents...
I wake from a dream ...
Fred Glick

of domestic pleasures-rearranging the furniture, I think-and get dressed in the cold pre-dawn air of our guest room.  There will be weather stripping before the arrival of our first guest, I promise myself.

The meter on the taxi that takes me to the bus station runs faster than an American gasoline pump , and though I'm irritated at being overcharged by 20% for the twenty minute ride, I am soothed by the thought that the ride has still cost only US$ 3, or about three-quarters of my ticket for the fourteen hour bus journey to Dharamsala.

The taxi ride is fast-not much traffic this early in the morning-and takes me through Old Delhi.  The pollution everywhere in Delhi is bad, but Old Delhi is the worst, and even at this empty, early hour it makes my eyes sting.

During the day this road is clogged with traffic of every imaginable sort: pedestrians, rickshaws, scooters (most carrying two or three people, but sightings of families of four and five are not uncommon), three-wheeled auto-rickshaws belching smoke from their two-stroke engines, taxis, horse-drawn tongas laden with cargo and passengers, the occasional marching band (complete with tubas, and uniforms that would do any American high school proud) heading for that evening's wedding gig, and even, if one is really lucky, the occasional elephant.

The bus terminal is benign enough during the day, but in the predawn darkness it becomes a vision of a futuristic, post-apocalyptic hell.  A stage of concrete, dimly lit, with piles of rags in the corners that sometimes turn out to be people.  All of it the same brown:  the walls, the light, the people, the rags they wear, and even the ever-present cow is the same murky brown.

As I board the bus, I am faced with the question of where to sit.  This is always an issue for me no matter how I am traveling, but especially when preparing to ride a decrepit  Indian bus for fourteen hours.

After much deliberation I settle on the single "shotgun" seat, beside the driver.  The advantages are many:  ample legroom; space for my pack beside me; and no earnest young Indians sitting beside me, anxious to practice their English ("Where are you from?"  "What is your job?"  How much do you make?").  What can I say, I'm an only child.

The roads here are miserable.  No shoulder, lots of trucks, livestock, bicycles-and in most cases only two lanes.  We share the major northbound highway out of Delhi with overloaded, buffalo-drawn carts of unthreshed rice that dwarf even our mighty bus.  Each attempt to pass is an adventure and is preceded by several blasts of the horn, followed by a quick veer into the opposite lane to see if there is any on coming traffic.  The horn is a critical driving tool in India.  The drivers of those vehicles with rear-view mirrors don't seem to use them, and those ox carts don't even have horns.

No road trip would be complete without hourly sightings of horrible accidents or their remains.  At an average speed of about 30 miles per hour that's a lot of accidents.

This trip is no different from usual, and aside from the usual assortment of overturned trucks from the previous night's journeys, we are stuck at the site of a fresh accident for forty minutes.  That it seems much, much longer does have something to do with our being behind a gaily decorated truck that's wired to play 'Jingle Bells' everytime it's put in gear to creep forward another two feet.

Three lanes of traffic have formed on each side of the two-lane road and it's every man, woman, and cow for itself.  School must have just gotten out because there's even a school rickshaw fighting its way through.  (The school rickshaws are one of my most favorites:  imagine a guy on a bicycle pulling what can only be described as a cage, complete with barred windows. Ever seen Pinocchio?)

As we draw near the scene, it is obvious that two trucks have had a head-on collision, one apparently trying to pass the bus lying up the road 100 metres like a beached whale.  One of the trucks has run off the road and now rests at 30° from the ground against a large eucalyptus.  That it was carrying a load of liquid petroleum gas cylinders and is NOT on fire gives me a renewed respect for the cylinders, the same ones that we use for cooking at home and are delivered to our door by, yes, the (bicycle-mounted) gas-wal

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Ready for more?

The Last of the Wine by Mary Renault
List Price: $12.00
Our Price: 9.60
You Save: $2.40 (20%)
Availability: Usually ships within 24 hours Paperback - 446 pages (August 1981)

Alexis, a young Athenian of good family, reaches manhood during the last phases of the Peloponnesian war. He meets Lysis, a youth influenced by Socrates, and their relationship develops.

Order Last of the Wine Today!


 Gilded Serpent
 Cover page, Contents, Calendar Comics Bazaar About Us Letters to the Editor Ad Guidelines Submission Guidelines