Monday, July 23, 2007

I have to say, the roads in Madhya Pradesh are pretty damn bad. One hour driving outside of Ujjain demonstrated how sleek and solid the Jaipur infrastructure is--five hours driving outside of Ujjain (one way!) is enough to make you convert to some nearby religion and start chanting. At least I wasn't driving. I feel like we underpaid our driver--the truth is, we were too tired by the end of the day to figure out what a proper tip would look like, so we just gave him what was in our hands (not enough). The night trip back was especially frightening, and we got to see some pretty horrific roadkill (should I describe it? Probably not, let's just leave it general and say it involved dogs and water buffalo).

Okay, so that was the bad part of the day, but it seems like even with the carnage, the trip to Sanchi was worth the trouble. One, just south of Sanchi runs the Tropic of Cancer, so I had the lovely experience of leaving the tropics for an afternoon. At least, that amuses me. Two, we had a solid afternoon in Sanchi hanging out with the Buddhist topes on top of a hill above the village. "The Great Stupa at Sanchi" has always been an icon of sorts for students of South Asian art and architecture, and I think my companions were interested in the Buddhist history of the site. I, on the other hand, am intensely interested in the colonial use of Sanchi, and how ASI policy developed from early colonial interactions with Buddhist sites.

Aside from the intellectual/cultural part of the trip, the heritage park is just in a lovely spot. The sun was shining, but there were nice clouds in the sky, and the wind was blowing through the trees the entire day. I spent some time just sitting in the shade near Stupa 2, enjoying being outside with no one bothering me, no one staring at me. There were only about 30 people at the park all day; say, 12 foreigners at any given time, and 15-20 Indians. I think the guards were bored.

I'm not sure our driver thought the visit was worth ten hours of driving across the worst roads in India (indeed, in the paper the next morning, there were articles about the state gov't promising to fix the roads, and about student protests over the road conditions [the students dressed up like frogs]), but I did. Sanchi wasn't on my original itinerary, but I figure, hey, you never know. I may drop out of school, change my research focus, fall seriously ill, whatever, and never come back to India. Better see things when I can.

No comments: