Crossing over

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Flag of India  , Punjab,
Monday, November 14, 2011

Today all we did was cross into India. Well I didn't think we’d get any further and we didn’t.

So we woke up to a free breakfast because nobody remembered to pay for it and the hotel forgot to charge. Last night’s dinner was not quite as good as the night before but it had the added benefit of not making my arse explode in a bush at the side of the road which is always good but we didn’t get Beer which was disappointing. It was our last night with Shandor and his wife but we didn’t know that until today, we had no set plans in that department but we were heading in the same direction so anything was possible.

We headed to the border. Now that would, on the surface seem to be a fairly simple task but nothing is simple in Pakistan! Many times we’ve asked why something isn’t working and the stock answer the whole length of the country is, "nothing works, this is Pakistan." So we packed our gear up to an audience at the hotel. There was some animosity from the guy on reception who wanted more for the rooms but once we paid in advance and were chatty and decent he warmed up to us fine and came out to wave us off in the morning.

We headed out to follow Marcin who has the only working GPS unit which led us more or less to the border. We had to battle our way through traffic which seems to be consisting entirely of grinning morons who want to be nice but actually just nearly ride into you, idiots in cars who just swerve around honking their horns, donkeys and occasionally any of the above driving straight at you in your lane. It’s totally crazy, it’s what you’d expect to see if you put 12 year old in charge of running a country, a 12 year old with an attention deficit disorder and a drinking problem. A quick flick through google revealed the average IQ here is 20 points lower than in the west. Now 20 points is a lot. It’s the difference between a guy working in a shop and a guy working on a cure for cancer. Those 20 points are an average meaning the ruling class is way higher and the workers are probably a fair bit lower. The divide in Pakistan is horribly apparent, the darker skinned people are condemned to a subsistence living under home-made grass tents at the sides of roads while the cities are full of a different caste of peoples. Even the cities are of a laughably poor standard compared to the west and have the darker skinned forgotten people milling about like hopelesslly lost souls.

There is a term in politics, “useless eaters” referring to the poor, usually foreign people who consume and give nothing back to society as a whole. They’re just considered a burden on the economy. Well not in Pakistan, here these people are just shut out. They have no choice but to huddle in little villages made from rubble or camps made from cut down trees. Nobody cares, they’re invisible as they walk the streets begging for change or sweeping the clogged gutters. Along the sides of the road you can see young girls sewing animal excrement into the soil to grow crops with the bare hands, probably in exchange for a few coins. They are treated no better than animals, they’re ignored until bricks have to be dragged along the highway or something clogged has to be unclogged. They’re largely self-sustaining but Pakistan doesn’t even use them as a workforce, they’re just a parasitic infestation clogging up their economy with no education and no future to look forward to. The government is berated freely by the people, whoever you speak to has little time for them but they only see their own points of view, their own needs or wants. Like in Iran when we were told the Government restricts the actions that affect the young, Pakistan has rules which inhibit the behaviour of its inhabitants. Real humanity is an ability to empathise with others, to connect with the whole, with something greater than yourself and I saw no evidence of that here. Ignoring the efforts people went to to make us feel welcome and a lot of people did, I heard no consideration of the forgotten poor who overwhelmingly dominate the population. The people here have a lower intelligence and with propaganda and indoctrination they have forgotten that the vast majority of their own people are living in abject poverty at the sides of the road. While I have nothing but sympathy for the plight of the people in this country I have to say i feel they bring it largely on themselves. They don’t want to connect to other people. You’re either a job or a source of funds, that was all we were treated as on our journey through. If people showed interest in the bike it was material, ie, how much it was worth. Nobody was interested in what we were doing, or any other of the myriad details that make up the trip, just the surface value. Marcin’s KTM costs twice what my bike is financially worth but my bike is worth far more to me. His is a bike, nothing more, i built mine, i love it but a simple thing like that is beyond the grasp of these people.

Of course there should be an education system in place that could help to elevate these people. They need to be shown the greater world to know it exists. They stood in rapt awe at our bikes, these things from a world they’ve never heard of and never expect to be exposed to. To us it was fun and then quickly annoying but in the end it was just sad. It was a reflection of the poverty, the emptiness here. Life carries on as it has for millennia, passed down from one to another but now we live in a modern world which is passing these people by. We passed it by too, led by police and crowds were moved away, we weren’t allowed to speak with them. They told us it was their job to protect us but they told us there was no danger. Were we just a virus threatening to infect the simple folks with an idea that there might be a bigger world outside of life in the village?

So Pakistan finally was little more than a nuisance to us. It was a bad country to pass through, difficult roads, people we struggled to relate to, armed escorts everywhere and towns so run down and primitive that by our standards are barely even towns. The people need help but that help has to first come from themselves first. They’re like a man who’s dropped himself down a well and just sits there waiting for someone else to sort it out for him. Even if someone reached down, would these people reach up or just do what they had to do to settle into whatever routine was being set for them?

I did give some children some money when we first arrived. It wasn’t much and they were nice kids, begging and playing so we gave them some cash. Nothing much, just a few pennies. They seemed happy with what they got but after that you soon stop doing it. There are never ending people begging for money and you just can’t give it to all of them so you have to just look away. We got used to having conversations about these people while they were crowding around us in silence. You have to, they’re everywhere you are, always gathering about like moths to a flame. You just learn to ignore them like they’re not Human, just like their own government and their own people.

So finally we went down a dirt road which brought us out to the final road to the border. The exit is far different to the entrance, it’s got a structure, guards armed with assault rifles and wearing uniforms. We entered and headed into a customs building. We were told the rest of us were there but didn’t know he was talking about. It turned out that 4 other adventure bikers were here, two on F800gs and two on Yamaha XT660z Teneres. We met them having our exit stamps sorted and got chatting. The guy doing our exit stamps was rude to the point of being irritating so I made sure he found me far more irritating than i found him. After our papers were pointlessly molested for hours we were allowed to go to the Indian side to be further molested. We filled in dozens of forms and were pushed from office to office, place to place getting things stamped and stamped again. In the end it was time for our inspection and all they did was check our frame numbers and that was it, we were out of there. It sounds easy but it took most of the day. We all headed off through the deadly traffic of India to the first town, only 30km away, us, the Velorex and the other Adventure bikers. Once there we battled our way to a hotel which nobody liked for some reason. At this point Shandor decided he was going to head off. We knew we weren’t going to ride together for much longer but still, it was almost a bit sad. I had drawn a picture of the Velorex and Marcin and myself had signed it so we gave them that, took some pictures and they split off. We have each other’s details and hope to meet up in Thailand at some point. They’re nice people and I hope we do stay in touch.

We then battled our way to another hotel through mad roads with mad people doing mad things. We got something to eat which was neither good nor bad and then tried to decide what to do. The others were going to stay and i wanted to stay too. There was no point heading off into who knows what when we could stay here, settle down and get some rest. Even Marcin seemed fine with that so we looked for somewhere to stay.

The GPS led us through a market, not near one, through one. It was like riding a bike through Camden market only it was bigger and with more people and with traffic coming both ways.

In the end we gave up and tried asking for directions. We found one that was not too bad for not too much cash. That only leaves beer to find...
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Coal on

Some insightful and starkly honest social commentary here, especially the part about learning to dehumanise the people around you. Good stuff.

jtw000 on

Nice spelling, boy. I obviously take your comments very seriously. If you think this is bad then why not read what I think of India... it will blow your tiny little text-talk mind.

Riaz on

I have read your comments about india too. and that doesnt make any difference to what I think of you and the likes of you. Think about this. when the British came to india, it was one of the wealthiest country in the world, and whne they left, one of the poorest. Now tell me how did that happen in a span of 100 years and who is to blame for it. Certainly not indians , if you ask me.

jtw000 on

I don't think you've been reading my blog properly and I don't think you're really up on your history either. Nobody came and made this country totally uncivilised. Nobody made a billion people rude and and dysfunctional. I say what I see, I don't care about political correctness. India is a toilet and someone should flush it. If it was wiped off the map it would make the map tidier. I have a lot of intelligent and decent Indian friends, I was looking forward to that part of the trip thinking they were typical. They were not. India is a horrible place full of utterly horrible people. Children beg for money to buy super glue to get high on, grown adults crap on the floor in the middle of the street, the driving is utterly appalling. Sorry but it's you that's out of step if you want to defend this place. I have sympathy for Pakistan, they're good people being oppressed by a shitty government and the ones we spoke to wanted to see this change but they need a decent education system to get this message out to the majority. In India the problems are endemic, the people have created a chaotic shambles that they're proud of.
Anyway, well done for making a slightly more literate reply but you don't know me and you're a dirty little racist who assumes the worst of white guys because of your own bigotry. I won't delete your comments because you're just making yourself look bad and I don't believe in censorship. Read my blog about the British Empire, I talk about it. Then see how dumb your comments about me really are.

me init.... on

i cant see anything wrong with grown men shitting in the street, i think your out of step by thinking that its not right. i once did just this, i picked a nice house and i nice old man owned it, i asked if i could help him do the gardening so i shit on it for him..i also wee'd abit, cant do one without the other you know... its the right thing to do. As for India being poor, then wealthy, the poor again once the british left, that tells me that they haven got the ability to think for themselves and need help from the westerner. so shut it biatch init man.....

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