Thursday, July 26, 2007

Gathering a crowd 101

How to gather a huge crowd on an empty desolate highway.
How to have fun changing a tyre

Take two three-wheeled rickshaws. Paint them red.
In one, put three crazy Indians.
In the other put two 21-year-old British chemical engineers, Chris and Owen, who look really sensible (note to self: looks can be deceptive)
Have a flat tyre in the middle of an absolutely empty road, when the only person you can see in the distance is a shepherd girl with her six goats.
Have an incredible amount of fun changing the tyre.
For starters, discover the fact that you never thought about the possibility of needing a jack.
Look for alternatives. Find one large stone, one smaller, flattish stone.
Find one local who is walking by, stops out of curiousity, speaks a mix of broken Hindi and English, has one, very brightly pink nail, and is good at shoving stones under the front end of rickshaws.
Lift rickshaw. Takes me, Owen, Chris and Akshay to do that. Takes all my energy. Ask Shaizia and pink-nailed local to prop up rickshaw with the two stones pile on one another.
Try not to drop rickshaw, also, try not to let it slide back on its rear wheels. Stones have to be re-adjusted and you have to hold the rickshaw up longer.
By this time, everyone who has used this road in the last twenty minutes is gathered around you. Field questions about who you are and what you’re doing in bright red rickshaws in the middle of Nepal. Drains all remaining energy.
Wander in the field while the boys change the tyre. Jump across stream. Skip stones. Find one smooth round very white one. Eat some chocolate. Chase some goats.
Return fully refreshed to lift rickshaw again, this time to remove the stones. Bow when everyone gathered around cheers and claps when you’re finally done. Wave like a film star. Blow some kisses. Leave. Try not to stall. Cramps style.

Eastern Terai -  - HT -5

Changing a tyre has never been so much fun. Rolling green paddy fields as far as you can see on one side. In the other, faint hills framed against a bright blue sky with powder puff clouds. A gentle breeze, lots of energy and some good cheer. It was more like a fun thing to do together than a problem.
In fact, whatever auto trouble we’ve had on this trip has been fun or led to some good. When our clutch wire got lose on the second day and we lost two hours finding someone who could fix it (the first guy we found actually made it worse), the boys caught up with us. Earlier, some of the teams had passed us without bothering to pause (that really annoyed me; we’d stopped for them a little earlier and offered help when they had a flat), but Chris and Owen stopped to ask if we needed help.
Running into them was one of the best things that happened. They are always in good spirits, even when they’re incredibly tired. They’re willing to wake early and hit the road so we can drive longer. Ready to slug it out and go the distance, if we have to make up for lost time. Just like us, they like making pitstops in the middle of nowhere for some chai and scenery. They’re ready to change the plan and stay in an out of the way place so we can see some more of the country we’re travelling through instead of just speeding through from point to point.
In fact, they’ve redeemed the British folk who didn’t stop when we were in trouble. And together we’ve found out: trouble can be fun.

Cross posted from teesra

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