Sunday, February 4, 2007

WHERE HAVE I BEEN LATELY?

SINCE DECEMBER 26. Bikehiker blogging has been on hiatus since I left for a six-week bicycle journey thru India on December 26. Since then, I’ve been daily blogging our adventure from the southern tip of India to New Delhi—a 2,000-mile trek. The photos tell the story, really; my brief commentary only frames the images that have come at us as we ride along. I invite you to take a few minutes to scroll thru them at http://bicycleindia2007.blogspot.com/. I hope to re-boot bikehiker from this point forward as part of my weekly spiritual discipline. I will be back on American soil, "Lord willing," on February 10.

1,800 MILES BEHIND US. My four “Bicycle India 2007” companions and I have thus far pedaled over 1,800 miles. We started at Nagercoil and rode south to Kanniyakumari, the southern tip of India on the Indian Ocean on December 30, 2006. We have ridden northward through the heart of the nation, averaging about 65 miles a day. We’re now just a day away from the Taj Mahal and we hope to arrive in New Delhi on February 8.

OF MONUMENTS AND PEOPLE. While we look forward to cycling to the Taj Mahal (one of the “seven wonders of the world”), we feel like we have already glimpsed the ingenuity and felt the soul of this mystical land. Great monuments (and there are plenty here) and historic landmarks cannot compare to the diverse, gifted, spirited people we’ve met in the villages, towns and cities we’ve pedaled through.

A VIBRANT PEOPLE. India’s steady emergence as a world economic power is being triggered by fiber optics and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s free market policies. But its growth is being stoked by hard-working people whose determination to learn, thrive and grow within a framework of democratic freedom is evident everywhere. This is easy to see in “cyber cities” like Bangalore and Hyderabad, but also readily observed in the nation’s fifty thousand villages (we’ve pedaled through over 500).

HOSTELS, HOSPITALS, AND GHANDI’S HOME. Our trek has taken us to a youth hostel for children affected by the 2004 tsunami in Tamil Nadu. It has included being guests at several charity Christian hospitals—like the one in the village of Umri in Maharashtra, for which our tour is raising support. These hospitals offer free medical care to the poorest of the poor. We stayed at the home of Mahatma Gandhi in Sevagram, departing his ashram on Republic Day (January 26, the day India celebrates its birth as a democracy) and passing through one local parade after another as we pedaled along National Highway 7.

HOSPITALITY…A HABIT OF THE HEART. All along the way we’ve been awed by genuine Indian hospitality. Certainly, hospitality is professionally offered in hotels and restaurants. But it is just as fully experienced in homes, at tea (chai) stalls, in the urban markets and on the open roads. People have made room for us in simple and profound ways—not so much to impress us, but as a habit of the heart. This, as much as anything else, may be India’s greatest gift to the world.

INDIA AND AMERICA. We find it difficult to compare and contrast India and America. The world’s two largest democracies are at complete different stages of development. India seems incredibly ancient as a culture but young as a democracy. America seems light years ahead of India in so many ways, but one cannot help but sense that America has left behind some simple but profound values and practices that India heartfully retains. There are, of course, some Indian values and practices that are incompatible with human dignity and community (the same can be said of America...right?).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your tasteful comments and/or questions are welcome. Posts are moderated only to reduce a few instances of incivility.