Friday, August 27, 2010

Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister of India was committed to a socialist model of economic policies. He favoured modernisation and was all for government participation and control of the key industries. The first five year plan outlined government spending in industrial and agricultural sectors, and for strengthening of the rural quarters. He reckoned dams were the ‘Temples’ of the resurgent India. My journey is a pilgrimage from one such temple in India -the Sardar Sarovar project to the Three Gorges dam in China.
This Journey has references to the many travels that were undertaken by heroes and legendry figures – journeys that changed the course of their lives. The short journey that Prince Siddharth Gautama took (on his horse Kanthaka) through the city of Kapilavastu when he saw the four sights changed his outlook towards life. Prince Siddhartha gave up his riches to embrace ascetism.   The long youthful adventure By Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara round Latin America on his motorcycle (La Poderosa II) was an initial step towards realising the revolutionary in him.
My journey is perhaps more Quixotic than heroic but more than a journey from point A to B it is a journey towards myself.
That sounds good as a concept note!
But...I am neither an ‘adventurer’ nor a ‘biker’!! In fact I rode a bike after 23 years when I got it home from the show room… to top that I had never ridden a bike with a side car. Contrary to my belief, it was more difficult to maneuver and handle… and I barely got two days- to be precise an hour and a half on two mornings from 5:00 am to 6.30 am, to practice and get accustomed to the bike.
3-4 days before I set off on the trip, frankly I was really stressed and nervous… How could I have proposed this project?  What was I thinking!!
 My departure got postponed twice adding to my distress… I knew once I got on the road I would be alright.
23rd Aug 2010
Left home at 6:15am
When I finally left, I drove for 10 hours with just 2 twenty minutes breaks… and that was my schooling… and I think I came through with flying colours! The roads were wide and smooth, and I got enough space to practice my maneuvers.
Total traveling time 10 hours, 416 Km.
Took a halt in Baroda, as I have now joined as visiting faculty and conducted classes for two days.24th and 25th
26th Aug 2010
Left the M.S University at 6:30am
Mrugen an ex-student of the Faculty of Fine Art dropped me to the outskirts of the city. The road to Sardar Sarovar is called Pragati Path (Road to Progress). A beautiful road lined by thick trees that shed their golden yellow flowers on either side of the road. A road as appealing and alluring as it’s name.  
I reached the dam site got my entry pass and drove to ‘View Point I’ The dam is big but it did not take my breath away… till I climbed on a hillock opposite ‘View Point III’ to look at the reservoir behind the wall. Though it affords only a glimpse of the huge catchment the thought of the sheer volume of the block of water behind the dam which currently stands at 121.92 meters, full to the brim was chilling.
Left for Dhadgaon which is the head office of the Narmada Bacchao Andolan (NBA) in Maharashtra by 11:00am .
Lunch at Akkalkua
I had 2 options to go to Shahada and then take the road up to Dhadgaon which meant 110 Kms... but an easy route up -hill or to take on the mountain at Akkalkua itself. That would mean only 60 km but a really tough road up. I decided to brave it as I knew I had to finally do the Himalayas !! Might as well face it now and learn! It was my absolute first experience on a mountainous terrain and to make matters worse two different groups of people saw me on the road and asked me if the bike would be able to take the steep gradients! I knew I had to treat this as my secondary school! The road was indeed indeed wicked but I managed and I think very well.
The sky was over cast throughout the day so luckily no sun and thankfully no rain either.
I was greeted at Dhadgaon by old friends and full timers with the NBA- Geetanjali, Yogini, Rewati and Chetan.
The motorcycle because of the side car drags to the left so I need to constantly balance this with a push by my right hand and a tug by the right… between making the side car behave it self and spotting the scraps of road between the potholes and staying on them, had my neck and shoulder muscles in knots. An old lady from the neighbor-hood was called to give me a rub. She made me wince in pain but relieved me of the aches. A warm bath was the icing. Incidentally it was Chetan’s birthday. We had a small cake cutting ceremony, dinner and we rushed to catch Medha Patkar on CNN IBN in a discussion about forced land acquisition. We called her up at 11:00 pm. She chided me for undertaking this project at such short notice.
She will be arriving in Barwani on the 27th Aug and I hope to meet her on the 28th when I reach there. 

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