By Pete Coburn
We spent the majority of the day traveling through the plains, near the foothills of the Himalayas. We left Corbett National Forest far behind for another adrenaline pumping, white-knuckled adventure on the Indian highway system, lurching through chaotic and crowded streets with the type of reassuring dexterity and confidence found only among Indian bus drivers.
Even on the road, it was obvious just how little the earth has given up to human development in this part of the world. We passed a few smaller towns and several farms, evidence of the daily struggle to eek out a living from an unforgiving earth. This is what I find fascinating about India. At home in DC, man has triumphed over nature, and all that is left of the beautiful natural world is a few public parks. It’s different in India. Here we get to experience the world as it was meant to be seen.
As we approached Rishikesh, we got our first view of the mountainous , fast flowing Ganges, at the spot where it emerges from the mountains. The Ganges was breathtaking, and not at all like the stereotypical vat of human excrement, factory pollution, corpses, and trash that is portrayed so unsympathetically by Google Images. This Ganges was much higher up, as we were quite close to its source. Logically, it’s headwaters were in better shape. The glacial waters had a beautiful blue green hue, serving as a reminder that even in the city, nature wasn’t far off.
We were by now quite far from Corbett, but even so, we passed a small Tiger reserve, and heard tell of a man-eating tiger with ten victims from Mr. Cola. Even the change of scenery to the city didn’t separate us from the mystique of tigers, which says something about the relationship between man and Mother Nature in India. Even in the bustling cities, the natural world still has a detectable influence on the daily lives of the people.
I believe this is a vital concept to understand when dealing with India. The symbiotic relationship between man and nature characterizes so much of our discussions and experiences on this trip. We forget in America that we are not yet the masters of this world, that there was something here before us. Something wild and untamed. In india, it’s impossible to forget, because the wild is all around you.
I think a lot of Americans take for granted the orderly, convenient, and developed landscape of our country. Nothing is challenging about moving around in America, and we are drowned with amenities. This is not the way people were meant to live, and I think we are losing touch with the idyllic, unspoiled places in the world.