Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bikes in India

Market at Kanyakumari - the southern tip of India

            A recent Twitter photo of a bike rider in India brought back memories. It’s almost four years since my visit to south India and, at the time, I was not the fanatical bike rider that I am today. Even so, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the things I saw people carrying on their bikes and notice how normative bike riding was. 

Outside a temple in Kanyakumari

  It was the first place I saw people with disabilities using hand-cranked bikes – not sleek high-tech versions – but sturdy vehicles cranked with contraptions that looked like old-fashioned eggbeaters.

Courtyard in Chennai

             My India blog maintained lists of the things I saw people carrying on their heads and things transported by bicycle, some of which I share here, along with photos of bikes I saw in India.

"Jew Town" in Cochin - at the time there were eight Jews remaining. 

 Things I saw transported on a bicycle:

On the road near Trivandrum
Porur - suburb of Chennai
  • stack of straw mats
  • pile of burlap
  • many (at least 6-8) large cans of cooking oil
  • 2 HUGE rice sacks
  • 2 big milk cans
  • garbage
  • inner tubes
  • fuel cans
  • aluminum pots
  • bananas
  • sugar cane
  • other fruits and vegetables
  • fresh coconuts (which grow everywhere)
Toy store bike - my Porur neighborhood for 2 weeks

 Businesses I saw conducted from a bicycle:

·       ice cream vendor
·       tea (the large urn and cups for the tea)
·       toy/mask store

Selling chai on the beach at Kanyakumari, where people gather to watch the sunset


            The courtyard in front of every school was filled with bikes – sturdy workhorses able to withstand rutted, dusty roads. 

Porur public school
My neighborhood in Porur
And if we think bike riding in traffic is bad in the U.S. – you can’t imagine the chaos of roads in India, in which the concept of “lanes” is nonexistent. Buses, trucks, autorickshaws, motorbikes, cars, and bicycles fill every inch of space – amid sweltering heat and pollution – making way for cows that meander along with priority rights. 

No bike here - but a sense of the traffic

Porur - try riding in a long dhoti!

 I don’t think I’d be up for riding a bike in urban India, but I’d certainly return for the sweet chai, spicy food, vibrant colors, and – most of all – the people.

Chennai - goat and bike coexist

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