Days 29 & 30: Aggressive sadhus, a lake full of wrecked cars and thickening pollution as Delhi nears

Day 29: Monday, March 20
After a massive pot of black tea at sunrise, we got back on the shoulder of the highway and began walking.
An elder hamming it up
We had walked about 20 kilometers before we took refuge for food and rest in the village of Kosi Kala Navipur behind the Picnic Palace roadside restaurant, which generously provided us with its two electrical outlets so that we could charge all our various batteries.
The landscape was composed mostly of farms as we made our way our way to the edge of Uttar Pradesh and crossed the border into Haryana, the state in which we will walk the rest of the way to Delhi.
Crossing from Uttar Pradesh into Haryana”
Unfortunately we didn’t qualify to pass without paying the toll
Eventually we turned down a dirt road that led us, after about a kilometer, into the center of of a town called Hodal, just a few kilometers inside the Haryana border. Hodal did not look very inviting at first. After passing a lake filled with abandoned cars and vans and progressing down the decrepit main road to the center of town, we ran into a group of of aggressive sadhus demanding money, or “baksheesh”, as they led a huge elephant down the middle of the street.
We were pleasantly surprised, however, when we entered the dharmshala where we would stay the night. We had been given a huge room with very clean, tiled floors, with several toilets and bathing stalls. As usual the cooking team worked hard to feed us all. It was particularly difficult to cook here; the area to the back of the sleeping hall that was not at all well ventilated and the people making the rotis often had to take a break from the smoky atmosphere and the heat. Several padyatris, including Jagarnath Das, the unstoppable Gulab Bai (who has been walking every morning now and worked up to three kilometers this morning), Kanchan Bai and Leela Bai, joined with some local people coming to the dharmshala’s temple in a few rounds of singing while drumming and ringing bells.
Aspak, Shweta and Dharmesh join the padyatra from Chennai
We were all excited to be less than 100 kilometers from Delhi – IT FEELS REALLY GOOD!! Being so close now as well as having more and more supporters turn up on the side of the road to join us over the last few days has given the group a real boost. Most people it seems have a new found energy and a building sense of anticpation….. WE’RE NEARLY THERE!!
Day 30: Tuesday, March 21
We woke up while it was still completely dark. The air on the pre-dawn streets of Hodal was a choking mix of smoke from small fires set everywhere on the streets to burn off the mixed paper and plastic trash generated over the previous day.
It took a little while, but once we worked our way out of Hodal completely, we could see that Haryana was actually quite a beautiful place to walk.
The landscape was mostly very lush and green with crops and the road is lined almost continuously with tall eucalyptus and other kinds of trees, giving us a little bit of shade much appreciated after so many hundreds of kilometers through the baking, unobstructed sun.
Also the wind blew quite strongly all day – which felt lovely when not combined with the dust from the trucks thundering past.
As we’ve got closer to Delhi the volume of traffic has inevitably increased. There are now a lot more cars, buses and trucks that go so much faster than the usual bullock carts, taxi rickshaws and the really dangerous wide load tractors that knocked poor Ismail off his feet the day before yesterday. The increase in the volume and speed of traffic is matched by the amount of broken glass littering our path – this is a big problem as most of us are not wearing closed in shoes, and also the now very noticeable pollution haze that seems to hover just a few fields away from the left and right sides of the road when not built up.
For our afternoon rest and meal, we stopped in a village called Bamani Kheda, at a temple with a water pump. The locals were friendly here and interested in the water pollution issue particularly.
We spread out on blankets beneath a couple of trees and inside an empty building, and after a delicious meal cooked quickly, took naps until almost 4 p.m. Not wanting to walk in the dark, we jumped up and threw our belongings together to finish the last 10 to 12 kilometers left between there and Palwal, where we wanted to spend the night.
Palwal is a sprawling and hazy metropolis, one of several near Delhi that have grown suddenly and quickly in recent years.
Just in time for the sunset and a severe mosquito attack, we arrived at our stopping place, the Sri Brahman Dharmshala, accommodation provided to us by a contact of Rajkumar Bhardawaj, member of Hind Mazdoor Sabha. It sits at the edge of a large pond that looks pretty but ensured we would sleep very little because of the mosquitoes. Distinct, visible clouds of mosquitoes converged upon us just as the sun disappeared past the pond.
A spicy dinner of thick dal and roti was generously cooked and served to us by our hosts. We slept just fine after that, despite the mosquitoes.
Older entries from beginning of the march
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