TITILI Safari - Northern India

Mark Walker MWalker at gensym.com
Thu Nov 9 21:56:03 EST 2000

When I found out I was headed for India, I barely had enough time to gather
the necessary meds.  In fact, not enough time to get my Hepatitis A
vaccination.  Who cared?  This was work related, but the thought of prancing
about with exotic bugs (from my U.S. perspective, anyway) during my few days
alone was too much for me to handle.  I wasn't disappointed, that's for

I was told, "you won't be driving in India".  I was told that I'd have to
hire myself not only a vehicle, but also a driver.  This driver would go
with me everywhere - and put up with whatever fancied me.  This seemed a bit
odd, but I decided to give it a try.  I wasn't disappointed here, either.

Driving in India is absolutely an impossible endeavor.  I consider myself a
rather adventurous driver - taking no consideration whatsoever as to which
side of the vehicle the steering wheel is located.  Worrying not about the
road surfaces or the difficulties in navigation.  In India, however, you
aren't just dealing with bad roads.  You're competing with literally
millions of other people who are all in just as big a hurry as you.
Unfortunately, they are being transported by bus, industrial truck, taxi,
motorcycle, bicycle, horse drawn carriage, camels, elephants, or simply
amongst the hordes of folk on foot.  Each of these is avoided during high
velocity travel through the use of the ever-important honker (or flashing
headlights at night).  Each are competing with the all of the available road
surface - which isn't much to begin with.

After just the first 20 minutes of travel in India, I'm sure I gained at
least 20 years of age.  Acceleration and deceleration occur very rapidly,
and center dividers and rugged shoulders are always acceptable for passing
(or last minute avoidance of collision).  My driver - Rohtas - was a genius.
It took me awhile to get used to his driving, but after a few hundred
kilometers - I trusted my very life to this man.  I had little choice, of
course, but that's not the point.  Regardless of the line of vehicles that
might be jammed up at a crossroads, Rohtas was always the first one to get
across.  No opening was too small for Rohtas.  No truck or bus was too
intimidating for Rohtas.  We were simply going to get to our destination
just as fast as we possibly could.  Only death could stand in our way.

Incidentally, the present season in northern India is well suited for
butterflying.  This is the post-monsoon season, with daytime temperatures in
the 30s C.  I was pleased to find butterflies - or "TITILIS" in Hindi -
quite numerous.  I also found them to be quite beautiful.  I'll tell you
more about them in a few following emails.

Mark Walker
Oceanside, CA


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