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   I have never been on a rath yatra through UP. (October 23, 1990)

I have never been on a rath yatra through UP, but in my younger and more eneretic days I did travel on the tops of trucks through this state.

I stared at Sikandar Naka, ten miles this side of Jhansi, on the Madhya Pradesh-UP border. The previous day I had come through the jungles of Shivpuri, past crumbling hunting lodges of the Scindias. Sikandar Naka is (was and probably still is) a truck station. Large trucks from the two states toll into it, change their loads, then return to their respective state.

The goods are often kept in large godowns, awaiting further transport, and it was in one of these godowns that I slept, the clerk promising to wake me up and organise a lift for me into UP.

Sometime in the pre-down, he did wake me up and put me on a truck with two Sikhs, the driver and the cleaner. We crossed the border, entered UP, drove under a hill on which stood the Rani of Jhansi's fort, then proceeded towards Kanpur.

It took us the whole day and I remember at one stage fording a river by a pontoon bridge. As the bridge could not take much weight, the truck's load was sent across by a barge, the truck driven empty on the bridge, we walking behind it. On the other side, an elephant was standing, the mahout sitting on his neck, both looking totally disinterested. I do not recall much of the journey, but late in the evening we arrived in Kanpur, teeming with people and mill sirens.

My impression of Kanpur is what a European's first impression of Bombay would be: crowds upong crowds upon crowds.

That night I got another lift, from Kanpur to Benares, along the Grand Trunk Road (Kim's road). This time there were others taking lifts in the truck. The truck was overloaded and we travelled on the top of the loads. I instructed not to sit up as there was canger of my head being chopped off by overhanging branches of trees along the highway.

So I lay down, one arm passed through a rope, an occasional branch of a tree brushing against me, though very gently. It was January and Noerth India can be and was extremely cold. There was another young man, lying next to me, and the truck-driver suggested, to keep out the cold, that we should embrace each other tightly and sleep. I did nothing of the sort.

 
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