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   In my youth, I went on several cross-country tours... (December 13, 1991)

In my youth, I went on several cross-country tours, though not to spread either Hindutva or ekta.

Once I bought a circular ticket and went around South India. I got into an unreserved compartment of the Madras Mail and travelled most of the night, standing on one leg, since that was all the space I could manage for myself, to Kurundwad. Sometime in the latter half of the night and towards dawn, ticket inspectors boarded the compartment and arrested three-quarters of the passengers for ticketless travel. The rest of the journey I did standing on both legs.

At Kurundwad, I boarded a meter guage and proceeded to Padharpur, temple town. Hindu temples are architectural gems, but Pandharpur is not one of them. They are also magnificently located, on mountain peaks and reiver banks, but the river here was dry and dirty. I spent the day both marvelling and envying the faith of the poor who had come from all parts of the state and beyond for a darshan.

Before leaving Maharastra, I spent a morning in Sholapur, a town spread out in a dust-bowl with time calculated wit the sound of the sirens in scores of textile mills as the work shifts changed.

Then, after a detour to Hyderabad, which along with Lucknow is one of the two great centres of Muslim food in the world, I moved on to Renigunta and then a meter guage to Tirupati. Another temple town, but richer and better laid out, and an organisation of transport and accommodation that would shame TCI. There was a parade of people going up on the hill with a full head of hair, coming down with heads shaved.

Madras was a few hours away, no, contrary to what I had been told, the porters at Madras Central did not speak English. They did not even speak, Tamil, they spoke Hindi. Not that I needed porters, I was carrying nothing beyond the clothes that I was wearing and my railway circular ticket. Plus, my hair, of course, I did not have it shaved at Tirupati. They say that the hair, especially the long glossy hair of South Indian women, are exported to America, where they are converted into wigs. Indians visiting America buy the wigs and bring them back to India. Eventually, the middle man makes money (in this case the American), and I do not know if God is appeased.

Madras is a city with a lot of character, unlike Banglore, which tires to imitate Bombay and miserably fails in doing so.

It was almost a month before I reached Banglore, after travelling through the deep South, down to Rameshwaram, then along the Kerala coast. At the end of the Kerala coast. At the end of it, I do not know if I converted a single person to the ekta concept, as conceived by the BJP. Except myself, I felt much more an Indian after that tour, at least for one full week.

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