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Bridges and roots

30 January, 2016

Bridges and roots

The Kashi people, for many years, has patiently guided the aerial roots of the fig trees to make bridges over the river beds, thus connecting one bank to the other.

Using betel nut tree trunks cut in half, the roots of the fig trees are guided across the river, weaving as they go, until they penetrate the opposite river bank completing a new living bridge. This process takes between 15 and 20 years and its finished by filling the gaps between the roots with wood planks and stones to make it safer for people to cross. Some of these bridges have been here for more than 500 years.

I am in the Cherrapunji locality, East of India. The road I’m travelling through with Athena, to the town where the living bridges are, serpents through mountains with cliffs next to it. I imagine some vertiginous and spectacular views, but I find myself in one of the wettest places on earth, where the most annual precipitation happens in the world. Although I am in the dry season, it feels as if someone in heaven forgot to close the tap.

As I park the bike and as I walk through a concrete path that rises and falls like stairs along some 4km in the middle of the jungle, I begin to review the almost 3 months I’ve been in India.

It has been so intense that it feels as if I’ve been here for longer than that. Those who know me, or have heard me speaking about this before, know that this isn’t one of my favourite countries in the world after I worked on the Violence Against Women project. However, I took the opportunity to come and visit some very good friends I have in this country and also give India another chance. There have been some moments when I’ve asked myself why did I return and I have yet to find an answer to such a stupid question.

One of the things that fascinated me the most during my time travelling was to be able to visit less touristic places, being able to see things I didn’t know about. The landscapes in India are spectacular, although I couldn’t see the Himalayan mountain range because the winter was near and the roads were already closed.

The people I’ve found through my journey have been very kind. I’ve also taken part in the national sport, which is not cricket, but to observe the other.

This other that is observed and transforms itself in the local attraction is sometimes me, who ends up posing for photos with strangers who want to take a photo of themselves with the bike. Stopping to do some maintenance, adjust something on the bike or simply drink water and rest is an automatic call so people can slowly approach me and surround me in groups of 20, 30 or sometimes 50. Sometimes they observe me, standing, as they chew betel nuts and with curious eyes they appear to follow my every move leaving me little space to move around.

Unfortunately, there are other things I have seen and which I have yet to get used to, albeit some are not exclusively an Indian thing. Violations to human rights are very visible, although only some people pay importance to that.

To give an example; many places have child labour, whether cleaning or doing other chores. Sometimes you see a kid pushing a carrousel that other kids are riding, or you see children between 6 and 10 years old doing some circus juggling acts that take years to master. India has the infamy of having the largest child labour workforce under the age of 14 in the world at aprox. 12.6 million, according to UNICEF.

There are also the elderly cyclerickshaw riders push passengers and loads while pedalling with nothing more than sandals. They pedal day and night with their skinny, fragile, worn bodies that cycle through cars that don’t respect them. You may also see the hotel employees that sleep on the stairs or in the floor of the reception area and hundreds of people that, literally, sleep on the streets. The latter likely migrated from the country side to the cities attending the call of progress but ended as helpers building a highway or a new building.

I can’t stop wondering why classes, sex, religion or nationalities are so important to define the way we treat each other, when human reasoning should prevail over discrimination and abuse.

Why can’t we not use our knowledge and reasoning to build living bridges to educate children in respect, so we can get along with other cultures? That way we may amend the cracks that separate us and makes us self-destruct.

 

 

 

 

  1. Josh says:

    ” I can’t stop wondering why classes, sex, religion or nationalities are so important to define the way we treat each other, when human reasoning should prevail over discrimination and abuse.”

    This is the first blog i read from your website. I am awed with how deep your reflection is.

    The above i quoted struck me the most. This is also my personal reflection. Coming also from the 3rd world country, i witnessed this. I am fortunate to have the best education, status and versatility. But my exposure with my NGO work taught me to work well on this. There are still so much to do and i am glad that your photography have spoken about this.

    May you continue to express your advocacy in every photo you are capturing.

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