“What is this Life if Full of Care? There is No Time To Stand and Stare!”
Thus wrote W.H.Davies, on the importance of a speed- free , leisurely life.
There is an increasing fascination among people all over the World to lead a ‘fast life’, and Speed to their pace of living. Work like machines. What for? For Money, Social Status and all the luxuries that Money can buy. However, in this mad race of ‘getting rich quick’, rising above others, people forfeit the experiences and pleasures of living, not materially but psychologically and spiritually.
In keeping with the urge of the common people for getting work done rapidly, the Governments of all nations also hike up their facilities for commuting to work, and give contracts to manufacturers of super-fast machines at work places for large output within
a short time. It works well from the commercial point of view, as businessmen can mint money like nobody’s business. But having achieved the desired status and the standard of living, and provision for retirement livelihood, a stage comes when one feels weary of the ‘run of the mill’ existence, and wants to slow down, relax, go on sightseeing tours around the world, and also within one’s country to become one with nature and the environment, and know our city or native place thoroughly.
The desire for speed for reaching one’s workplace, or place of deputation in the course of one’s profession is understandable, and the increase of facilities for fast travel, ranging from auto rickshaws, cars and Volvo buses to fast trains and planes is also boosted up. Every day, one hears of more and more superfast trains, and now there is a Proposal for the bullet train in India as in Japan and China. The Tempo of life is thus rising, but do people realise how much crowding of roads is there due to traffic, and air pollution thereby? So much so, that it has become risky for an old or handicapped pedestrian to cross the road.
This hurry makes life difficult and distressing for persons who have reached the end of their active and seek only to retire and relax, spending time with our near and dear ones. At this stage, it is not the superfast train or plane that seems a luxury, but a vehicle which takes one around in a slow, but steady, jerk- free way, that is the one that gives the best joy-ride, in which one can really ‘see’ the place around as well as the way that one passes to go elsewhere.
That is why, I prefer travel by train even if I can afford to go by plane, which just lifts one from one’s native city and after a couple of hours during which you can’t see any land through which one is passing but the clouds, with nobody talking to anyone. This is alright once in a while when one is required to reach some place at the earliest. But I like to commute as often as I can by train, and preferably in non-A.C. compartments so that I can enjoy the landside, especially when I travel from Gujarat to Bombay, and then from Bombay(sorry, Mumbai) by the Konkan Railway upto Udupi or Mangalore of South Kanara, or Kerala.
The Konkan Landscape is a feast to the eyes, as one enters the Konkan Coast from Ratnagiri, and move further into the Coastline. One feels as if one has been transported into Heaven, with the Arabian Sea Coast and rivers everywhere as one reaches the inlands, with lush green fields, tall coconut trees and jackfruit trees too all over the place. (The landscape is also clean and enlivening in Darjeeling, Assam as well as some parts of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh and of course in Kashmir Valley).
At all the stations, you get the various articles of food that the place is famous for, I.e. Idli- Chutney and Medhu-Vada, and to top it, fresh filtered ‘Kappi’! At Ratnagiri, some venders sell the popular ‘Vada-Pav’. (Main Kahti hoon ‘Lao, lao’!). If one goes by the Belgaum-Dharwad route, one gets delicious ‘Kunda’, a local speciality, at Belgaum, and at Dharwad, it’s famous Pedha, so I buy boxes and boxes to take all the stuff for the relatives whom I am going to stay with. Can one get all that on plane journey?
South Karnataka now is quite developed compared to what it was when I visited it the first time after my marriage in 1968. The Udupi Railway station was far from my husband’s relatives’ home, as well as from the bus stop then. So we went home in a CycleRickshaw.
The next day, my husband took me to see the fields. For this, he brought a ‘ Bullock-Cart’, and made me feel as though it was a special ride that I would never get in the city We had a very thrilling and leisurely ride in it around the fields, On the way, he showed me a simple factory where jaggery was being made from sugarcane juice, in large trays over fire struck from wooden logs, and the workers were stirring the juice vigorously with long stirrers. After it was ready, they gave the freshly prepared hot and pure jaggery, which was a new experience for me.
Another day, we had to attend a marriage that was at a village across a river. There was no bridge there, so we went by a Ferry- boat. There were not many auto rickshaws, buses or Cabs there, after getting down from the boat, but there were Horse-carts.
To phir humne socha, “Chalo, yehi sahi! Chalti ka nam gaadi! Koi Jaldi nahi. Tongawala Hame Jahan Jaana Tha, Wahaa Jaldi Pahoonchneke liye Ghodeko Chabuk maarne lagaa. Tab mere husbandne Tangewaleko Kaha ki “Ghodeko mat maro. Hame Koi Jaldi nahi. Usey Aramse Jaane do!” Unhe Jaanwaronse bahut pyar tha,
After that trip, I began to wonder, if only city people also choose to go by such simple though slow means of travel, by horse carts, at least when there is no hurry, there will be reduction of petrol or diesel driven vehicles for transport and the demand for the Petroleum products too will reduce, as well as theTraffic on the roads and Air Pollution! We as children used to go to school in horse carts, which used to be very exciting, instead of in jampacked Autos, and Vans or School bus. My youngest sister used to bicycle to school, as many other students. If this system is restarted, so many accidents of school going children will be avoided. Only, there may be a need for the Municipal Corporations to earmark separate roads for Pedestrians, Bicycles,Cycle rickshaws, Horse Carts i.e.Tongas or the grand Buggy type ‘Victoria’ in Mumbai, [what should they be called now, ‘Vijaya’(Scindia), as per the present trend of replacing the old British and Mogul or Muslim names by Hindu names of Indian leaders?] and for Trams. Wherever possible, the old Tram service may be started, if space can be made available for their tracks on the roads of major cities as in Kolkata, and earlier in Mumbai. It is not known whether it can be done in Delhi-NCR or Bangalore, but perhaps it may be possible in Mysore Mangalore and Coorg, as also in some inland city of Goa, Tamil Nadu and Kerala,
Very recently. an announcement has made by the GOI to start Ferry boat service between Goa and Mumbai. If the first trial is satisfactory, this mode of transport can be installed in a larger capacity as Steamer service along the entire length of both Western and Eastern coasts of India, that is, from the Kandla and Mundra harbours between Kuchh and Saurashtra, along the Arabian Sea coast via Porbandar, Dwarka, Diu, and further down, via Daman and Mumbai to Goa and the whole Western or Konkan coast, upto Mangalore, Cochin or Kochi. Likewise, steamer service can be restarted from Kolkata downwards along the Bay of Bengal coast via Puri Coast, to Vishakhapatnam of Andhra, and thence to Chennai and Rameshwaram, as the people of the coastal regions might have been travelling in the earlier days.
This way, there will be more people who will be willing to keep Horses and Cattle and invest more in Steamer transport service, than they do in the present days of rush.They can get horses for low price if they buy them from people who keep them for races, after the horse becomes old or weak for racing, so that less of them would be sacrificed by their owners for not being useful any more.
The theory of simple options can also be applied to the articles of domestic use, like Solar charged stoves and Ovens to reduce the load of demand on domestic gas, fuel like kerosene and electricity.
This can be brought about if Mankind realises the importance of the slow and steady way of Life of the earlier generation and the part that animals can play in our daily life for the maintenance of the Ecobalance which is necessary for Environmental Hygiene and Public Health, which is of as much value as material Wealth!
This is why I prefer to stay in my compact Vadodara, the Banyan City, modelled by the erstwhile Maharaja Sayaji Rao Gaekwad III who had the foresight and concern to provide all the facilities at arm’s length to retired people without any hassle of catching buses and trains, or time limit – aptly named ‘The Pensioners’ Paradise’, where you do not have to run to catch up with time. Time Waits for You!