Sunday, December 30, 2007

Dec 29: Nalanda(part 1 of 2)

The plan for today presented itself very easily. One look at the map
and I knew I could go no farther than Rajgir, about 90km away. The
road to take was also fixed, given yesterday's experience. I reckoned
I could see Nalanda on the way.

I sticked to the plan, with one difference: I drove very very slow. I
was feeling tired somewhat but not ill. Felt very thirsty for no
particular reason. All good reasons to slow down and take it easy!

All around me were paddy/mustard fields as far as the eye could see -
completely plain area. School classes were being held in the open air,
but students had benches to sit and tables. The highway was flanked by
houses on either side, almost making the highway seem like a street.
After yesterday's experience, I was playing safe. I didn't take out my
camera. My GPS reciever was faithfully recording the track, while
sitting inside the comforts of my gadget bag. I asked people at a
place I stopped, 'what does Bihar mean'. Pat came many answers.
Poverty and unemployment, said one. Floods said another. For the next
10 minutes, I heard tales of woe - right from how the flood destroys
standing crops to how locals don't get employment at factories due to
lack of education.

There is one benefit of talking to people - you worry about the thieves less!

40km or so down the road, NH31 turns left at Bakhtiyarpur(it's close
to noon by this time, that's how slow I had been riding). And so do I.
Next 30kms to Bihar Sharif I ride at the rate of 20km/hr. Lunch
happens at Nalanda, 10km further ahead.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with breakfast in Bihar. Many places you get
this ball like thing called 'litti'. It's crushed and eaten with
aloo-cholay. I don't like this at all - and imagine eating the same
thing for lunch. But no other options available, other than sweets!

The security staff at the entrance to the ruins of the Nalanda
university are very helpful. One of the security guards asks a shop
owner to keep an eye on my bike and lets me in without a ticket.

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