A busy village street in India, the state of Karnataka, in the Sanapur village.
The village is near Hampi, a pilgrimage destination since time immemorial, presently a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The river Tungabhadra flows through Hampi, and it must be crossed in a small vessel to get to Sanapur directly from Hampi. Cars can certainly cross over bridges, but regardless of the direction in which you follow the river, it means driving an extra 40 kilometres, give or take. Attempts have been made to construct a bridge crossing the river at Hampi, but the latest one collapsed in the final stages of construction in 2009. The road that follows the river runs through the middle of the village, and a deafening and dangerous stream of traffic bursts through the habitation: busses, trucks, SUVs, tractors, microcars, and all manner of smaller vehicles.
I sit in the village café, drinking a glass of tea. I seated myself there when some village men on a break signalled to an empty chair and called out for tea from the kitchen. With the lens of my camera extended slightly more than usual, I can safely capture the events of the road while enjoying the cloying milk tea.
The SUVs drive at dizzying speeds. They may possibly also be the safest vehicles, at least for those who travel inside the heavy cars with their sturdy bumpers. I skimmed statistics which revealed that in India, vehicle drivers comprise only approximately 17 % of traffic casualties, whereas over 60 % of those who perish in crashes in Finland are drivers. Certainly the number of people per vehicle explains this, as even in this picture there are five people in the other vehicle, and three or four front seat passengers are discernible in the SUV – to say nothing of the others in the back seats. In Finland it is quite usual to drive alone. There are also a couple of two-wheeled motor vehicles in the picture. The other is being driven by a white-gowned man with good posture, who is by himself. The farther biker has at least one passenger – possibly another, though only a white-clad knee is visible.
A horn blares, and dust rises from the narrow gravel road, coating the throat and crunching between teeth. You can sense from the image that the SUV’s driver is steering with one relaxed hand – the other stylishly halfway out the side window. The tractor’s male driver has a hand firmly on the wheel, the other may be on the gearstick, seeking a gear better suited for the situation. It would appear that riding next to him, on top of the fender, is his wife, and there are three daughters in the trailer. The lady has a flower-patterned, studded shoulder bag in her lap. One of the girls in the trailer could have spotted something which the others may not have noticed yet. She’s pointing forward with her hand, possibly shouting something. The second daughter peers in the same direction, but the third is heavily veiled, seated facing backwards – though also almost out of sight behind the support beam of the driver’s canopy. It’s impossible to deduce anything from the expressions of the front passengers because their faces are obscured by the tractor’s exhaust pipe, jutting upwards from the engine, and a decorative tassel. The outermost passenger of the SUV is looking directly to the side: perhaps right at the gesturing girl.
Naturally, cows usually always meander along the village road. They are politely shooed farther from the fore of the houses and the storefronts, but otherwise they may move at their own pace in relative peace. This time, the shot did not chance upon any self-assured and dignified cows. One dog lies right by the side of the road, appearing to pay no heed to the car rushing by.
The tractor is decorated with fabrics, chains, decorative writing, tassels, and flowers. Floral wreaths are very common decorations for cars, too. It is often acquired fresh in the morning, and it protects the travellers from accidents. In addition, the dashboards of vehicles are often equipped with religious symbols. Usually at least Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist symbols, just in case. With close examination, a seashell on a string can be seen dangling from the front bumper of both vehicles. The row of chains suspended from the front bumper of the tractor and grazing the ground might in turn be some kind of physical barrier or remover of obstacles. Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of style. The chains swing to and fro, and right at the instant of the shot they have swung towards the side of the road. It would seem to indicate that the tractor has swerved towards the side of the road, and the ends of the chains swing a moment longer.
The tractor is red. If we have a red car or tractor here in Europe, it is usually a distinctly bright and pure red. In India, colours are somehow different – often muted, yet powerful. This tractor is the colour of lingonberry porridge. The base colour has been decorated with a few yellow stripes. The driver’s canopy is likely an additional accessory, and its blue colour is the closest to the cross on the old Finnish flag – pale and muted blue. To match the body, the canopy is adorned with a short, pleated pink curtain that wraps around its edge. To help perceive the dimensions of the tractor’s front part, metal pipes have been installed and painted in the colours of the Indian flag: green, white, and orange. The pipes have been welded to the accessory bumper, and the aforementioned yellow chains also dangle from it. The colour of the accessory bumper is not quite the same as that of the tractor itself, but so close that it appears to be intended to match. The garment of the veiled middle daughter is colour-coordinated with the tractor, but that is probably coincidental. Colours are definitely put to use in India – the cool, Nordic monotone style is a far cry from it. Indeed, the tractor is further decorated with multi-coloured strips of fabric.
The SUV is silver, and likely quite new. They may not yet have had the heart or the time to decorate the modern car very much. The bull bar does have stylish light blue, green, yellow, orange and red stripes, though. About half of the windshield – one fourth of the top and one fourth of the bottom – is covered by wraps. The wraps are green, I’d say it’s closest to “green scrubs”, colour code #4F8E83, or ”MediumAquaMarine”, #66CDAA. Of course, the names and codes of the colours don’t tell much, and describing colours is extremely difficult. When describing to the sighted, it often helps to compare to something else tangible that retains the same colour: berry porridge, rust, lime, salmon, etc. But what is electric blue like? I became interested in the previously mentioned “lingonberry porridge red” and searched for that too: indianred3, Indian red, #CD5C5C. What a nice surprise that name was! Colours look very distinct on different surfaces. This time, the Indian red in my picture is in the form of a shiny sheet metal surface. I ultimately dove quite deep into the colours of India. They must be revisited in future descriptions.
Yes, and the ends of the wrap on the top half of the SUV’s windshield are red, ending with flame designs that meld into the green base. There is an oil lamp symbol on the red base at both ends. Without those red eyebrows, the car’s visage would be quite colourless.
There are streetlights by the road, at least in the village. In the background, a concrete lamp-post can be seen. In addition to a lamp, a jumbled mess of electrical cables – typical of India – hangs suspended from it. It is like a tangle, and it’s difficult to discern where the electricity is going. In damp weather, the posts buzz and the lights blink. In small, rural villages, brief power outages are still common nightly occurrences.
There is an enormous bundle of goods on the roof of the SUV. The load is wrapped in and assembled with worn tarps, and tied to the roof-rack with rope. The contents are presumably fabric goods; could this be the collection of some clothing shop on its way to the market? The clothes are spread out every day to be peddled, and the unsold wares are gathered away as night falls. From time to time, far more outrageous transports travel the village roads. Unbelievably amounts of things other than people can be loaded on the back of a moped, a handcart, or the trailer of a tractor.
Oh, of course. India has left-hand traffic, so the SUV is dashing towards the viewer on the left side of the picture, and the one being overtaken is on the right, relative to the viewer. The photo is framed so that together, the vehicles fill three fourths of the picture’s width. The dog fits right at the edge of the picture by the cars, the bikers are at the back in the left upper corner, the lamp-post at the top in the centre. There is empty road in the foreground – as much as fits in the picture.