Generally, there are two official methods of driving, the British way (on the right side of the road) and the other way (on the left side of the road). India, in its innovative glory, has discovered a third method: the middle way.
Prakash, who celebrated his 26th birthday yesterday, took me to his village about 12 km away from Rishikesh after we ate lunch, so he could pick up a letter from the village head enabling him to get a passport. He is a very good driver, so even though nearly all other vehicles on the road tend to straddle the divider lane rather than choosing a side, I feel safe with him. We left the bustle of the city and its roadside vendors, and found ourselves in the trees, on dirt paths, and soon enough, in his village, where Prakash was treated somewhat like a celebrity, with people waving from each side of the road, some stopping to talk to us.
Earlier in the week, Dani went with Prakash to his village to check out the wood he uses to make didjeridoos, and had told me that his house was little more than a shack. When we arrived, I saw that he hadn't been exaggerating. The house is made of crumbling cement with a thatched roof, and comprises three small bucket rooms swarming with flies, so different from the clean, marble-floored flat in Rishikesh Prakash has been renting for the last half year. It is the house Prakash grew up in, before his mother died of cancer and his father moved to Mussorie to do construction work. The place now belongs to his older brother, his wife and their children, who shyly stared at me, though I wasn't the first traveler to have come visit. The village itself is beautiful, a vibrant green collection of trees and fields, so quiet and peaceful.
We stayed for about half an hour, during which I managed to lose my already beaten sandal in a swampy march, soaking my pants in mud. Well, I wouldn't be a proper foreigner if I hadn't manage to do something embarassing like that, so I consider it a job well done.
I was planning to leave Rishikesh yesterday, but Dani and I decided to continue separately on our ways, so I think I will stay until Sunday, and then head up to Gangrotri with a few friends I've met here. But somewhere up there, down here, and all around, God is laughing at these silly plans of mine, so I'll keep you posted as things change (which they are bound to do).