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The slow, long road to Orissa through India’s industrial sore

27 October 2010

We had a real good time staying with Stephan & Hema at their Telluris organization and it was great to see the work that they do in the tribal area, not an easy job by all means, and we’re happy we could help with some media tasks. We thank them for hosting us, showing the tribal community, the experience of a tribal wedding and many more things. Also good luck to Dorothee, Pramina, Byetha and Bhendra in their further projects.

Saturday we left Jharkhand and continued on towards the state of Orissa.
Getting from Khunti (near Ranchi) via Jamshedpur to remote Sambalpur in the north-west of Orissa. All in all 400 km’s, which in Indian terms can be either hard or easy. We had around 5 hours to cover just a distance of 130 km’s by bus, enough time one would think. Wrong.

From the first moments of leaving on our way, it already seemed that bad luck was gonna be with us all day long. My stomach was a bit upset all morning, the trunk of Stephan’s van didn’t want to close and a tractor blocked our way in a narrow unpaved road forcing us to turn back and take a detour. We first had to get to Tamar, a small town 45 km’s further on the main road to Jamshedpur. It took us 1h 45mins to get there, don’t ask why. This is just Indian reality; a slowly driving and packed jeep (with people on top of each other and baskets of fresh crops on the roof) that stopped nearly every 100 meters. At least those 45’s km’s were beautiful as we drove past scenic nature in theshape of jungle brush, distant hills scenery and past small villages. The guys of the jeep laughed at my long hair, I laughed at their driving like a granny.

Timewise, we still would be ok if we soon got a bus to Jamshedpur and soon a bus came. Just our bad luck that this big bus was driving slow as well (because of some engine problem) and we should have had the courage to get off while we could and taken a quicker bus. We didn’t, so we arrived in Jamshedpur too late and missed our train. The next train would be in the morning and we had to spend the night in Jamshedpur. This really isn’t a pretty place to be stuck in.

Jamshedpur, or better known as Tatanagar or Steel City, is an industrial city created by the Tata steel tycoon business family (Jamshed Tata being the founder). It’s a miserable, ugly and heavily polluted city where there seem to be more fuming exhaust chimneys than there are temples (and that should say a lot!). Covered by smog and stenching smells, the city crawls along the railway where all the Tata factories a situated (which is why it’s an important transport station). We practically see no one smiling, people seem all obsessed about their money making in this torrid ashen place. Only the children are happy as if nothing is strange to them here. Some kids are playing cricket and badminton on the side of a dirty main road, in between the grease and filth of car repair shops and smoky garages. What great future ahead for these kids, growing up in a place where the rape of mother earth is considered as *global progress*. Next time you hear about the evolving Indian economy, think about places like this which are the hotbed for this economic growth. But at what cost? Money over nature, that is the reality of corruption in Jharkhand which the tribals and low caste people sadly know all too well.

Luckily we found a cheap hotel among all the expensive and luxurious hotels for the many business men that come here. That we put *tourism* as our reason of visit, we showed some humor in a dull log book which otherwise was filled with business and official visits. After a night with lots of mosquito’s and a broken pankha fan (yes, the bad luck was still on), we were happy to leave the city and on to Sambalpur. Even when the train was very full in true Indian fashion, crammed with people as daytime trains get -in true stereotypical image of Indian trains-. Add a long delay of 5 hours in Jharsuguda because of a strike/blocking of tracks and at 22:30 we finally rolled into Sambalpur! It took 1,5 day of traveling to get here, but fully worth it; such friendly people here in this small city. We’re spending a few days here, tasting Sambalpuri music and hoping to record some music with Ganda people. Friday we’re moving southwards for more Sambalpuri and tribal festival spheres.

Some Jamshedpur spheres, because India isn’t always beautiful.

ps; I got some Jharkhandi music mp3’s at a tribal market (of all places), soon I’ll make another folkpop post with some downloads.

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