Hey my name is Murad, I’m 20 years old, and a recent high school graduate who wasn’t really sure what to do after graduating. So I decided to spend 5 months travelling all over India and Nepal. I travelled with a group called Spicyroad, a volunteer group who go hitchhiking across Europe, India (where I joined them), Nepal and South East Asia.
I’ve been living in Bangalore for the last 6 years. I’ve travelled around India in those years and I thought I’d seen all that India had to offer (ignorant I know). So not only was my whole perception of India flipped upside down, but through hitchhiking I felt like I experienced even more than if I had just travelled normally.
Hitchhiking for those who aren’t familiar with the term is basically standing on the side of the road with your thumb out, hoping someone heading in the same direction as you stops and offers you a ride. Or as I like to see it ‘travelling on the generosity of others’. Now I can already hear some of you – “but that’s dangerous”, “someone could hurt you” – and I can’t argue with that – I did get kidnapped once from Hampi to Solapur! But that’s a story for another time, and it has a happy ending so don’t worry. But that was the only ‘incident’ I experienced throughout my whole journey, nothing but rainbows and sunshine from then on out … okay I also got into a bike crash in Hampi … and a car crash on the side of a mountain in Nepal. But really HITCHHIKING IS GREAT!
Up until now I think I’ve done a pretty terrible job of trying to sell you the idea of hitchhiking so let me tell you about one of my fondest memories. It also happens to be one of my first times hitchhiking. The Spicyroad crew was a fairly big group of 11 people, so the chances of a vehicle big enough to take us all was pretty slim. To avoid this problem we’d split into groups of 2 or 3 and we always tried to have one male in the group because, well… safety! Our first journey was leaving Bangalore and making our way to Tiruvannamalai because we heard that it has some pretty amazing temples (and it did!).
I was travelling with two of my friends, a Korean and a German, and getting out of Bangalore was fairly easy. We stopped a pick up truck and he offered us a ride. We had to get off somewhere along the way since he wasn’t heading all the way to our desired destination. We spent the next 15-20 minutes on the side of a highway trying to hitch another ride, while locals kept asking us why we didn’t just take the bus. Hitchhiking is a strange concept in India, so be prepared for large groups of locals huddling up and just staring at you. Eventually one of our groups from SpicyRoad caught up with us. They had managed to get a lorry that was going all the way to Tiruvannamalai (awesome!). So the 6 of us then made ourselves at home on a seat that was meant for 3 people.
Now at this point you’re probably wondering “why would this be one of your fondest memories”. Well it’s because of our driver, Pavin Kumar. Now this guy did not speak a lick of English and none of us spoke Hindi (I can talk to cab drivers but that’s about it). We pretty much spent the entire journey struggling to understand each other through broken language (English and Hindi) and hand gestures. We spent hours just laughing trying our best to form some semblance of a conversation.
The one moment that went on to become one of my fondest memories happened when we arrived at Tiruvannamalai. We didn’t have a place to stay and guest houses were a bit too expensive. We struggled with our earlier mentioned language barriers to ask Pavin if he knew a place where we could stay. He looked at us, smiled, and said “come to my home”. And we did just that. Upon reaching his home we met his family, his parents, his wife, and his kid. Now Pavin is a truck driver, he lives in a small two-bedroom, dimly lit house with 4 other people. And yet when he saw that we needed help, he didn’t hesitate to take us in, making sure we were well fed, comfortable, offering us pillows and blankets. I never thought that on my first night of hitchhiking, I’d be spending it on a stranger’s floor and yet have it feel like home.
That’s about everything that happened on my first day of hitchhiking. I’ll see you guys next time where I continue my journey from Tiruvannamalai.