Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Theory of Ambient Pace

How is it that I can spend three hours sitting waiting for a train (I knew I'd be waiting, wanted to get there before the main heat of the day) and four-and-a-half hours sitting on my pack in said train and still have a pleasant day? How come I can happily meander along Indian roads on a sit-up-and-beg bicycle when back home I find cycling frustrating because it seems to take so long to get anywhere? Why do I find myself happy to just saunter and relax over here when people in England know me for always dashing around?

It all comes down to Ambient Pace. If the traffic trundles along relatively slowly, if the trains take their time to get there, if other cyclists aren't in a hurry either, if everyone, in fact, seems to have time to spare, it can't help but rub off. Plus, of course, the rising temperatures might just have a little to do with it!

Today was a good example to making the trip the trip: as they say, better to travel hopefully than to arrive. I set out by bus before 9 (as I said, to avoid the worst of the midday sun) so I was at the station (an hour from Mamallapuram) three plus hours early - but no matter! The platforms had a nice open view over a lake and some small hills and I read a bit, snacked a bit, looked around and slowed down (further) . Then, when the train did arrive, I just had a gentle days' travelling, with good views all the way: even having to sit on my pack instead of a seat was no hassle. The views were largely agricultural - rice culture with its range of green shades from the bright lime green of the seed beds right through to the green-brown of the nearly ripe paddy (plus the bright primary-coloured clothes of the workers bent over planting seedlings) - and then sugar cane. We did pass a couple of immense sugar cane processing factories and the smell beat Ipswich's beet sugar factory (when it was operating) by a wide mark.

Plenty of bird life too: I'm not hard to please, really - give me a couple of views of my favourite bird, the turquoise-blue Indian Roller, in flight and I'm happy. Throw in a bee-eater and a couple of local kingfishers and I'm ecstatic!

A minor lesson from today may be that if a train trip is a shortish day-time run then reservations really are an optional extra. A more important lesson is to try to disprove the Theory of Ambient Pace back home by taking my time whatever speed the world around is moving at. Hmm, some challenge!


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