Not much countryside really looks like a patchwork quilt from the air, but Maharashtra does. Small green, gold and brown fields are occasionally dotted with dark perfectly round trees, regularly arranged like a printed pattern. Dirt tracks and roads of a pinkish brown colour blur into the surroundings. When you land at Aurangabad you can really tell that you have come to provincial India. The tiny airport has a nice garden, a single runway (a bit bigger than the garden) and a baggage conveyor so old and small that you really might as well pick up your bags directly as they come off the plane. Still the formalities must be observed, especially in India. We were taken to our hotel by a genuine Indian Ambassador instead of the posh modern cars they have in Delhi and Katmandu. Our hotel, like the car, was old-fashioned in a pleasant kind of way. It had beautiful gardens, a spacious restaurant and public area and clean rooms but the ensemble was reminiscent of one of the very earliest Bond movies and some of it could do with a lick of paint.

From the air we had not been able to see any villages and the next day I discovered why. Most of the newer homes these days are little box-shaped houses built of bricks and they are almost always sheltered by trees. They are often very brightly painted but unfortunately the paint is usually very dirty. This might not be because it is particularly old, the mud and damp of the Monsoon and dryness and dust of the Indian summer can apparently finish off most paint within a year. A few houses are built in an older style, these have a low stone wall with a single opening and a tall sloping thatch roof that reaches almost to the ground. They blend in perfectly with their surroundings but I'm sure that they're considered quite low class by the locals, who probably can't wait to move into the newer but uglier buildings just as soon as they can afford to do so. In either type of house the animals are sheltered under low tents made of thatched grass or more probably sugar cane leaves, and the people have often built themselves an outdoor front room area, walled and roofed with woven plant materials. People usually have only one room indoors, but in any case most of their activities seem to take place in the outdoor room. The only large buildings you ever see in the villages are temples or mosques, some of which are extremely impressive. You also see a lot of smaller Hindu shrines. Lower down the housing scale are the tiny tents of the sugar cane workers, who travel from field to field during harvest time. These look just like the smallest kind of western bivouac tents except that they are made from thatched sugar cane leaves. The sugar cane workers live in these temporary settlements for the four months of the harvest, before returning to their villages. We also saw tents belonging to nomadic peoples, of similar size and shape but this time made from modern waste: plastic, old bits of tarpaulin and fabric. These people, we were told, travel around taking what work they can, often road-building, and these are the only homes they have

We had a lot of opportunity to observe road-building during our travels though not many opportunities to experience fully built roads. The work is very hard and damaging to the worker's health. The task of beating large stones down into smaller ones with a mallet is usually carried out by women. It produces a lot of dust which is very bad for the lungs. The different sizes of stone are then laid on the road and a very thin layer of tar is trickled over them to keep them in place. A task usually carried out by men is the digging of trenches for underground telephone cables. Everywhere we went in India we saw miles of empty trenches along the roads which we were told were for this purpose. These are dug with pick axes and spades, but as a matter of fact I only once saw some men working on them.

Maharashtra is a fairly dry area, as in California the hills only turn green for a very small part of the year and that wasn't when we where there. Nevertheless the land must be quite fertile because many kinds of crops are grown and there seems to be enough water, at least in winter. When we visited the sugar cane and cotton were being harvested, and we constantly passed carts, usually drawn by bullocks with brightly painted horns. We were told that they are painted at an annual festival to celebrate their marriage to the yoke. In the morning the carts were mostly empty, but in the afternoon they were loaded with mounds of cotton or stacks of sugar cane. Sometimes the women and children of the family were perched on top of this huge pile as well. The working women in this region often wear their saris in a style called Kaccha which is more practical for movement. The sari is pulled between the legs to make something like a pair of trousers or shorts depending on how high it is pulled. Most of the carts are heading for one of the government weighing stations of which we passed several - here the farmers bring their harvest to be weighed and receive a fixed payment from the government. The cotton in the weighing areas forms huge white mountains. It looks like a cross between a quarry and a salt mountain.

Horsemen mural (Jaipur)

I thought Aurangabad would be a nice little city of just about the right size to explore on foot. Actually you don't wander around Indian cities on foot if you value your life, limbs or lungs, at least not in your first week, but Aurangabad is still a nice little city. It seems to have a ridiculous number of gates both old and new as well as the ruins of an old wall. As you drive around you keep passing through gates of various styles and the result is that you never really know if you are inside or outside. As far as sights are concerned, people come to Aurangabad because it is the nearest large town to Ajanta and Ellora, but it has a few things of its own and it mainly comes across historically as being a city of declines and downfalls. The Aurangabad caves demonstrate how Hinduism gradually displaced Buddhism in India in the carved scene where Ganesh has taken the central position, with the Buddha off to one side worshipping him. The Bibi Ki Maqbara tomb was built in the last days of the Mughal empire and though modelled on the Taj Mahal, is smaller, cheaper and covered with stucco instead of marble inlay. The town is very pretty in a brightly colourful sort of way. Magenta and scarlet flowering trees are everywhere. The tiny buildings are painted in every available colour, some fresh, some dirty. The space is tightly divided between the various occupants and each one has chosen his own colour randomly, with psychedelic results. At irregular intervals, the colours break down into dust, ruin and raw concrete. The cacophony of people, horns, motors, animals and blaring music is in perfect accordance with the visual scene.

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