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The risks are not those we are told about: no tiger will devour us and it is unlikely that we will be speared by a savage. A “savage” who, by the way, no longer uses a spear, but a “Kalashnikov”, a much cleaner and safer method of killing, something else that the consumer society has brought with it.
Sometimes the risks come from drinking tea in cups of dubious aspect - to put it elegantly- and of a disquieting color. At other times they come from getting “Holy Water” from the Ganges in the face. But most times, they come from using rusty taxis that have never had a technical inspection as transportation.
On this trip I was lucky: I wasn't required to ingest “Prasat” (the sweet food that you get at the temples as the highest blessing of all), nor to share my plate with the workers at the salt mines (it is interesting to see the level of hygiene of crockery at some places in this part of the world).
I have decided to draw up a list of potential risk factors for travelers/photographers, all of them undoubtedly of great interest to insurance companies. Their order does not imply a risk hierarchy...
The Rickshaw. - This vehicle is the ultimate green means of transportation. A human-powered buggy pulled by a bicycle, its fuel a mixture of sweat, effort and hunger. The only one, by the way, in which I've had an accident up to now with some small consequences. Non-polluting, cost-effective. Its low speed always causes minor injuries when colliding with another one. The risk is the wound that contact with any part of the vehicle may cause, because it is always perfectly rusty and soiled.
I've seen them in Cuba and throughout Asia. None leaves me indifferent, but I have to recognize that those in Varanasi call up more tenderness and sadness, when from time to time you get the same driver. I always give them preference over anything else. These are the people who need to work more than everybody else, the weakest, the most hardworking.
An American customer - now friend - of Nomad Expeditions commented a few weeks ago, in Varanasi: “I wonder where they get the strength to bear this burden from, in this sun, day after day.”
I immediately cleared up her doubt: “It's simple”, I said. “The motivation is of devastating effectiveness: if they don't work today they don't eat tomorrow. You can't even imagine how the fear of hunger can motivate you...”
The Tuc-Tuc. - This is the perfect combination of modernity and classicism. A tricycle powered by a motorbike engine. A sophisticated exhaust gas production machine. Superbly toxic.
An unstable, fast vehicle, studded with metallic elements, protuberances, plastics. The cabin is any orthopedic surgeon's dream... to be sure to get patients. The most relevant and effective security feature is offered by various statues of Krishna, Ganesha and other charms hanging from the rear view mirror or glued onto the plastic windshield. The more cautious add the occasional picture of Shiva who, as everyone knows, is extraordinarily efficient dodging traffic objects together with his wife Parvati.
To be continued...