Sunday, December 15, 2013

Arriving Home from India in a Snowstorm

We landed back in the U.S. last night--a very smooth landing into Logan despite blowing snow and icy runways. On the descent the captain said another option was to go to Bangor instead, but much to our relief we were able to touch down without problem in Boston. Getting our luggage was another issue as the baggage carousel broke down twice; finally after more than 1 1/2 hours we got our last bag. This after 24 hours of flying and layovers. We took a C&J Trailways bus to Portsmouth. But by then the snowstorm was picking up steam so the bus driver drove carefully and slowly, taking nearly two hours to reach, when it normally takes just over an hour. Then we cleared our car of snow and drove slowly home, reaching a few minutes past midnight.

This morning we woke to 12 inches of snow and cold air
This was a shock to my system after two weeks of fairly constant 80F days while in India. I do wonder sometimes why humans settled in these cold climes when another option was this:
Even with the woodstove cranking, I'm feeling cold. It will take time to adjust back to our weather and climate, the day length, and the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables....

A fruit and vegetable store in Pondicherry, India
After clearing the driveway this morning, we ventured out to pick up Kodi and Henna who spent the past two weeks at a kennel (Saddleback Pet Services in Northwood). The roads were in good condition, although we were glad to be driving the all-wheel drive Subaru Outback, the car that was built for New England winters. The driveway to the kennel was not plowed so we shuffled our way uphill to get them (and flew back downhill with them leading the way on leash). They had a great time at "camp" but we think they were equally happy to see us based on the hugs and kisses and tail wags.

I'm fairly certain Kodi and Henna have no idea how fortunate they are to live here in the U.S. with us. We don't pamper them too much, but compared to the street dogs of India, they live in a palace and are treated like royalty.

There are several things that stand out to me each time I visit India: the pervasive trash, absurd traffic and driving patterns, and the over population of street (and beach) dogs. Free-ranging dogs live on every street corner and stretch of beach in India. They have territories and seem to live in loosely organized packs, nearly all are unfixed, which leads to many litters and millions of dogs. Some efforts are underway in some cities to neuter dogs, but so far it seems like a drop in the bucket.

Many of these free-roaming dogs are friendly, but apparently bites are not uncommon and rabies rates are high. Everywhere we traveled in India we encountered free-roaming dogs, including the beaches on Havelock Island in the Andamans. These dogs trotted out at low tide, maybe eating small crabs and other sea creatures.
A few of the free-roaming beach dogs on Havelock Island
Many of the street dogs roamed in groups and at night, between 1-3 am, there was usually a gathering or a meeting at a street corner--maybe a standoff between two rival dog gangs--that resulted in lots of barking and some howling. On the beach one male tended to follow a female closely, while keeping other males in check. It was heartbreaking to see some of the dogs, especially the mothers with large litters of famished puppies.
A few of the free-roaming dogs in India
I wanted to rescue all of the dogs. Although, some of the dogs looked prosperous. As is the human population in this country of 1+ billion, Indian dogs are entrepreneurial and have a great capacity to endure hardship. The dogs, along with free-roaming cows and goats, feed on the garbage that people toss out in vacant lots, on every sidewalk, and other open spaces. Occasionally disease wipes out chunks of the dog population, only to be re-populated by new litters.

Finding solutions to garbage disposal in India might lead to improvements in other areas including a smaller and healthier dog population and cleaner water and better environmental stewardship. Currently there is not a suitable system for waste collection and disposal and the culture has not nurtured an understanding of good waste management. Littering is commonplace.

If you can take your focus away from the gaunt dogs and pervasive garbage and the life-threatening traffic, you'll find great beauty and diversity in India, be it food, handicrafts, textiles, languages, politics, religion. My eye was drawn to the natural beauty and diversity--the birds, the plants, the habitats.
A common, but beautiful butterfly seen in Pondicherry, India
A fan palm
A strangler fig (right) and a huge tree with buttress roots (left)
that flare out from the base of the tree
I will cling to my images of India for awhile, until I am able to fall in love again with a New England winter.
If the cold temperatures continue for awhile, I will stay focused on that beautiful Beach 3, where I learned to scuba dive and where I could spend days walking the intertidal zone and watching hermit crabs and other sea creatures.


  1. Ellen, all of your reports from your travels in India were information and a pure delight to read, however, this particular report is off the scale in terms of its 'awesomeness'! What a truly splendid summation!

    And just as a footnote, if you are as much of an admirer of New England winters as I am, then it won't take you long to fall in love with it all over again! :-)

    Thank you so very much for sharing this adventure.


  2. Thanks for your kind words John. I still feel planted in two worlds. They are as different as night and day and both intriguing. Today I went for a snowshoe hike through one foot of fresh powdery snow, so New England is pulling be back to the present :-)