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Notes on the Geography of India Themes: Roads, Navigation Canals, Railroads, Telephones

A gallery of Indian transport and communications, as it was in the 1980s.

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India Themes: Roads, Navigation Canals, Railroads, Telephones picture 1

"Caution. During rains do not use katcha tracks." Translation: stay off unpaved roads during the monsoon. This particular sign, passed during a shower, was west of Delhi, along the paved road to Hissar.

India Themes: Roads, Navigation Canals, Railroads, Telephones picture 2

Kipling's Kim walked.  Millions continue to do so.  This pedestrian had just crossed the Yamuna River at Etawah, downstream from Agra. The river was black from Delhi's and Agra's sewage.

India Themes: Roads, Navigation Canals, Railroads, Telephones picture 3

Unbaled cotton carried in hand-made carts at Adoni, near Kurnool, in 1981.

 

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Carts moved slowly but steadily, round the clock and at night with dozing carters.

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Despite trucks and buses, which storm past with horns blasting, there's always room for muscle power.

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A British roadsign, corrected from miles to kilometers.

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A typical British-built highway, not as broad as some but certainly better than many. This is from the Gurgaon District, just south of Delhi.

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Hundreds of miles to the south, a highway leads from Madras to Kodaikanal.

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An early tunnel, built mid-19th century by Sir Bartle Frere, then British resident of the small princely state of Satara. Frere went on to grander things and is represented by a fine statue along the Strand in London.

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Upgrade: the national highway from Delhi to Haridwar as it was in 2006; the endlessly repetitive signs advertise cell phones with the motto, "Express Yourself."

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Roadside restaurant and gas station: a long way from the traditional dhaba.

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The ancient companions, dust and mud, are never far away.

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For a time after the arrival of the British, it seemed as though rivers might prove a serious rival to land transport.

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The chief canal proponent (read: zealot) was Sir Arthur Cotton, who did much to develop the deltas of the Krishna and Godavary rivers. The deltas are still busy with craft like this one, laden with sand.

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Heavily laden.

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There's a lot of such traffic, despite the existence of good roads.

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The canals are fitted with locks.

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Unlike similar locks in England, which have been given over to holiday craft, these locks are still very much in use by freight boats.

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Despite their prominence in the deltas of the Krishna and Godavary, navigation canals never spread far in India, perhaps because they never got a headstart on railways, which blanketed the country before the British left. Here, west of Agra, a steam engine roars down from near Fatehpur Sikri. Such engines have been nearly completely replaced by diesels.

India Themes: Roads, Navigation Canals, Railroads, Telephones picture 20

On heavily travelled lines, electric locomotives are also used.

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"Hello?" "Hello?" Telephones for decades were a chief cause of hysteria among foreigners living in India. This was the main telephone exchange at Shorapur, west of Hyderabad, early in the 1990s. "I can't hear you." "Hello." "What?"  Twenty years later, the system is vastly improved, chiefly with hundreds of millions of mobile phones.


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