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Introduction

May 2014.

I've bought a campervan as a 60th birthday present to myself, made some curtains and a patchwork quilt, waved goodbye to my family, and set off. My aim is to explore the coastline of Britain, anti clockwise, starting in Kent. I have no idea what will happen.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Journey to Faith


I am staying while in Jaipur with Smriti who runs Faith, the children’s home
where I am volunteering. She lives at Jagatpura which is on the road to
Agra, and her husband, daughter Ambica, 20, and foster-daughter, Krishnangi
who is 12. The journey to the children’s home with Smriti takes only about
10 minutes by car, but for a week Krishnangi and I have been going in
together a bit earlier than usual because the children have had computer
class. We go on a bus every day to a technical college where some students
volunteered to help the children.
Krishnangi bangs on my door at 7.30 to make sure I am ready and I assure her
we don’t need to leave until 8, when I have had my breakfast – tea, a mango
and a small banana. (It’s a mistake to have a heavy breakfast, autos don’t
have much suspension.)
We collect water from the fridge and walk for 10 minutes up to the main road
and along to where the autos wait, under the flyover.  The road is quite
busy and runs alongside a railway line. We pass a man repairing  tyres, a
few shacks selling things, a tethered camel, a stone works, and a water
hydrant where the tractors towing water tanks fill up. It’s a walk of about
1+k. Buses park up under the flyover, there’s a rusty wrecked van where
people congregate and drink *chai*, a vegetable stall and half a dozen autos
waiting for a fare. A few days ago we got a ride with a nice smiling man who
started the auto from the back with a rope like a mowing machine, and now he
waits every morning with his rope, ready to go.  It’s 50rps to the
children’s home because Krishnangi negotiated the fare and she is dark, when
it’s just me I pay a bit more.
I am pretty clear on the route to the children’s home now – I think – but
not so confident getting back from other parts of Jaipur. There are no
street signs that I can fathom, or road markings and I navigate mainly by
the huge advertisements for education that are painted on to walls, the
sides of buildings, the sides of flyovers - with their telephone numbers and
websites. ‘PHYSICS’ black on yellow is where we drop down to the flyover on
the way home and I know I am almost there.
In the morning we pass MATHS MANTRA, GOLDEN ERA ACADEMY. MODELLING
ACADEMY, ACCOUNTANCY. LITTLE KINGDOM, WINNERS ACADEMY, TINY TOTS, PATHAK’S MATHEMATICS ACADEMY, TUITO INTERNATIONAL. (I saw one saying ENGLISH TUTION (sic), ALL CLASSES.) Our driver is busy negotiating the
traffic, women sweeping the roads and camels towing building materials,
guiding the auto around potholes big enough to bury a cow in, sleeping
policemen, and piles of rubble.
Soon we are approaching sector 6 Malviya Nager where the children’s home is
- we are on a big dual carriageway and I can see the big glass mirrored Gold
Souk coming up on the left which means we will sneak through the central
reservation and nip over to the inside of the oncoming traffic for the last
100m. Then, level with the Gold Souk, we turn in (ANOOP’S CHEMISTRY and
HOTEL DART), immediately right again, go left and take the second right.
We’re there.
 Education is prized above most things. Sonu, another friendly auto driver
(who speaks good English), says ‘No college, no knowledge. Lovely jubbly!’ I
am not sure what the standard of basic education is like – I would guess not
great, though the children at the home, the ones who read with me, seem
pretty good. Like most things, it’s a question of who gets it.
An American wrote to some friends  trying to describe living in the world’s
largest democracy – of it’s sheer enormity, the haves and the have nots, and
the contrasts in India. If you look at the top 300million people here
(roughly equivalent to the US population) wealth is distributed fairly
similarly to wealth in America. The trouble is that in India, under that
bar, there are 900million more people... It’s a staggering thought.



1 comment:

Sylvia said...

Go Gel. I love your blogs - really immediate and lively. Keep them coming please - I look out for them. Glad it is being so interesting. There is something extraordinary about the country and the people that - and I am hardly an expert - is so different, and speaks of ancientness.