I have only been in India for 36 hours and it already feels like I have been here for months.
Vani and Ashok are extraordinary people – I would love to get Vani and my sister Di together, the connection would be instant. I contacted Vani through Couch Surfing and have to admit that right up to the moment she gave me her address I wasn’t confident this was going to happen. She messaged me and advised that there was a bunch of kids in the house and Vani was right, but this is a wonderful story.
The photo is after we came back from an incredible dinner at a Dosa house at about 10PM last night…they tend to eat pretty late here. The photo is great, but moments before we had all dissolved in fits of laughter. I set up my camera on the back of a nearby car with a 10 second timer and it was counting down. You couldn’t plan it better, just at flash moment, guess what happened.
See us in the background? :o)
Vani is a teacher at a college that does an engineering preparation course. She has this bunch of students, but I have to use the term loosely. These young men, around 17 years old, are more like family, I have never quite seen anything like it. They are absolutely welcome in Vani and Ashok’s home and they act like they live here.
The boys like to hang around me and when we went out to dinner there were too many people for the car, so I was invited to go on the back of a motor-bike. I was tired and didn’t quite think the implications through:
- This is a motorbike
- I am in India
- No one wears a helmet
- No one takes any traffic “rule” seriously
- I have zero idea of the skill level of the 17 year old driver (though he is still alive so that must count for something)
- My travel insurance likely doesn’t cover riding pillion on a motorbike
It was about a 15 minute ride and I can honestly say that I was only terrified for about 14:30 of it. About half way there, as we came way too close to yet another vehicle I thought to myself “what the fuck were you thinking?”.
At one point Vishwanath seemed to think I would like the exhilaration of riding fast. Since I was behind him he obviously couldn’t see the whites of my eyes dominating the night sky. But by embedding my fingernails in his ribs I made it clear that riding slow is bad enough, riding fast was simply nuts and he got the message. Then he made a left turn into a busy road and at no time did he look to see if there was any traffic coming, I imagined waking up in an Indian hospital. But we did make it in one piece and on the way back it was in the car for me – I have done it once, that is plenty thanks.
Somewhere along the line Vani has adopted an orphanage to support and has encouraged her students to get involved in doing community work. So when I arrived at the house all these young men we making and decorating statues of Ganesh to sell at a Sunday organic market for Ganesh Chaturthi.
This is one of those rare treats in the life of a traveller. To be directly involved with the locals, get to know a few people and hang out. But there is a down-side to it as well. I am being so well taken care of that it is like I haven’t quite been thrown into the deep end of India yet. But I am certainly a bit more prepared, trying to learn a few basic Hindi words and making sure that any cultural gaffs are pointed out.
As always it is the kids. Here’s a couple of kids from the orphanage, apparently their parents have either died from AIDS or are in prison for some reason. Maybe when I get home we can do something to support them.
They started off pretty shy, but some magic tricks, a few nursery rhymes on the ukulele and I ended up king of the kids. This little one below was the daughter of one of the other stall holders and quite bold. She wanted to be in a photo :o)
As well as our Ganesh idols, there were other delights at this Sunday organic market.
In fact, these are used for cooking stoves or burned to keep insects away…but it certainly isn’t something you see every day at home 😛