Are you ready? Are you hanging on the edge of your seat? I thought that I might offer a small word of warning before I start this week’s post as the previous entries seemed to spiral out of control. At some point in the distant future I suspect I shall be able to condense the information relayed into a neat paragraph Bridget Jones stylee (i.e. Approximate number of bugs (to the nearest ten) 160; Instances of needless indian bureaucracy: 13; nonessential purchases due to favourable exchange rate: 19 and so on and so forth)…
But for now dear readers you will have to be content with putting up with my rants. So here goes. *Deep breath* We started this week with a Pune city tour thingy. Not quite off the beaten track I hear you say. Well yeah you would be right in that analysis because I did kinda have that “I’m a really unoriginal tourist” feeling when I did it.
Jenna and I photocopied a bunch of information from Laine, a Canadian girl about a bunch of temples located in the Pune area. I think you can do the route by tour bus but we were feeling stingy which is quite a regular occurence despite everything costing less than 5p so decided to go by rickshaw.
Laine apparently put the cards in the right order so we just motioned to the driver and hoped he wouldn’t take us round the houses. These are the places we visited: Saras Baug (a big park with a temple on a lake in it and a Ganesh (elephant god museum)); Pataleshwar Caves (which is more of a hole/excavation with an entombed Ganesh); Chaturshringi Mandir (Temple cut into a huge hill with lots of steps and statues of Ganesh); Parvati Hill (really steep climb to a temple atop a huge hill featuring pretty courtyards and yep you guessed it several Ganesh idols).
They are big on Ganesh in Maharashtra. Shiva and Hanuman vie for centre stage but it seems Ganesh just steals the limelight mostly. Anyway I won’t go into much detail seeing as after visiting a bunch of temples they all seemed to just merge into one long temple shaped memory. By the time we got to the last one we were like the stereotypical British tourists: sweaty and redfaced. Parvati Hill for any Exetarians/ former Exetarians reading this is like Cardiac Hill the second. We climbed the hill in stages pausing for refreshement in the form of Coca Cola whilst 101 year old women bounded past us with ease.
It was funny because at the top we spotted some grafitti which proudly said ‘I vole you’. Oh dear, poor guy needs to take some English refresher lessons because he won’t woo anyone with sweet nothings like that.
Anyway, in the afternoon we headed over to the Aga Khan Palace and Gandhi Memorial Museum. It was so nice and tranquil and really cool to be walking in Gandhi’s footsteps. Jenna was like, “Wow this is where the film is set…I need to take it in slowly”. Gandhi was imprisoned here for a while in the forties and his wife and secretary (Desai) died here. They charge an extortionate 100 rupees for foreigners (its 5r for Indians and I DIDN”T get a discount for being halfway there) for a museum that looks like its been around since the Jurassic period.
The gardens were really lovely and because it was low season there were few people there. What was really weird though was the small market stall set up near the ashes of Gandhi’s wife and secretary. They were selling pop corn and perfume about 2ft from a couple of tombstones. Odd, but that’s India for ya.
On our way out we were accosted by an Indian family who demanded to have their picture taken with us. Celebrity White People Syndrome strikes again! Haha Poor Jen had this woman wrapping her arms round her like they were life long buddies or something. So anyway I guess we are on someones mantelpiece somewhere albeit with somewhat bemused/ever so slightly petrified smiles on our faces.
When we got home we found a Pune map and realised we had done the sites in a zig zag which is fine because it probably only cost about 4p more in rickshaw rides but cost me my left lung instead. Ah well proves I still cant tell one Coca cola shop, i.e. hut from the next just yet!
That evening we went out with a group of the volunteers. There is a girl called Louise from Blackpool and two Scots – Stephen and Doug who are all really lovely. We went to a place called Toon Bar and then the Leather Lounge where we had VIP treatment. Apparently its happening…its hip… its the place to be! I think more likely they are the only places to go haha, but we had a great time dancing to a fusion of California Dreaming/Summer of 69/Bollywood Megamix. Indians attempting disco dancing are just the funniest thing. They reaaally get into it yaah, you know….they made us look pretty tame by comparison!!
On Sunday I got up insanely early for church (okay, 7.30am!) only to find that the Onawales had left without me and Louise. I want to see what the service is like in Marathi at some point during my stay here. Alas we headed over to Laxmi road where Jenna, Louise and I collectively bought an emporium of bangles shoes and salwar kameez.
We visited our best friend the tailor again. We have engineered it so that we have to go at least once a week to collect drop off or get measured for Indian suits. Jennas last red salwar kameez dyed practically all our clothes PINK in the wash so we look like a pair of Barbie dolls. So obviously we are forced to go really. He found this situation highly amusing probably mostly because he knew it would result in his getting several hundred more rupees from our purses.
We also went swimming on Sunday at the YMCA which was lovely even though we were the oldest in the pool by a good ten years I’d say!
We have spent the rest of this week at City of Child and are back a little earlier than usual because we are going to Aurangabad tomorrow. Jenna has rechristened it City of Crap because of chapati being the only thing on the menu. I think a more accurate description is City of Unidentified Curried Vegetables. Luckily when it gets dark we eat by candlelight because theres no electric light so my saving grace is that I can’t see tha shape and/or colour of what I’m eating. The food is really quite horrible so we have been eating mainly chikki and crisps. Don’t worry Mummy I’m not gonna starve, I more than make up for it at the weekend.
City of Child is an experience. We have been through a range of emotions this week from buoyant optimism to sheer despair. The kids here are ‘boisterous’ which is a euphemism for ‘unhinged’. In all seriousness they have had a bad start in life but right now it is like something out of Lord of the Flies. They are meant to come here to get a bit more stability but have been used to volunteers who let them practically beat them up.
Coree the new ex military guy in charge said he wants more disciplined volunteers so we are here to back him up. Ex army makes him sound harsh, in fact he has a great rapport with the children. The kids were in for a little bit of a shock. First rule – no students in volunteer quarters, second rule – if you ‘Cali bas’ (sit down and be quiet) I will be a really nice person, third rule – there are consequences to your actions etc etc. Anyway there is a glimmer of hope because they are already saying Sorry, Please and Thankyou on occasion. This is progress when you think they are the same kids who swear, beat the birds and dogs with sticks, and throw each other in the dustbin. But we can see light at the end of the tunnel now which is great. The kids have taken to calling me lion or Undertaker (from WWF!) on account of my hair which is quite amusing.
Anyway I thank you all for your continued prayer and support. Jen and I were joking that our personal aspirations for this place are akin to the blueprints you make as a kid when you plan to build a tree house (girls) or fort (boys) with your pocket money and the Argos catalogue. Nevertheless anything and everything is possible.
You can breath a sigh of relief people. Sorry that you read these entries in the same time it would take to experience them in real-time but there you go… I’m signing off now. Be sure toreturn next week. Same time same place. Stay tuned!