Archive for December, 2008

Final week in village

Well the end is almost upon us and we are preparing to leave Moti Pethan on Tuesday. It is going to be a very tearful departure from the village but we still have a few more days to spend in Mumbai before we fly home to the cold and wet. We managed to celebrate Christmas Day and Sunesh’s birthday in some style on the local beach. Although the nights are getting cooler, the days are still very comfortable 30 degrees plus. However, that doesn’t seem to stop the locals donning jerseys, bobble hats and scarves!

I might not manage to do much blogging in Mumbai although I suspect they will have connection speeds I can only dream of out here. We all wish you a very happy new year and thanks for the Christmas messages – apologies if I haven’t replied to you all individually but it is a painfully slow process at times. Looking forward to seeing everyone again soon, Iain and family x

This week we went shopping to Surat by train. The highlight for the children was finding Pizza Hut and Baskin Robbins ice cream. The train journey was also very entertaining.

There is a proper footbridge, but I think it’s just for tourists.

Anya enjoyed the freedom from rules and regulations. Not only are there no windows on a train, but the doors seldom close either.

I had to disuade the boys from travelling first class air-conditioned on account of it already being over-booked.

For some reason Surat has a scaled down version of the Eiffel Tower. Perhaps someone better informed than me can shed some light. (Lennard? Thanks for correcting the fishy error earlier, smart alec)

There was a wedding this week which is another excuse for everyone to get a free lunch

If school dinner was more like this I think more children would go for them – I certainly would! Maybe the teachers should do the serving?

The main event happened in the evening when the groom arrived

The groom in his Elvis-inspired outfit is welcomed in to the family

Then the fireworks begin.

On Christmas morning the children awoke to find a thick layer of fresh snow outside in the garden and stockings stuffed with cheap Indian goodies! (OK, the snow bit is a lie…)

Gromit gets in to the Christmas spirit

The party just carried on the next day as Sunesh found a few birthday presents had followed him overseas.

On Christmas Day and Sunesh’s birthday we managed to spend the afternoon on the local beach at Dandi. I hear it is cold in the UK. Ho hum, tough luck for some!

Anya gets ready to take on the Indians at their own game

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Road trip around Gujarat

The lady of the manor at leisure

The lady of the manor at leisure

Sunesh, Sanjeev and Anya have just come back from two weeks travelling around Gujarat visiting some of the historic, beautiful and unusual sights it has to offer. The highlight was going on a camel safari in the Rajasthani desert outside Jaisalmer. Apart from that, they also climbed up 3 mountains to look at temples at the top, spent a few days on the beach and stayed in a couple of old palaces. I’m not sure how many thousands of kilometres we travelled, but sometimes we drove for 10 hours a day and Gujarat doesn’t even look like a big state compared to other states in India! Over the next few days I will post up a few pictures to give you a flavour of what we saw. Connection speeds are terrible at the moment and there are frequent power cuts …

We have enjoyed the faded charm of old palaces

We have enjoyed the faded charm of old palaces

Lounging about on the veranda

Lounging about on the veranda

A bed each? - such extravagance!

A bed each? - such extravagance!

We also visited the ‘eco’ fair – all hand powered of course!

We saw Jain temples at the very tops of mountains. Sanjeev would like me to point out that he was dragged out of bed at 5am to do this.

A temple too far...

A temple too far...

Cracking open the Pringles at the top to celebrate another conquest

Cracking open the Pringles at the top to celebrate another conquest

It was always worth the climb although we struggled despite lots of snacks and bottles of water. Most people were visiting as pilgrims rather than tourists and they were fasting, weren’t allowed to drink and most walked barefoot. Some had walked from their home towns and we even saw one man rolling down the road towads the mountain!

Stairway to heaven

Stairway to heaven

In case you were wondering how all this marble and stone gets to the top of a mountain – it’s still done by the same method used over a thousand years ago…

The definition of suffering. These guys could only manage a few steps at a time and it's hours to the yop in 35 degree heat. I didn't have the heart to ask how much they get paid but this must takes years off your life.

The definition of suffering. These guys could only manage a few steps at a time and it's hours to the top

Definition of aneasy life - probably for the dolly carriers as well.

Definition of an easy life - probably for the dolly carriers as well.

And then there was the desert…

and then there was the desert...

a sea of dunes...

...the camels...

...the camels...

Sanjeev of Arabia returns

Sanjeev of Arabia returns

such glamour...

such glamour...

such romance...

such romance...

such High School Musical!

such High School Musical!

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Our travels

Hello again to everyone. Thank you for your recent messages and apologies for not posting anything new for a while. We have been on the road travelling to some of the remote corners of Gujarat state which has been a fantastic experience if a little challenging on the stomach! We have stayed in faded old palaces in dusty and forgotten backwaters to shiny new reswort hotels by the sea. Currently, we are in Jaisalmer in Western Rajasthan. It is an old fortified town that looks like a sandcastle in the desert complete with palace, narrow streets, carved balconies and open sewers. All very charming, but the most touristy place we have been by a long way. The children love it because there is a lot to do and see in the shops and the food is a little more western in style. It is also the only place we have been where the internet is easily available, hence this message.

Yesterday was the highlight of the trip so far as we hired camels and set off in to the sand dunes to watch the sunset. The boys had their own camels and I rode with Anya. Getting on and off is absolutely hilarious as you feel you are about to be pitched over the camel’s head. As soon as we get back to the village I will post up some photos of our travels.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope the stress of Christmas preparations is getting to you all and that you are still enjoying the cold weather. There are times, when I am sweating hard, that I almost wish I was there! Speak to you all soon…. Iain and family x

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Temple feast

This week there were two lunches for everyone in the village. One was to celebrate someone’s birthday (I ate the food and didn’t even meet the birthday boy!) and the second was to celebrate a particular god’s day. This meal was hosted by the temple and we ate in the village school grounds. Everybody comes to eat in several sittings and the scale of the cooking is astonishing considering everything is cooked over an open fire and takes a whole day and night. I will never moan about cooking on a campsite again!

The hardest thing is trying not to put your dirty foot in your dinner

The hardest thing is trying not to put your dirty foot in your dinner

Bhart trying to scav a bit extra

Bhart trying to scav a bit extra

Dal anyone?

Dal anyone?

So this is where Stan's Cafe rice ended up

So this is where Stan's Cafe rice ended up

Next sitting...

Next sitting...

The next night it all starts again!

The next night it all starts again!

Now that's what I call a cooking pot!

Now that's what I call a cooking pot!

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Karadi High School

Last week we all went to visit this impressive English medium high school in the nearby village of Karadi. It has a very modern and large campus due mainly to donations from locals who now live all across the world. The school has an impressive website (I will post the web address later) which details the history of the school among other things. It was founded soon after Gandhi’s famous Salt March passed through this village. It was pro-independent India at the time and believed in Indians providing an education for themselves. I suppose there is a certain irony now that the school is English medium and has become dependent on donations from Indians living in the West.

As with the village school, Sunesh, Sanjeev and Anya could not believe how well behaved the children were – they didn’t even talk while they waited for their teacher to finish talking to us! Lateness and detention don’t seem to exist – teachers just stare back blankly  ‘why would any child be late? They know school starts at 10am and they are here until 5pm.’ Oh yes and they go to school on Saturday as well!

Here are some pictures from our visit.

Primary school section

Primary school section

Outdoor washing facilities

Outdoor washing facilities

Just another well-behaved kid...

Just another well-behaved kid...

State-of-the-art carpeted IT suite

State-of-the-art carpeted IT suite

School books look just as unexciting everywhere in the world!

School books look just as unexciting everywhere in the world!

Almost everyone comes to school on a bicycle or moped

Almost everyone comes to school on a bicycle or moped

Every office, staffroom, shop, home has a shrine somewhere in the corner.

Every office, staffroom, shop, home has a shrine somewhere in the corner.

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Shops

I have already photographed a couple of the village shops but, just to give you a flavour of shopping in different parts of the country, I will post up some photos of shops. In Navsari, our nearest big town, there are hundreds of shops many of them are small and not much bigger than kiosks. There are no obvious chain stores and there is only one supermarket which is brand new.

Let's start with a bike shop, what else? No wonder Rachel Carter couldn't find a mountain bike to buy!

Let's start with the local bike shop. No wonder Rachel Carter couldn't find a mountain bike to buy!

Typical roadside and telephone kiosk. We called Arun on his birthday from here.

Typical roadside and telephone kiosk. We called Arun on his birthday from here.

'Pack it high, sell it cheap' seems to be the mantra.

'Pack it high, sell it cheap' seems to be the mantra

Hello, is that Birmingham?!

Hello, is that Birmingham?!

High fashion indeed

High fashion indeed

There is a constant queue for petrol and these boys will sell it by the pop bottle.

There is a constant queue for petrol and these boys will sell it by the pop bottle.

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Jobs

Over the coming weeks I will post up some pictures showing the different kinds of jobs people do. Since there are already quite a few farming/village photos elsewhere on the site, I will stick to some of the more unusual jobs.

Here is the vegetable man who comes to the village most days.  Many people walk between the villages selling anything from ice cream, fish, clothes to sweets.

Here is the vegetable man who comes to the village most days. Many people walk between the villages selling anything from ice cream, fish, clothes to sweets.

Everyday several people do the rounds selling different types of fish.

Tasty looking or what?

You can get your shoes mended on your door step.

Up and down most of the roads there are little shacks that fix bikes

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Modern houses

Just in case you are beginning to think that everyone here is living in shabby country farmhouses – here are a few pictures of some of the more modern houses we have been to in the last couple of weeks. All the people who own these houses have lived and worked abroad in wealthier countries like the UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Holland, Germany etc. Many of their family members still live abroad and send money back here regularly. Some, like Bharti’s father, are retired people who spend 6 – 8 months in India and return to the UK for the summer.

All of these houses seem to follow a similar style of ostentatious proportions regardless of their location. They really stick out in some small villages, towering over other people’s more traditional homes. They are often painted very bright colours and inside everything is marble – the floors, skirtings, stairs, balconies and most of the kitchen. Compared to the older homes, creature comforts are everywhere: flushing toilets, showers, satellite tv, running water and sinks etc. Some people have also brought home the idea of having a garden with rose bushes and a lawn but this is very hard work to maintain. More successful is the small-holding attached to most of these homes, usually packed with fruit trees, various vegetables and sometimes, animals. In my experience there is always at least one person hired to help around the house and possibly one other to maintain the garden. Not a bad lifestyle for someone who probably spent their life running a small shop in Coventry!

Another subtle and under-stated driveway

Another subtle and under-stated driveway

No, not Beckingham Palace. Just another bloke who ran a sub post office...

No, not Beckingham Palace. Just another bloke who ran a sub post office...

...and here's the west wing

...and here's the west wing

Nice bright colours for a sunny country

Nice bright colours for a sunny country

Blending-in is not what it's about!

Blending-in is not what it

Don't worry, do not adjust your monitor...

Don't worry, do not adjust your monitor

All mod cons - including solar panels

All mod cons - including solar panels

Mosaic roof

Mosaic roof

Marble staircase

Marble staircase

Every balcony must have one - a swing.

Every balcony must have one - a swing.

Modern fitted kitchen

Modern fitted kitchen

All very clean and tidy

All very clean and tidy

Typical back garden, big enough for mango trees and plenty of veg.

Typical back garden, big enough for mango trees and plenty of veg.

A rare sight - a lawn and a bit of landscaping.

A rare sight - a lawn and a bit of landscaping.

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Transport

There are many ways of travelling in India – more than we have in England. Over the coming weeks I will post up some pictures of the different types of transport we spot on our travels. Here are some of the popular ones around this area of Gujarat.

Dada's car

Dada's car

Even Gromit has taken to riding on animals!

Even Gromit has taken to riding on animals!

Everybody seems to own one of these - but why the hairy seat?

Everybody seems to own one of these - but why the hairy seat?

These buses don't leave much room for any other road user

These buses don't leave much room for anyone else!

...and the trucks are even worse.

...and the trucks are even worse.

Following many requests from all you ‘Indian truck fanciers’ out there (I had no idea there were so many of you) here are some more photos from life on the road including a few juicy close-ups of trucks…

The picture above was taken on the highway heading north where the road is being upgraded for hundreds of kilometres and drivers constantly have to switch to the other side of the road. Jams are frequent, safety non -existent and those trucks on the right are not part of the roadworks, they are just jostling for position through the chaos!

Below is a nice rear-end for all you truckers out there. Lorries are always hand-painted with individual logos and names, but they all have the same message on the rear about dipping headlights and using your horn when over-taking. However, Indian headlights seem to be stuck on full-beam and the crescendo of horns on the road is so great you can’t hear yourself thinking that surely a reminder to let go of the horn occasionally would be more beneficial.

Nice Islamic detailing on the step…

Can you imagine this sort of detail on your Tesco delivery van?

Eagles are one of the favourite themes for the artists

We’ve seen plenty of amazing sights on the road. Sadly I wasn’t able to photograph most of them on account of having my eyes tightly shut, praying to any god who was listening and saying goodbye to my family as something headed straight for us on the wrong side of the dual carriageway! Here are a few that we did catch…

Huge loads like this boiler held on with a bit of string continually block the road.

Needless to say, the truck was moving whilst this guy was running about on top of the box. Incidentally this was a delivery of ‘snacks’ Bharti had ordered, but I think there was a misunderstanding about quantity…or perhaps not.

OK, maybe this was the delivery of snacks! Who said you can’t get a shop on a bike?

A couple of ‘Hippo’ bags full to the brim. Why make four journeys safely when you make one gravity-defying one?

And finally, another Mad Max surplus vehicle. Stripped down chic for all you truck heads.

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Village kids

Most days these children are in school and we only see them after 5 o’clock or at weekends. Usually they run around barefoot (some of them go to school barefoot) and they run in and out of everyone’s house. When they come to us it is usually for sweets or to look at our gadgets. Some of them are learning English in school and one of them is good at maths. Anya tries to get him to do her homework.

Aaah, bless!

Aaah, bless!

Many toddlers have heavy amounts of kohl put around there eyes

Many toddlers have heavy amounts of kohl put around their eyes

Alot of people live in small houses down lanes in between every village. These people tend to be poorer and work as labourers in fields or own small plots of land. Their children are full of life but have nothing much to wear or play with.

Everyone wants their picture taken!

Everyone wants their picture taken!

These children look pretty desperate to us but there are many others much worse off. The migrant workers who come to the area to cut sugar cane and other crops live in the fields where they work. They bring their families with them and sleep out in the open. Everything they own is wrapped in bundles and carried with them. Hopefully we will have time to visit them as we have brought a 2 suitcases full of clothes to give away.

collecting water from the local well

collecting water from the local well

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