I realise that most of the posts have so far related to the traffic of Bombay. This is largely because almost all my observations have been based on the small part of the city through which I commute to work, day in and day out. It was, then, with great excitement that I left the busyness of the city for the first time at the start of December. Dave and I travelled to a small town called Igatpuri, some three hours outside of the city. It's most famous for its temple and the conversations on the train involve Indians who usually assume that, being white, I am off to learn the "ways of meditation". Refuting this is one thing. Trying to describe what I actually do is quite another. Communication is always something of an issue. My Hindi is far from good and the English I'm met with is rudimentary at best. Unfortunately my Hindi is not coming on quite as quickly as hoped so I usually resort to speaking English the foreign way (loudly and slowly, all the time getting louder and slower). It does not help when my role isn't that easy to describe so I usually fall back on 'teaching for an NGO'. That seems to work.
So, to Igatpuri. Oasis India runs a centre near the town called Purnata Bhavan, which means 'House of Wholeness'. It's usually referred to affectionately as PB. It was set up to care for HIV+ children in Oasis' early days as a lot of the street children they came across were suffering from the disease. It's the sort of place that is great to take visitors to, but a real handful for the staff. From the outsiders perspective you pop up for a day or two and get to interact with a load of cute children, who also being, mostly, sick and orphaned, adds to the good feelings factor. The staff obviously have to care for them 24/7 and so visitors get all the fun but none of the responsibility.
I'm a visitor.
You can definitely see why people like it too. The kids are great and there's never a dull moment. I have a friend, however, who is serving as a staff member there and so when Dave and I visited Dave decided to divulge the exciting things that the area has to offer in ones spare time.
They are a tree and a reservoir.
Yes, that's right. Hold onto your hats and don't get too excited. In your spare time you can choose either between the tree, or the reservoir. Try not to do both on the same day, it might be too much to bear.
There's also no issue under the trade descriptions act. They are what they claim to be. A reservoir and a tree.
The reservoir is much like how I imagined it. A large body of water. After exhausting ourselves throwing stones at sticks we left after about 15 minutes.
The tree, in fairness, has a certain something. It's burnt out. None of the other trees nearby are.
Oh, and there is a pretty good view of the valley from the tree, but that makes it sound better so I'll leave that out. Said tree is pictured above.
I've been to PB three times in all now. With two visits to the tree and one to the reservoir I do feel that the novelty is starting to wear off. I feel for the staff, I really do. Whilst I'm eating a subway and watching a film at the cinema I occasionally give thought to the staff at PB and all the exciting things they could be doing. Are they at the reservoir today? Maybe the tree? Maybe some went to the tree and others went to the reservoir? All followed by the daily bowlful of dal.
I think I'll stick to being a visitor.