Sunday, 17 February 2013

the adventure begins

The adventure begins...

After an 8 hour flight we landed in New Delhi at around 5am local time where it was lightly drizzling. We were then collected from the airport by some of the WaterAid India staff and taken to their offices in New Delhi so that we could freshen up and catch an hours sleep. Sleeping proved difficult though - Delhi even at 5am on a Sunday morning is fascinating! The short journey across from the airport allowed us to witness the chaotic traffic on the roads with cars and mopeds dodging each other and a constant sound of horns ringing out. 

After a quick freshen up I managed to get 20 minutes sleep before the sound of faint drumming woke me. With time for a quick bite of breakfast we then boarded our bus to embark for New Delhi station. As soon as we left through the office gates, the earlier light drumming could now be heard for miles and as we turned the next corner we witnessed a mass celebration spilling out from the streets and into the roads with drummers and dancers all celebrating an individual who was displayed on 20ft banners erected at the side of the road.

The culture of the city hits you immediately and even with the overcast weather the vivid colours of the buildings are striking. The city is so vibrant and alive. En route to the station there were people using cattle to transport materials, mopeds dragging trailers loaded 9 or 10 foot high with different produce precariously tied on. Along the road side rickshaws and tuk tuks littered the route to the station.

When we got to the car park, my highlight of the day has to be trying to cross an eight lane road to get to the station. Now I don't want to worry loved ones back home, but the sheer volume of tuk tuks, mopeds and cars made this a unique experience to say the least! The traffic was just chaotic and there are no road crossings in the same way there are in the UK. Nevertheless, it was a lot of fun and is what the trip is about.

Once we managed to cross safely we then negotiated the crowds in their thousands to get to Platform 3 to board our 'private' carriage to set off for Gwalior. The train is perfectly adequate but very basic and a bit uncomfortable. The lunch we were provided with seemed, to the untrained eye of a hungry meat-lover, to be a burger and some form of fried potato - I was wrong, and this was far from a 'happy meal'!! (picture of food). For the next five hours four of us bedded down in this small compartment (attached photo of compartment) and watched the landscape of central India unfold.

India is proving to be a beautiful place though one thing which has become very apparent is the lack of sanitation and hygiene awareness. I have witnessed a couple of times already men publicly urinating on the road side. I was quite surprised by just how openly men were doing this given the crowded road sides despite nearby urinals further down the road. When I asked our guide Matthew about this he said it was important to remember this was cheaper (free) than using the urinals. The second observation is the toilets on the train itself. Comprising of just an open hole, this spills out directly onto the train tracks below (picture). The worrying thing for me with this is that throughout the train journey children could be seen playing on the tracks. This has certainly caused me to put to the forefront of my mind how hygiene and sanitation is as much an access issue as it is an educational one.

Once we arrived in Gwalior, we had yet another rally drive across the city in a 4x4 (picture). The journey was just like everything you see in films, people in the middle of the roads, tuk tuks and mopeds with couples riding them holding their babies driving straight at you until swerving at the last moment to dodge you by just inches - was absolutely thrilling. I filmed the journey but unfortunately it is too large to upload.

All of today has made me realise that whilst a nation of excitement and vibrancy, life seems cheap. Tomorrow we will be travelling to the Datia and Morena districts to view pre-intervention communities. In the village of Jonhar, Datia, families must walk 1km to access a single well which has no source protection. Within the village there is 100% open defecation. Despite the village school having a sanitary block, there is no water available for it to operate. Water and Sanitation Hygiene (WASH) is low to negligible in the village.

I look forward to tomorrow, but with some trepidation. I will update when I can using twitter and this blog same time tomorrow,


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