Archive for May 4th, 2009


Aid India

A few weeks ago I got in touch with a fabulous organisation called AID India (stands for Association for India’s Development).  They have a local group here in Gurgaon and among their projects is the establishment of an education program for children who live in slums &/or their parents work on nearby construction sites.  The children were previously either rag pickers or just doing nothing from dawn till dusk.  Once the Aid India workers found them it wasn’t possible to enter them into local government schools as they were performing well below their peers.  So the idea here is to get them into a school-like environment, get them up to speed and then integrate them into the local system.  It seems to be working well.  The added pitch which I really like is that this is just a stepping stone to improving the whole urban village that they live in.  Children are the entry point, then they are planning to run programs that will involve the mothers  and gradually give them all the skills they need to live healthier, more productive lives.  So today was my first visit to the village and the school.  It was amazing.  On one side of the road are gleaming office buildings and then, hidden behind a few bushes on the roadside is a path that leads to this urban village.  I took this photo on the way out – gives you an idea of the conditions they’re living in.





The school is based in the local community centre (not as glamorous as it sounds – basically 4 walls and a roof with cows and rubbish right outside the door) which the village has given to the organisation to run their programs from. The kids are great – beaming faces when the worker who was guiding me around walked in  – and I guess the strange white woman was a welcome break from their reading and writing lesson too.  They are aiming to start a nutrition program really soon where they get a cup of milk and a piece of fruit every morning – it’s a good practice for obvious reasons but also gives parents motivation to send their kids.  So anyway – I’m going to start going once  week to do some fun art stuff with them and speak in English and help decorate the walls of the shed they’re in.  Should be great.  I’m so excited about having an alternative to “lunching with the ladies!” – not that there’s anything wrong with that of course – just not really my scene.

Some other interesting things Sukriti told me on the way there and back:

Never ever give to the beggars around here.  The scenes from Slumdog Millionaire are alive and well in Delhi and Gurgaon.  Begging rings are rife.  The young kids who walk up to our car carrying babies are well trained in what to say depending on the occupants and make of the car.  The babies are usually not their own, but those of poor families who are paid around 40 rupees/day for these kids to have a better chance at getting some cash out of people like me.

The practice of aborting female foetuses or baby girls has been a problem for ages and now in states like Punjab there aren’t enough women for the men to marry so girls are being imported from poor states for next to nothing to enable Punjabi breeding to occur.

The government has commenced a program whereby girls who finish their schooling are given a lump sum of money and in addition to that their parents get a lifetime pension.  It’s a way to encourage communities to support their girls becoming educated. 

So anyway – really interesting stuff.  I felt really priveleged to be given to chance to see what life is really like for these Indians and hopefully in time I’ll get to know more of their stories.  Their “school” runs throughout the Summer so I’ll go each week and learn more. 

That’s it for today.


Pancakes, Indian cartography and pool algae

Saturday mornings here always now begin with a ritual of pancake making.  It’s a men only zone but yesterday Harvey was ready with his walkie talkie handy in his undies to call for back up if required.




Post pancakes we headed into south Delhi in search of a furniture store that was recommended by a friend.  I had my glossy brochure complete with map in my hands and was so proud of my navigational capabilities – until we got to the road where the store was meant to be.  Turns out Indian Cartography is about on par with Indian power lines when it comes to quality.  There is ABSOLUTELY no way anyone who doesn’t live in the same block as this place would EVER find it if just going by the map.  I called the number on the brochure and they told us to go back to the hospital on the corner and wait next to the rock in front of the fence with the red paint on it (well that’s a little embellished but you get my drift) and a man would come on a motorbike to guide us to the shop.  That worked a treat but it’s a mystery how this place survives!  Anyway – we ended up buying a great coffee table to go with our new TV cabinet so our IKEA days of 8 years ago are now officially over.  It’s a bit sad but we’re recovering nicely.

So after our adventures across the city we returned to our apartment and went for a swim.  The pools here have been operational for something like 6 months and already the colour of the tiles has changed dramatically thanks to an algae takeover.  Even the handrails going into the pool are a nasty shade of green – not what you’d expect out of a stainless steel rail in a resort style pool.  We were talking to another expat here about it yesterday.  He is a doctor and he’s contemplating taking a sample of the water to the hospital this week for testing – just out of interest.  The staff here insist it has been chlorinated but as far as we can tell that was only done on 1 occasion.  They didn’t seem to get that it’s best to do it regularly.  Funnies thing though is that the vigilante pool attendant yells loudly if you even look like you might venture into the pool without showering first.  We ignored him yesterday and jumped in anyway – we think it’s a far better idea that he yell at anyone who has been in the pool and has not been in a disinfectant bath immediately AFTER getting out.