Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Cycling Madness! (Oh and a bit of volunteering)

I decided to cycle to Deep Griha Society on my first day. It is about 3 miles away and fortunately most of the journey is on level ground.

I got up, was dressed and ready to leave on time only to find that my bike had flat tyres and I didn't have a pump or anything to fix them! Luckily, just opposite my apartment is a little man that sits at the side of the road fixing bicycles for people. I walked over with my bike and asked him to pump my tyres, he charged me 30 rupees, pumped them up and I was then ready to be on my way.

Cycling on the roads here is busy, crazy and scary, you have to really keep your wits about you. Cars, bikes, trucks, buses and the occasional cow come from all directions! To try and stay safer, I have taken to cycling right at the edge of the road near the path so I am mainly out of the way of the other vehicles and they can't undertake me, which can sometimes be the scariest bit!

It took me just over 20 minutes to cycle and I didn't feel too bad until I stopped moving and went inside. That's when the sweat started and the tomato face appeared! Luckily there was no one around for about 10 minutes, so I was able to cool down and make myself look a bit more presentable.

I introduced myself to two American girls, who are currently volunteering as well, Katie and Cassie and I was led down to one of the Balwadi's (pre-school nursery) on the ground floor of the building. In a small room that was open on one side (about half the size of a standard car garage) were about 25 two to five year old's and two ladies. One lady was a teacher and the other was another volunteer, from Finland.

I was greeted by all the children with a huge chorus of 'Namastey!' and was invited to sit down on the floor. I joined in with the children who were singing action songs such as 'Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes' and 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' and drawing on chalk boards. I was struck by how affectionate some of the children were, some of them instantly sat on my lap and most of them were so interested in me and what I was wearing, especially my glasses.

At 12 o'clock it was time for their lunch. They all sat down cross legged in a circle around the room and were called up to the teacher one at a time, who then served them their plate of rice with Dahl (spicy lentil soup) poured on top of it. I was amazed at how well they all seemed to eat with their hands, especially the really little ones, considering most children their age are still spoon fed in the UK. Another thing that I found amazing was the fact that they were able to take themselves to the toilet on their own, they didn't have the need to wear nappies. When they needed to go, they would take off their knickers or trousers where ever they were, leave them on the floor and walk to the small toilet in the next room, return and dress themselves with ease.

After lunch, all the children have an afternoon nap on the floor in the room until they are picked up and taken home by a family member. Once they were all settled down, I said my goodbye's and went and got my lunch. Lunch for me was the same as the children but with extra spicy vegetables and two chapatti's.

Some of the children outside Deep Griha Society

In the afternoon, Cassie wanted to show both Katie and me around the Youth Centre that is based in another part of the city called Ramtekdi. They travelled by auto rickshaw and I decided, as I had my bike, that I would cycle it. It should have taken me 30 minutes to cycle but ended up taking me longer as my chain came off three times and I also got a bit lost! I quite enjoyed my ride because when you are moving you get a nice breeze, it's just when you stop that you cook!

I arrived at the centre looking dishevelled and somewhat like a huge tomato again! I must have been some sight as all the staff and people around were calling me crazy for cycling in 37 degree heat!

After washing my face and composing myself, I was shown around the centre and introduced to various members of staff. The centre is a place where all children up to the age of 18 can come to after school hours to learn, play and just generally be entertained by the staff and volunteers. It seemed like a great place to be and I will try to think of things that I can do to help on the days I decide to come in.

I nearly got a lift back home from a driver that was taking Katie and Cassie home but unfortunately my bike wouldn't fit in his car, Poo! Oh well, never mind, it wasn't that bad cycling home as it was beginning to cool down as the sun was starting to set. I managed to get home a lot easier and quicker because there were more and clearer road signs for Koregaon Park and Kalyani Nagar.

In total I think I cycled approximately 15 miles that day and although it was good for my health, I don't think I will be in hurry to do it again because it was so incredibly tiring and hot! A rickshaw is definitely the way to go next time!  

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