Sounds like a wonderful time in India for Josée, thanks for taking a suitcase along too ^_^ [NJT Toronto]
“On the way to India, I flew via Mumbai to Calcutta and then went to various towns and villages in Orissa. But my luggage was stuck in Mumbai airport/customs. The airline (JetAir) is apparently now in receivership and is in chaos – even more chaos than normal in India. The upshot of many hours on the phone, and then on email, was that JetAir only managed to get the donation suitcase to Calcutta at the end of my trip, when I returned to Calcutta. (my own luggage is still in Mumbai and may never show up…..). So I had very little time on my last day in Calcutta to take the donation anywhere.
The Mother Theresa hospital, my first choice, was over an hour by taxi, so I could not take it there. Instead, I took it to the motherhouse ie convent, which was not that far from my hotel. The nuns were happy to have it, but they explained to me that they did not allow their photos to be taken, because they have discovered people use their photos to raise money for other, not necessarily worthy, causes. So, the best I could do was to take a photo of the donation suitcase in front of a statue of Mother Theresa, with one of the volunteers there holding the poster.
We spent most of our time, our little group of 12 women interested in textiles, in the rural areas of Orissa, in the villages that produce handwoven cotton ikat fabrics. The villagers are lovely and hardworking people, with magnificent skill sets (the weaving is very complicated, as is the dying when they use natural dyes), and they are very poor. The larger villages had some sort of ‘health clinic”, and I wished I could have donated the suitcase to them, but it was not possible since it did not arrive till too late. But perhaps the Mother Theresa hospital, to which the nuns at the convent will send the donation, they assured me, can use it more. Conditions in the villages were anything but sterile, -many homes were resurfaced regularly with a ‘tea’ made of cow dung….apparently it’s acidic enough that it keeps the bugs down.
While we were exploring rural Orissa villages, we heard about the wedding of the daughter of the richest man in India whose name I forget. It seems he paid $100M US for the wedding. On my return trip, I was standing next to a man at the baggage place waiting for our luggage, and he told me he is Canadian but still has family in India, and his family is in the events business. They provided the ice sculptures ( in India!)for the rich man’s daughter’s wedding, at a cost of $300,000 US, and they melted within a few hours. We both agreed that such lavishness is obscene, given the poverty I had witnessed in rural India, not to mention Calcutta, where the vast majority of people live in what we would consider slums and live on pennies a day…..
Which brings me to why did I think about taking a donation suitcase…..because I could, I guess. It seemed the right thing to do. I realize that , in light of the obscenity of that wedding, a suitcase is but a teeny drop in a vast bucket, but at least it’s a drop. We in Canada have so much compared to the poor in rural India, and it behooves us to share–in another life, we could have been born into that.
As for adventures….well, an overnight train ride on an Indian train could be considered that , I suppose–I think of it as a character building opportunity! — we all thought it was pretty horrible, and in fact the tour leader is going to change the itinerary to avoid it. Having a dozen 70ish women sleeping in narrow upper berths from which they have to climb up and down on a metal loop thing, not really a ladder, in order to find the toilet a few times each night, is just not a smart idea and could have led to broken bones and lawsuits( several of our group were Americans, who are prone to lawsuits!)……and a couple of days later, wandering down a country road between villages, twice we came upon village weddings proceeding from the bride’s village to the groom’s village. Both times the whole village was in attendance, and they asked us to join them– apparently having foreigners at your wedding adds much to your village status- so we did, dancing with the women and meeting the bride and groom each time. And one day, while we were staying for a couple of nights in a smaller town(Denkhanel) at the palace (now a guest house) of some royal prince, all the electricity went out for several hours. It seems the town authorities had turned it off, because an elephant had wandered into town from the adjacent forest, and was likely to get caught up in the electrical wires before he could be encouraged to leave, so for safety’s sake they turned off the electricity. They eventually got him back to the forest, and the lights and wifi came on again in late afternoon. Only in India….where life is revered, rodents and birds and dogs and cows roam freely everywhere and are fed at least something every day by local people, and elephants are protected from overhead wires, yet millions of people subsist on a few rupees a day and a very few calories a day, while a fortunate few amass fortunes and spend obscenely.