John Travolta the funny tuk tuk man from yesterday booked my taxi to take me out to the suburbs of Jaipur. A stinging 700R charge was worth it. The next two days will answer so many questions I have about education and the poor in India. The real India? Who knows, I’ll take my chances.
The Danes venture off to Manali whilst I venture to the unknown alone. We drive for over an hour to reach my destination, from one side of Jaipur to the other.
Nitesh lives with his wife and two adorable and quite lively daughters. They live in his parents large house, their part of the house is downstairs. All four of them sleep in the one double bed. I put my bags down and he whisks me away on his motorbike to his cousins house for a feast of Rajasthani delicacies. The sweet milk drink with nuts in it a clear winner. I’m fed like a king. The family sit and talk in Hindi. It is clear they are a relatively well off and respected family, not rich but financially secure. Their English is good, this is a sign of a private education. Eating in India is done so on the floor. A coir mat or blanket is placed on the floor. Cross legged, I am fed. Rajasthani food is renowned for not using rice to soak up the juices but by using chapatis instead. I love all the food I’m given. Please note I use the word love and not like. Why don’t curry houses in the UK sort out their act? This food tastes amazing and it is cheap to make.
I wasn’t expecting this. The immediate generosity overwhelming. I accept graciously. The family have a number of teachers throughout the generations. I trust them, I feel blessed to be in their presence.
Jumping on the back of his motorbike we drive the 7km down the road to his school for slum children and orphans. Locals stare at me, smiles are genuine, they don’t want to sell me anything, just intrigued to know why I’m out here. I’m rich on stimulation. This is going to be a unique learning experience.
We drive past the homes of 3000 slum dwellers to his school. The school has been going for two years now. One year was spent in the slum, now he has enough backing to rent a space in a nearby apartment block. Nitesh left his banking job in the city and started Shrestra School for slum children and orphans with his teacher wife, Chitra. The first year was tough. He had to gain funding and donations from various sources. Then he had to persuade the parents of the slum children that education would benefit their future. Most of the slum children are forced into child labour to feed themselves and their families. Most children are born into a lifetime of shining shoes, begging and recycling rubbish. Nitesh aims to stop that. He now feeds and educates them 6 days a week in a place they are proud to call their school.
The children have a variety of problems socially, emotionally and physically. Something that I was unaware of when I first met them. On entry, I spot many cheeky smiles. Their problems hidden behind their excited faces.
The school has been donated educational posters and books. There is an old PC. The walls covered in murals painted by the children. The children sit on a carpet facing the teacher. There are children as young as 4 and as old as 16 years old.
Before I know it, I am in front of the class talking about England, playing Maths games and inventing on the spot quizzes. 2 hours pass. The children are excited but a pleasure to be with. It’s fun, I like them. All their issues and language barriers set aside, we all enjoyed the afternoons spontaneous activities.
Afterwards, Nitesh takes me inside the slum. The families welcome me, the children proud to show of their homes. The slum has no fresh water supply but they have spurred some electricity from the power lines. The shacks they live in are clean and well kept. However poor, Indians are very tidy people.
Returning to the family home for some mouthwatering food, I manage to digest the days activities. Fireworks crackle outside, tonight’s festivities kicking off. Children burn a life size replica of Raman stuffed with bangers and fireworks. The Hindu’s get rid of all their sins during the burning of Raman, ready for a fresh start. I watch in street as excited children run around dancing and playing as Raman lets off a torrent of fireworks. Health and safety tossed aside, the whole community are involved and having fun.
I prepare for tomorrows lesson on life in England.
Today was awesome. My eyes open, my mind even more so.