I don’t think anything can prepare you for the poverty in India, I thought I had people living in bad conditions in Brazil and Asia but India is a complete different story. However, the colour and beauty of the place and people shines through the whole country. I worked in the Himalayas when I was there in two places, for two months I worked in a school; this was very different to Brazil.
In Brazil I had seen understanding and love from the teachers but here there was none. The teachers in Brazil played and tried to help; the teachers in India were unapproachable and hit their students. The hardest thing I witnessed in my class was a teacher coming in while I was teaching, seeing that two of my students were talking and running at them and hitting them to the floor. The children in this class were eight, this teacher was a 6ft male who was very large, the children hit the floor as I stood up and shouted “NO!” I was too late but I screamed at this man, he didn’t speak good English but by my tone it was pretty obvious of what I saying. I took both the children on my lap and gave them a hug and wiped there tears...it makes me emotional now even thinking about that day.
Another problem I came across was that one of the children , he was about 5 years old, was clearly autistic, but this is not something that is recognised yet, he was beaten everyday for stepping out of line. I asked the teachers if they knew what was wrong with him, they said that he was just stupid, that god had not smiled down on that family as the mother was similar. I have never hated religion so much. There was nothing I could do I tried to talk to them of other ways that they could possibly deal with him, but it wasn’t really my place. I started asking him to stand with me during the prayer in the morning; he would behave as long as he was with someone. This was all that I could do, it was there country, there rules and sadly that was what I was there to see and be part of, however hard it was.
My next placement was working with four other English people, in a very secluded part of India, where actually they had never seen a while person before, so imagine when six of us turned up. They were fascinated by us, how we dressed and the colour of our eyes and hair. We were being watched all the time, children would just come and watch us from the top of the hill, and it was like being on a strange version of big brother.
While there we built furniture for the ‘house’ we were living in. For my last two months in India I had no Electricity, running water or beds. We had to walk for a mile to the river to get water, which we then had to boil before we drank. We also had to boil buckets of water to wash with, but we only had four buckets, which could only be filled half way, as by the time you got back, you either had back ache or half the water had already spilt out. The bus passed through twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening, so mostly we would either walk to the village which was 3 miles away, this doesn’t sound to much but when you have to carry rice, eggs, flour, potatoes and juice...its a very long way.
Though this probably all sounds horrific, it was the best two months of my life, I have never felt to alive, happy and myself. I learnt who I was from all my time travelling but I learnt the most about me when I had the least. The people were so friendly, though one of the girls and me contracted HepE whilst out there we had the most amazing time. On out last night, when all the furniture was built and the garden was finished we invited the other four houses in our village to dinner, we had a party, everyone brought some food and we sat on the floor outside with all the families and laughed and talked, though again we didn’t speak the language that was never a barrier!