1.6.15; DEHRADUN, India

Wednesday’s session with the children in the summer school mainly revolved around learning the hokey-cokey, and yet ANOTHER Horrid Henry story. Not necessarily my favourite. They’re really enthusiastic about the hokey-cokey though… Perhaps a little too enthusiastic? Some children ended up on the floor. It looked a bit traumatic.

Followed this up with learning more kathak. I really find that classical dance is so much more interesting and enjoyable to learn than any modern styles. Obviously, that’s a huge generalisation, but I don’t take that well to contemporary of hip-hop. Not for lack of trying! It’s a bit sad that kids here are so obsessed with Western styles; be it clothes, music or dance, that not many of them want to learn kathak or take much interest in their own culture.

Learning kathak complete with Ghungroo bells!
Learning kathak complete with Ghungroo bells!

Nonetheless, I’m trying to learn as much as I can whilst I’m here. Maybe that should be a focus for me during my travels? Learning different dances from around the world? I never get bored of it! On Thursday, I did join in with a little bit of the hip-hop class, and it was good fun even if I’m pretty awful at it!

In the evening, I went to Pacific Mall with Shruti to get a new pair of sandals; after taking mine to America last summer, and using them here too, my slightly nicer white pair are now more grey than anything else, and could fall apart at any point. Not too bad; spent about £10 in a department store on a fairly nice pair of black sandals. Also bought a couple of new bottles of nail varnish.

Sadly, and to my eternal shame, the staff at Dunkin’ Donuts in the Mall now recognise me and when I come in, there’s the little nod of recognition followed by a snicker. I feel like a disgusting Western consumer. Don’t judge me. I go for the iced coffee. Some things can’t be replaced. Just saying.

On the drive back home, we saw a marriage party in the streets. The groom’s family go out into the street and dance, with the groom-to-be in a large decorated chariot or on a horse. The atmosphere is infectious, and it’s amazing to see the bright colours of all the women’s sarees in the procession.

The next day was very similar. When I was talking to the girls in the evening, they said they’d miss me when I leave; whilst I don’t really miss people once I leave somewhere, heck, I don’t even miss my parents (sorry!), it will be strange to spend more time on my own, as I’m constantly around people here. And everyone really has been lovely; I expect I’ll miss the family atmosphere sometimes. I only get quiet if I escape to the roof! Same routine on Saturday. The kids at the summer camp are getting really into acting out various fairy tales and picture books.

I also made a Facebook page for this blog; getting around to making a Twitter as well to expand the social media presence. Seeing as I’ll be going back to uni in September, I won’t be writing as I go, but I think I’ve done enough travelling in the last couple of years to have plenty to write about if I backdate stuff. For example, there’s loads I could write about my summer in America last year! The “Like” button is just on the left, so check out the page if you have a chance!

I’m still putting off dealing with my enormous backlog of book reviews, but I will get them all finished before I leave here! It’s so annoying that I can only take one or two books with me, but there’s no way I could fit any more into my tiny backpack for the rest of my travels. So I need to be done with them before I leave! I’m saving Kerouac’s “On The Road” for when I’m actually… you guessed it. On the road.

On Sunday, I went to the nearby city of Haridwar, another holy town, literally “Gateway to the Gods”, on the banks of the River Ganges. I’ll write up a separate post about that; eventually I’ll get around to doing the one on Mussoorie too!

Har-Ki-Pauri - the holy bathing site at Haridwar
Har-Ki-Pauri – the holy bathing site at Haridwar

On Monday, following a dramatic rendition of “Jack and the Beanstalk” (improvised because I’m not really in the habit of reading fairy tales these days), I headed out to the city to meet Misha and Achala, the two girls who had come to visit the shelter last month. We hadn’t been able to find a time to meet up until now, and I was looking forward to seeing them again.

We met at the Paltan Market, and went to a café on the Rajpur Road. It was a really great café, and a little bit hidden away on the upper level above a shop. Apparently, all the cafes are on Rajpur Road – I’d not have realised this before. The only really obvious cafes seem to be the ever present “Café Coffee Day” chain; something seemingly similar to Costa Coffee in the UK. It was a trendy place with nice atmospheric lighting and comfortable chairs, but the food and drinks were still really cheap! My kind of place…

It was a lovely surprise when Misha and Achala brought out a cake; my first birthday celebration here in India! After the usual singing and shoving cake at each other, we had a drink and some lunch, and talked about various things like studying and travel. Misha is currently working on building up her new NGO, TeachGirls, for which she goes into a local slum area to educate the women and children there, whilst Achala is a researcher currently looking into education provisions in India, and she’s working with Misha because she is providing education informally to the women in the slum.

Early birthday celebrations!
Early birthday celebrations!

We then visited the slum where Misha teaches. Now, it’s a little bit of a way from the city, and originally, the best course of action was thought to be for me and Achala to ride on the back of Misha’s motorbike to get there. More of a scooter, really. Anyway, THIS WAS AN ERROR. A sharp turn around a corner nearly sent me toppling off the back of the motorbike, and I decided that was enough adventure for one day. Eventually, after a bit of debate, we decided that Misha would follow us on a bike as me and Achala took a vikram to the slum area.

Just about survived that. (If you’re reading this, Misha, thanks for the near-death experience. No journey is complete without one, eh?)

The slum is more developed than the one I visited with Shruti, but the people still live in cramped, impoverished conditions, and very few of the older women are educated. Interestingly, most of the girls there attend paid public schools as opposed to the government schools; I’m told by everyone that the quality of teaching is appalling in government schools. Misha is also sponsoring their enrolment with donations she receives for her NGO.

Children being taught in the slum
Children being taught in the slum

The women and children there were all very keen to learn, and quite a lot turned up, full of enthusiasm for the lesson. Misha teaches things like basic Hindi and English, as well as remedial classes for what they’re doing in school.

Misha left on her scooter and Achala and I headed back to the clock-tower in a vikram, and I caught another one back to Shimla Bypass, from where I walked back to the shelter. In the evening, when I got home, the power had cut out, and so the kids and I all clustered in the main room and talked about various stuff. They’re very keen for me to learn more Hindi.

My repertoire now includes “I will slap you!” It’s clearly the useful stuff they’re teaching me. You know, that I’ll need a lot.

That’s all for now! Next time – my birthday!

X Bea

2 Replies to “1.6.15; DEHRADUN, India”

  1. Hey very nice and informative blog. Me and my sister are also planning to hire a scooter and roam around dehradun and hills and may be mussoorie. Was wondering if you rode around scooter on the hills and whether is it safe to ride there? Did you guys off the engine on downhill and ride scooter? Need some tips, Regards, Kusum

    1. Thanks! We didn’t use a scooter in Mussoorie but plenty of people were using them without issues in the hills. You can’t ride along the Mall Road in Mussoorie without paying a toll though. As for Dehradun, several of my friends drive scooters there and have never had any problems. Just be careful! Mussoorie isn’t as manic as Dehradun for traffic, so you’re probably safer there. I don’t know much about scooters so as for the last bit, I have no idea! Have a great trip!

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