Bhimanapally, small Indian village

This is a translation from the blog: “Bhimanapally, petit village indien », published on the 4th of November. More photos of Bhimanapally are posted in the French blog.

We have now been in Bhimanapally for 2 weeks, or more exactly in the settlement of Kammaguden, next to Bhimanapally. Kammaguden is a very small village of around 300 Catholic families, and it is situated in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Traveling from Udaipur in Rajasthan to this small village took us 2 days and a half…. We started with a 5 hour bus journey and experienced the « comfort » of Indian roads. As our Indian guidebook describes it most appropriately, it was a real «  bone rattling » experience! Then, we travelled by train for another 24 hours… These 24 hours of train were in fact quite nice and seemed to pass quickly, as we had time to read and play. Xavier started to learn to play Chinese chess, which is very different from our traditional chess game. The countryside we passed was beautiful and contemplating it, while drinking Indian tea, a sweet and spicy tea that we buy from sellers on the train, made the journey seem quite short, in the end! We had lunch and dinner on the train and while lunch was not too bad, dinner was the same meal, only not as fresh as lunch… At a few stops in particular, I wast amazed to discover that cows were actually grazing on the rails and some were even resting in the shade under some wagons, at railway stations…

When we arrived in Hyderabad, we were welcomed warmly by Father Ignatius’ family. It is through Father Ignatius that we discovered this little village and were invited to come for a month. Born in Bhimanapally, he is now priest in the United States. One of his projects for this village is to build a computer centre, so that children and teenagers can learn computer skills and find a job more easily in the future. Indeed, life in Bhimanapally is not easy and many families are poor, and being able to find a job can make all the difference for these young people. When we first got in contact with Father Ignatius, we were supposed to come and teach computer skills to the children, but then the computer building completion got delayed, through lack of money essentially, for nearly all the funds come from donations from the USA.

Originally, we were to spend a few days in Hyderabad before going to Bhimanapally, but, on arrival, we found that plans had changed and we headed straight to Bhimanapally. We were hoping to post our blogs and tell our families of our roundabouts as well as do a bit of shopping and withdraw some money, but there was no real time for this. We had no idea what to expect about Bhimanapally, as none of our guidebooks mentioned such a small village. We were not even sure were it was situated… While our hosts spoke good English, we still found it difficult sometimes to communicate, the Indian accent being quite different from ours (and our English accent being difficult for our hosts). After a good one hour journey in car, we stopped at a little village where we were expected for lunch. It was the second time we were invited for a meal in an Indian family, since being in India, and, every time, we were surprised by the Indian way of receiving, so different from ours. Indeed, our hosts served us and remained attentive to our every needs while watching us eat, and it is only when we had finished eating that they started to serve themselves and eat. Not yet completely used to eating with our fingers, using only the right hand, while balancing the plate on our knees, we gladly used the spoons that were provided for us… Then, we resumed our car journey and after ¾ of an hour, wondering at every small village we crossed whether we were in Bhimanapally (every village being smaller than the preceding one), we finally spotted a church in the distance… We had at last arrived at Bhimanapally, after 2 days and a half journey!

On our arrival, we were welcomed by Father Fathima, priest of Bhimanapally. We are lodged in the old presbytery, just next to the church: one big room to cook and eat, another big room to sleep and a small room to wash. The beds are Indian beds: they are made of a metal frame, with straps criss-crossing. These straps form the bed structure… and the mattress also. The wash room is equipped with a cold water tap: we fill buckets and use small recipients to pour water on us to “shower” or to “flush” the toilets…. Shobarhani and Pratap, Father Ignatius’s relatives, welcome us and lend us everything we need to cook: a gas stove, pans, plates and some cutlery. We even have a fridge, but electricity is cut for the main part of the day… I must learn to cook the Indian way, as there are few resources available here and as I am not sure how to cook them. Shobarhani shows me how to prepare and cook rice and curry, as well as chapatis. Indeed, the meals consist mainly of rice, served with a vegetable curry, and very rarely, on special days only, a meat curry. In the evening, women also prepare chapatis (flat Indian bread) to go with the rice and curry.

The area where we are is very dry and arid, and few vegetables and fruits grow. The courgettes are the size of our green pickles, while eggplants are no bigger than our tomatoes… For a living, people grow cotton, as this plant requires little water (in fact, only four good rains are enough to get a good crop). The fields are small and the crop (only once every year) is entirely dependent on rain. When we arrive, people are awaiting with anxiety the 3rd rain which is not coming. Without this rain, the cotton, the only real source of financial revenue for most families, will be lost. In fact, now that winter is coming, the odds of getting rain are very reduced, and some fields have started to dry up. Some families thus already know that they will have no financial resources until the next crop and some, who have had to borrow money, know they will not be able to reimburse their loans.

A few families have bore wells, which means that they do not depend on rain. Little by little, Father Julian, another priest born in Bhimanapally and settled in the United States, is trying to collect money to have more bore wells built. Father Julian is in Bhimanapally for a few days, on holidays, and we are lucky to be present while new bore wells are being dug. A ceremony is organised and, while we try to sit discretely in the back, people gesture to us to come to the front where chairs have been reserved for us… The kindness and generosity of all here is always very touching and quite impressive… The digging truck is blessed and we all go to the field where the first bore well is going to be dug. The family, for whom this bore well is being built, invites us along with Father Julian and Father Fathima. There is no guarantee that the bore well will be successful and yield water, and even if nearly all precautions are taken to ensure that the site has water underground (a geologist comes to study the place and determine where to dig the bore well), some have to be stopped because of hard layers of rocks or lack of water. On this occasion, 3 of the bore wells yield enough water, but the 4rth one, unfortunately, doesn’t give any water.

In this village, all the inhabitants are Catholics and of the same caste (there are around 5000 different castes in India). They came to settle here in 1919, from the area of Madras, with the Italian Fathers who were with them at the time. They came in search of lands to cultivate and this migration movement was facilitated by the Central Authorities, as they wanted to encourage the cultivation of commercial crops, such as tobacco, chilli and cotton, plants that native people did not cultivate. The natives of the soil could not tolerate these new people, from a different caste and religion, to settle among them, so they settled just next to Bhimanapally and formed the settlement of Kammaguden. Today, there are around 300 families, and the total population is 2154 people. Such a village, where all the inhabitants are Catholics, is quite exceptional in India, as Christians only represent 2,3% of the Indian population, and as normally, Christian families are mixed with Hindu families in villages and towns. Most of the time, this cohabitation is peaceful and good, but these last 10 years, some Christians have been persecuted and killed by fanatical Hindus, particularly in the area of Orissa.

In Bhimanapally, people are deeply religious, in a way we have seldom witnessed elsewhere. In fact, we can feel that every moment of the day, every action, is deeply rooted in prayer and turned towards God. Vocations from this village are plentiful, as there have been already 16 priests ordained and more than 40 nuns have come from this village. Also, 25 seminarians from this village are now studying for priesthood. At 5.30 in the morning, the bells ring and Father Fathima reads the Angelus and the Gospel of the day. His microphone can be heard in all the village, for all those who will not be able to come to Mass, as they have to work in their field or try to find employment for the day. For us, who are sleeping just next to the Church, and who are not naturally early risers, this wake up call at 5.30 in the morning is a bit hard… though no doubt very good for us… All the children of the village, as well as the ones from the boarding school and all the adults who can come, gather in the church to pray and have Mass at 6.30. Every evening, at 5.30 in the church or at 7.30 in front of a house in the village, the Rosary is prayed and it is the children who are leading the prayers and reading. Their loud voices echo in the church in a very moving and impressive way. In fact, children learn to read, sing and answer with loud voices in school, and these strong voices contrast with the quiet and tiny voices we sometimes hear in our own schools… For us, there is something deeply moving as we listen and pray with these children. Bare feet, seating on the floor with our legs crossed , we pray with them in our own language, as everything here is in Telugu.

The priests of this village are very active and, day after day, try to make life a bit easier for their people. Some years ago, after the initiative of a priest, good brick houses were built to replace the simple huts some families were living in, and now every family has a real house with one or several rooms to live in. Equally, every house now has a water tap linked to the home. In this area, water contains too much fluoride, and elderly people have deformed joints and walk with difficulties because of this. One Father, with donations he was able to collect, had a water filter station built to purify the water and avoid these problems. For women, the Sisters have started an embroidery workshop, to help them have some revenue. Also, thanks to money collected, one Father had a little dispensary started: one bed, a few medicines and kits to draw blood samples and analyse them, thus allowing early detection of any real serious health problem. The money also pays for a doctor to come and visit Bhimanapally twice a month…

The two schools of the village are run by Sisters and Priests. The education is mainly in Telugu, and this is a problem, as only English will allow these children to find real jobs later on. This means that families who can afford it send their children to English boarding schools in bigger towns. The primary school, run by 7 nuns, has started this year a Kindergarten section, all in English. We go there every morning to sing and teach simple English rhymes to the children. We adapt the words to make them easier or more suited to Indian culture. This way, for example, “Old MacDonald” is now called Farmer Joseph and the cows do not do “moo moo”, but “emba” and the dogs “bow pow”…The Sisters try to obtain permission to extend this English teaching to older classes, but oddly enough, the government does nothing to facilitate the process, though eradicating poverty and pushing education are supposed to be among its main priorities… Obtaining permission is a costly process that has to be repeated every 5 years if it is successful. Also, the secondary school, run by a priest, is seeking permission to extend its teaching to 12th class, instead of stopping at 10th class. This way, every child in this village could study up to the age of 18 years old, as some families cannot afford to send their children to other places to study after their 10th class. Finally, the completion of the computer centre will allow children to learn computer skills and help them to find jobs later on. Indeed, computer is one of the most promising sector for employment here and Hyderabad is even sometimes nicknamed “cyberabad”.

In the meantime, the primary school has 5 computers, donated from abroad, but the power cuts during the day make it hard to teach computers. Xavier made didactic programs to teach the children how to use the keyboard. To install them on the school computers though, we needed one little installation file that we could only find on Internet… Less than ½ an hour after trying to install them at school, one local villager, Lourdes, arrived with his motorcycle to take Ian to a small town, where there was ONE computer with an Internet connection, the computer being at the back of a little bangle shop… When they arrive, there is no electricity in the town… Finally, when power comes back, Ian finds the file he needs, but the connection is so bad that he hardly manages to download it. Trying in vain to get all our emails or to send some, he must acknowledge defeat… We will have to wait to read all our emails or to post our blogs, till we get to a bigger town…

For us, life in this village is full of discoveries and the children enjoy it. We are learning to live with very little, compared to what we are used to… Ever since we started this round the world tour, we have been living with less and less: only one travelling bag each, 3 pair of trousers and 3 tee-shirts or shirts each… In Gwexintaba, we learnt to live without water to wash even our hands for a week (by far the biggest challenge…). Here, electricity is cut for the main part of the day (it is reserved for industries and towns) and sometimes, there is not enough water as the electrical pump is not working. The tiny shops (which we would not call shops in our countries) have very few items (only basic ones) and our meals, all consisting of rice, are very simple, without any luxury… We have hardly eaten meat since we arrived in Bhimanapally, only when invited, and fruits are a luxury here, and can only be found in nearby towns… We know that people who receive us can hardly afford to prepare meat for us or to give us fruit, and still, to our great embarrassment, they all go to great length to offer us the best they can… The generosity of the people in this village, who have very little, is a great lesson… Also, everywhere we go, people try to find chairs for us, the mere idea that we sit on the floor like them seeming to be quite inconceivable… Little by little, though, they seem to realise that we want to live as they live and share their way of life…

We slowly adopt Indian ways and we can now eat with our fingers, using only the right hand, and we can cook Indian food (though my currys still do not have exactly the right consistency…). We are a great source of curiosity for people in this village, and particularly for children, as we are the first white family to come and live in their village. As soon as we go out, all the children crowd around us and want to touch us and shake our hands. The women come to see what I cook and how I do it, and we try to communicate, though it is not easy, as everyone here speaks Telugu and very few can speak English. We have learned a few words in Telugu, but conversations are still quite limited… The children call us “uncle” and “aunty” and, every day, they call with insistence for Xavier, David, Eric and Amandine to come and play with them. Sometimes, we would like to be a little more on our own, but we know how lucky we are to be able to discover life in this little village and to be accepted and welcomed like this.

We participate in the village’ s events and, since we arrived, in the same week, we went to two funerals, one baptism and one wedding. People who die during the night or in the morning are buried within the same day and the whole village is present at the funerals. As for the wedding, the bride is dressed with a superb orange and red sari and wears her most beautiful jewels. Her hair are beautifully adorned with flowers of many different colours. The groom is all in white. Everyone has put his best clothes for the celebration and the colours of all the women’s saris form an extraordinary multicoloured pattern. For this event, Shobarhani lends me a beautiful blue sari and helps me to fasten it securely (with safety pins…). Another woman, Juvitha, seeming to find that I have too few jewels, lends me hers. Amandine also wears Indian clothes and her hair are adorned with orange flowers attached together and prepared by Shobarhani, and her hair style is supervised closely by many women. It is obvious that people appreciate seeing us adopt Indian clothes, and I am happy to be able to get closer to them. Amandine’s outfit is a superb pink skirt with an embroidered black top and a pink scarf. Girls here, though from poor families, are dressed beautifully in vivid colours, and their clothes are embroidered and often glitter. We bought Amandine’s outfit in a nearby village with Pratap’s family and they negotiated the price for us, as buying at the marked price would not be right… The marked price was 300 rupees (around 5 euros) and the final price is 200 rupees (around 3.2 euros).

The cost of life in India is very low compared to ours, and this is not surprising since, here, in Bhimanapally, a day’s wage (when people can find work) is around 50 rupees for women and 75 rupees for men (that is less than one euro for women and hardly more than one euro for men for one day’s labour…). People who seek daily jobs cannot find jobs everyday and, when the crops fail, there is no money and people have to buy food asking for credits… Understandably, life is not easy for many, especially as prices of basic necessities represent a good part of one day’s wages: the price of rice, for example, is of 27 rupees a kilo, sugar 21 rupees a kilo, tomatoes 16 rupees half a kilo and oil 70 rupees a litre… One day’s work thus allows people to buy 2 to 3 kilos of rice or only one litre of oil, which is often the only fat used for cooking and which is necessary to prepare chapatis and currys. Some families have buffaloes or oxen, but if the crop is lost, some of them will probably have to sell them as they will not be able to feed them.

One morning, Father Fathima takes us to another village where 8 Catholic families are settled amongst Hindus families. To get there, we use an autorickshaw and, we are now getting used to it, we all jump happily at every hole in the earth road… In this village, a church is slowly being built, but money is scarce, even though nearly all the labour is provided by the Catholic families and the land was donated by the first Catholic family who settled in this village. Meanwhile, Mass is celebrated in front of one of the houses. I cannot help wondering what is the reaction of Hindu families to this church being built in the village, but Father Fathima tells us that they like the presence of a church and of a life of prayers. They are also touched by the way these Catholic families live. In this village, the land is even dryer than in Bhimanapally and many have already lost their crop of cotton. After Mass though, we are all invited to stay for a breakfast of “semoule” and curry. Indian hospitality is as always so generous…

Yesterday, Sunday 2nd of November, we all went to Mass in the cemetery. The whole village is gathered there and many relatives came from nearby towns or villages to join their family. Our presence amongst them seem to be appreciated and we are moved by the way they celebrate this day. Candles are lit everywhere on the graves which are covered with flower petals and people have been preparing this moment since early morning. Joy and sadness, smiles and tears intermingle… Many have lost children or a husband.. and all are there to remember.

Today, 3rd of November, is Eric’s birthday. Father Fathima offers Mass for Eric, and right after Mass, comes with a birthday cake that he has had prepared just for this occasion. The Sisters are also here and have also prepared a birthday cake! Eric, who was worried that he would not have a birthday cake, as there was no way for us to buy or make a cake here, is reassured and overjoyed… We are all the more touched by the attention that children’s birthdays are not particularly celebrated here… Everywhere, we are treated with generosity and attention, and also a touch of curiosity, and we really fully appreciate this welcome and this simple life that we can share.

There would still be many things I could write about, but it will have to wait for next blog. Tomorrow, for the first time, we are going to a town (Nalgonda), where we will be able to find a real Internet connection (or so we hope)! Nalgonda is situated at 40km from Bhimanapally and it will take us one hour and a half by autorickshaw to reach it… Thus, today’s priority is writing and completing our blogs… Be patient for the next news, they will come at the latest in 2 weeks, when we leave Bhimanapally… or before if we have another opportunity.

As you can see, we are all happy living in this village and feel privileged to have all these opportunities to meet people and discover their way of life and share in it. We still keep you all in our thoughts and thank you for all your mails and comments that we hope to be able to download tomorrow and read in the next few days…


Religion in India

Wow. This is an incredible country.

Before coming here I didn’t know India. It was far, strange. They played cricket. And I wasn’t quite sure what language they spoke.

Well it has taken me some time to try to put things straight and understand the incredible differences this country has from anything I know.

First for a few facts. Hinduism is the main religion in India (and not a language). It has 33 million gods.

One of the main languages is Hindi and it has a weird alphabet. But other places in the country have not only another languages but also a totally different alphabet. Telugu for example is the first and often the only language for over 80 million people. Their bubbly looking alphabet is composed of 54 letters. Then if you move down south there are again different languages and alphabets.

English is considered as the lingua franca that anybody who wants a future will have to learn. So is Hindi.

Therefore educated people will most probably talk and write in at least three languages, with possibly 3 different alphabets. I tried learning Russian for one year. Different alphabets are a nightmare. In India it is part of their culture.

But I think that one of the most striking differences is religion.

We are fortunate to be able to spend a few weeks in India. And we have the blessing to stay a full month in a little village with 250 families.

The first thing which strikes the traveller is the multitude of temples and places of prayer. Some are no bigger than a shoe box. Others are impressive architectural feats. Each shop has a little oratory to some god or other. When someone goes by a temple he will show a sigh of respect. In Udaipur it seemed as if every other house was an temple to some god. All had bright colours, flowers, incense.

In the roads there always was some sort of procession. Dancing, chanting, always very loud.

But as time went by I realised that is was not just some show, it is a way of living. Religion is part of every day life, of every moment. I saw a shop owner perform a complicated ritual, stick the incense sticks in the wall, and then proceed to open his little shop.

It seems that if you don’t understand religiosity in India you don’t understand India.

Now what is Catholicism in India? We found out in the little village of Bhinamapally.

This village has 250 families which settled in 1919. They were all Catholics from the same caste. Today they are all still Catholics. And they live their faith in the Indian way. It permeates everything. Their houses, their attitudes, their feasts, the rhythm of their day, everything.

Living here is like going on a trip through time and landing in French Vendée prior to the French revolution, or in England prior to King Henry VIII. When we drive or walk through these places in France and England today we see shrines, churches, statues. But they are old and too often only part in history. Today new buildings are shopping malls and billboards.

But here in Bhinamapally we can live today what it was like back then in Europe. Not a house is built without heavy references to religion. Crosses are engraved in the walls, statues are there, pictures of Jesus, Mary or other saints are everywhere to be seen.

But faith is also expressed through prayers. Every evening at 5:30 pm there is the children’s rosary. Over a hundred people attend. In the evenings at 7:30 pm some villagers meet somewhere in the village, different every time, and will recite a rosary all together. A good 50 people attend.

Morning is early. Before 5:30 am, the bells send their call in the dark. Then religious music booms through the whole village and it is followed on the same loudspeakers by the gospel reading of the day and some morning prayers. In this country the Muslims are not the only ones to wake their brethren in the morning! Mass is at 6:30 am.

Prayers are also part of every project and aspect of life. During our stay new bore wells were being dug. The priest was called upon to bless the drilling equipment, the hole and the whole project. Coconuts were broken, incense burnt, everything was put in the hands of God

This village alone, over the last 90 years, has seen 20 priestly vocations and has provided 40 nuns.

The level of religiosity you find in this village every day is what you would find during a retreat or some great catholic gathering back where I come from. But here it never ends. It is life.

One village close by has a small Catholic community. The village is largely Hindu, there is a little mosque, but there are also 5 Catholic families. They have converted recently through the example of a lone family, the first Catholics in the village. Now the priest from Bhinamapally comes on Saturdays to celebrate mass, he also comes to teach catechism when the field work is less intense. A son of one of the families is in the seminary, training to be a priest.

This community, though small, is building their own church, to have a place to worship and celebrate mass. They are building the Church with their own hands, donating their time and labour. The only investment is for the materials. Today the Church is nearly standing. They have paused for lack of funds, and all they need is roughly 3000 euros.

Catholics have also a very practical impact. They run the school, the dispensary, invite a doctor to come twice a month, provide filtered water and many other things we discover as time goes by.

Here I have discovered and touched the real work that missionaries have carried out and still carry out. They care first and foremost for the poor of God. They help all those they can. The school in this village is relatively cheap and considered as one of the best in these areas. Though run by nuns and teaching the Catholic faith it is sought after by the Hindus of the surrounding villages. All are welcome. There is no discrimination on religious grounds and this is most common in all the schools, colleges, hospitals run by Catholics all round the country.

Does the Church try to convert everyone? No. It tries to serve the poor. But people see how missionaries live, seek where their joy comes from. Some will ask to join the Church. After two years of teaching, if they wish they will be baptised.

But what does Catholicism bring to the people? It brings freedom from the world, which Buddhism proposes, a sense of the divine which Hinduism excels at, but with joy, hope and a personal relationship with Christ. For Indian spirituality it is, when understood as here in Bhinamapally, a glimpse into the fulfilment of religion.

Hundreds of years ago Catholic missionaries have brought to India the joy of the Catholic faith, the freshness of the Good News, the love for the poor and the sense of service pushed to heroic levels.

In return India has preserved the vibrant faith of our forefathers, and through its many vocations is bringing it back to the world.

Blog d’Amandine en Inde – bilingual

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Je suis en Inde. J’aime voyager en Inde, mais je ne voudrais pas vivre dans ce pays, parce que la vie ici est un peu difficile. Il y a beaucoup de gens pauvres qui n’ont pas beaucoup de nourriture. L’Inde est très polluée et partout les gens jettent les choses par terre. Il fait très chaud en Inde en ce moment. Il y a beaucoup d’animaux sur les routes, comme des buffles ou des vaches. Il y a aussi des singes, des écureuils, des éléphants, des perroquets verts et des dromadaires. Je suis allée sur un éléphant qui avait plein de poils sur sa tête et j’ai beaucoup aimé être sur son dos. J’ai vu le Taj Mahal, tout blanc et très beau et des palais de Maharajah (les Maharajah sont comme des grands rois). J’ai beaucoup voyagé dans les trains et j’ai aimé dormir dans les trains et boire beaucoup de thé indien. J’aime bien les repas indiens: il faut manger avec ses doigts et je sais faire des chapatis (des pains indiens).

I am in India. I like travelling in India, but I wouldn’t like to live in this country because life is a little difficult. There are a lot of poor people who haven’t got a lot of food. India is very polluted, everywhere the people throw the things on the floor outside. It is very hot in India now. There are a lot of animals on the roads, like buffaloes or some cows. There are also some monkeys, squirrels, elephants, green parrots and camels. I went on a elephant who had a lot of hair on his head and I liked very much going on his back. I saw the Taj Mahal, all white and very nice and I saw some Maharajah’s palace (Maharajahs are like kings). I travelled a lot in trains and I liked sleeping in the trains and I drank a lot of Indian tea. I like Indian food. It is a little bit spicy and we eat with our fingers. I know how to make chapatis (Indian bread).

Je suis maintenant dans un petit village et j’aime bien. J’ai beaucoup d’amis pour jouer, mais parfois j’aime aussi être un peu tranquille, car tout le monde veut toujours jouer avec moi. Ici, les gens parlent telugu, mais je ne savais pas que cette langue existait. J’apprends des mots en telugu et les enfants apprennent un peu l’anglais. Chaque jour, je vais à l’école pour apprendre des chants en anglais aux enfants qui parlent telugu. Je suis souvent invitée dans les maisons et les enfants n’ont pas de chambre a eux et ils ont juste quelques jouets, mais pas beaucoup. Il n’y a pas assez d’eau dans le village pour arroser les champs de coton et cette année, il n’y a pas eu assez de pluie, alors les plantes poussent mal et les gens n’ont pas beaucoup de nourriture.

I am now in a small village and I like it. I have got a lot of friends to play with, but sometimes I like to be a little bit alone, because everyone wants to play with me all the time. Here, people speak Telugu, but before I didn’t know Telugu existed. I learnt some words in Telugu and the children try to speak a little bit English. Every day, I go to school to teach English songs to the little children. I am often invited in the houses of children, and the children don’t have a bedroom for them and they have got just a few toys to play. There isn’t enough water in the village to water the cotton plants, so the plants don’t grow well and people don’t have a lot of food.

J’ai été à un mariage dans le village et j’ai mangé avec les mariés et j’ai bien aimé. La mariée était belle avec un sari rouge et des fleurs dans ses cheveux. A la fin de la messe, j’ai mis du riz sur les cheveux de la mariée et du marié et tout le monde faisait pareil pour leur souhaiter un heureux mariage.

Je prends des rickshaws pour voyager (à la place des taxis que nous avons en France) et les routes sont en terre et ne sont pas plates: elles sont toutes abimées et pleines de trous.

I went to a wedding in the village and I ate with the people and I liked it. The bride was beautiful in a red sari and had some flowers in her hair. At the end of the Mass, I put some rice on the head of the married people and everyone did the same to wish them a happy marriage.

I travel in rickshaws (instead of taxis like in France) and the roads are not flat: they are all damaged and full of holes, and it makes us jump in the rickshaw.

A stroll in a graveyard

The beginnings of a faint black were gradually tinging the heavy air. The sun had passed the day in an effort to boil the earth and now seemed rather puffed out, rather tired, and was already starting to resign, falling through the far-away sky. As such, the atmosphere was rather pleasant, and this combined to the fact that it was the day of the dead, 2nd November, set the soul on a venture for a calm, sad stroll through the graveyard.

I walk alone, looking at the tombs in turn, searching for the state of melancholy that sets the mind alight with a small sad flame. Some tombs are simple mounds of coarse earth, others ugly stone painted with a nice white, and others are of shiny black marble. Almost all of them have white candles blowing their shy fire, some have rows of flowers and lastly some have nothing, no person who cares anymore, nobody who remembers: a lone forgotten life. As the fires in my mind settle down and my breath slows down, I wonder.

Suddenly, a voice calls my name. Annoyed, I turn round and smile at the boy. He is called Joseph, is 14, speaks English roughly, and is the boy I know best in the village. In a way he reminds me of my first friend ever, easy to like, even easier to hate. He advances his hand, sure that I will shake it. This I do, rather sadly, because I know that all the children in the graveyard will run towards me so as to shake my hand, that strange European custom! Soon I’ve got a crowd around me, laughing and shouting in the dignified graveyard. Heloh! Waisya name? Bagunara?

I try to explain to my ‘English’ friend: “I walk alone now?” “On my own?” But it is not fated to happen, anyway I doubt he is familiar with the word ‘alone’, and the others… I’ve learnt to stop interminable discussions so I march away. They all follow. Sigh… But after all, it’s my fault for being strange, who ever heard of a guy with white skin? Absolutely ridiculous! And hair which is not black? Unheard of! And the extinct language French? Don’t make me laugh!

With my troop following me, quickly accepting new members, a girl invites me over. With another sigh, I come up with my best smile. Hello. Hello. Soon I escape again, but my followers have grown bolder. Joseph calls me. Grandfather mother father he says, indicating two tombs. Oh… And I realize a dozen hands are pulling at me, trying to drag me all over. But I’m used to it, I stand firm. And, like if I wasn’t being teared into a dozen peaces, I calmly continue the ‘conversation’, trying to escape. Joseph tells me two boys want to talk with me. I was hoping that today I would be able to have a calm walk, for once…

I stroll towards the two elder boys, muttering ‘fiddlesticks’ under my breath. One of the boys actually speaks English and I engage once again into the type of conversation which doesn’t mean anything. When people ask me my name they actually do not care about the answer but rather are overjoyed by the fact that they have spoken English to a European, been understood, and been responded to. Yet it tires me sooo much… After a few seconds of silence I thank him warmly for the conversation, tell him I’m going to walk now, hesitate to ask him how to say ‘alone’ in Telugu, and walk away.

Soon my mind, who has had the notion of patience battered by an army of noisy hammers for already two weeks, pleads Joseph, and by him the troop that is still following me to, please, let me walk alone. “I’m bothering you?” he asks. Not another trick question! If I say yes he’ll be profoundly hurt, and if I say no the troops’ distance will soon degrade to me carrying a fistful of near-teens on my back. (Side-note: they do that since they’ve seen me skipping with Amandine on my back…)

I opt for no, and he suddenly looks very sad. Hastily I ask him a question, why two tombs have dolphin pictures on them, and a bright smile followed by a babble of incomprehensible words are pronounced. He takes me to the tombs and proudly explains that the dolphins have dolphin shapes… Then he adds, you eat dolphins? I reply no. He replies yes, and soon everybody is accusing me of eating dolphins. Mega sigh…

Talks with many adults follow this, smiles which begin to hurt, and then I excuse myself so as to go to the celebration. Learn to give up on some things, although a silent stroll would have been so welcome…

I sit with my father, on the side of a water container. A little calm. Inevitably though, Joseph comes along and very soon, there are so many children sitting beside us that my father goes off for a calmer place. I don’t. Joseph starts leaning on my shoulder. I let it be. Then, loads of people start pushing him on me, so as to make me fall. Then they all want me to swim in the container… During this an adult comes beside me, folds his arm, and tries to touch me with his elbow. I lean to the side, he leans also. When his elbow has touched my arm for a few seconds he goes off all happy. Soft European skin, right. A child starts stroking my hair. Joseph asks me if I’m his very best friend. I avoid the question. After this an adult comes, shoos away all the children, and proudly sits beside me.

Off I go again, and my fan club follow. This ‘club’ is mainly composed of Joseph’s violent character and of a big boy who folds his hands all the time and stands beside me wherever I go, and who, suddenly, will lower his maturity so much as to be giggling stupidly about any odd matter. Jospeh slaps my buttocks, and I sharply stop him. I’ve been trying to condition him not to touch some special body parts of others. I almost lost his friendship after hurting him in an effort to protect Eric from having his trousers taken off. Innocently he tells me to slap his buttocks. Em, thank-you but no…

Quite soon another ‘shake the European’s hand’ game ensues and, inexplicably, the big boy tries to crush my hand. Unluckily for him, I’ve put that move high on my priority list and am pretty good at it. He shouts and lets go. After that a teen girl tries the same thing but I can proudly state that I am not sexist, so I crush her hand as well. She yelps, lets go, and has another try at crushing my hand.

An adult starts fire-crackers going, and great excitement ensues. I’m asked to dance by about twenty voices, but I flatly refuse. Joseph finds a used fire-cracker bomb on the floor and has fun throwing it at me every two seconds shouting ‘bomb!’ under the furious giggles of the ‘big’ boy. Finally, I decide to go back home. A troop of children come up to shake my hands, and I patiently shake each one, smiling especially at all the little children as well as the girls. Then I turn to go and the big boy decides to have another try at crushing my hand. I again retaliate but he just winces and keeps on holding. My main muscles are all in my right wrist, so I have a go at twisting his hand, and finally twirl him around me a few times. Finally, after his efforts not to let go, I examine his hand a little, find a good spot, and make him yelp off, cradling his hand. Then I smile goodbye to all and depart.

I’ve had weirder shaking hands. Some girls will start stroking my hand, and some little boys will start doing violent movement of hands up and down, until they’re jumping up every time they shake.

I’ve often tried to teach order, but the children keep on fighting. After one such two-hour try at playing a game with them midst all the fighting, I devised a tactic to teach non-violence. Joseph translated my words into a ‘if anybody fights, we all beat him up!’ Ineluctably a major fight started. Reminds me of democracy…

L’Inde – India by/par David

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You must know that this blog will be half French, half English, this will also simply talk of one specific thing here and there and will not give you an overview of all that happened and all we did.

There will be no dates, but normally it will be in a chronological order, unless I forgot in what order it happened.

Ce Blog sera à moitié en Anglais et à moitié en Français. Ce blog ne racontera pas tout ce qu’on a fait ou vécu, mais prendra simplement quelque moments précis. Normalement ce sera raconté dans un ordre chronologique.

In India, in the train station, to get from one platform to another, you cross on the rails. This would be dangerous in France, but here, when the trains get in the station, they don’t pass the 20km/h, so the danger is minimized. We tried this once, and the Indians got scared for us because the train was coming ( please note that they still cross when the train is that far. Some even collect bottles on the rails while the train is coming. People also throw all their rubbish on the rail, so many rats make the mot of it… Workers also work between 2 rails when the train is coming, and some men wait between 2 rails to get onto the train.) This is just to say we weren’t really in danger, but it’s just because we’re slow tourists. It was quite good fun.

Sur une autre station, 2 mendiants qui travaillaient ensemble ont demandé l’aumône à mon père, qui leur a donné 2 sandwich. Ma mère n’avait pas vu. Ensuite l’enfant demanda à ma mère, qui lui donna quelques roupies (1 euro= 63 roupies). Ensuite la femme vint mendier, et ma mère allait lui donner de l’argent lorsque l’enfant survint et ma mère découvrit qu’ils travaillaient ensemble. Donc elle ne lui donna rien. La femme, dans sa rage contre l’enfant qui lui fit perdre quelques roupies, le frappa violemment. Ensuite elle recommença à nous demander de l’argent, mais parce qu’elle l’avait frappé, on ne lui donna rien.

Once, when we were in a train, a child beggar came in, moving on his knees, as if he was handicapped, and begged for some money. We had no coins, or small notes, so we couldn’t give him anything. Because of this, he started touching Eric’s hair. My mother, taking it for an unkind gesture, got up and made him go. I don’t know how the gesture was actually meant.

Later he came back, standing, and made us a sort of gesture, possibly meant as a curse, so my mother made him go again. He then went back on the station, to wait for the next train.

Nous somme dans un village Indien, ou l’on parle Télugou ( té-lé-gou) C’est un dialecte parlé seulement dans cette partie de l’Inde. Je dis dialecte, mais 90 millions de personne parlent cette langue! Le problème c’est que s’ils quittent cette partie de l’Inde, ils ne peuvent plus communiquer. Quant à nus nous apprenons quelque mots de Télugou tous les jours

In the village, people depend on rain for their crops. If they don’t get 4 good rains every year, then all their crops are lost. At school, we talk of people who win less that 1 Euro per day, here we see people who win between 90 and 130 cents per day, when they can find work. The education for young children costs about 4 Euros, but some people haven’t got enough money. Here the catholic church is very active, some nuns teach in the school, the church gets donations to be able to dig wells, so that the population doesn’t need to depend on rain so much. This year, 60 to 70 percent of the cotton crops were lost because of scarce rain. Here they live off selling cotton, and for some lucky one, they can grow rice. The church also set up a water purifier, because here the water is rich in fluorine, which gives joint pains and deforms the bones( they lower the amount of fluorine through a method of reverse-osmosis). The church also helps to pay for education, and they make tribals aware of their rights in many areas in Inda. In extra news, I learnt to like chess a while ago and made a lot of progress! If Mr. Daniel reads this, I want to tell him that he’s right about the fact that chess is a great game!

Á l’école, on apprend des chants en Anglais aux plus jeunes. Xavier développe aussi des programmes informatique pour apprendre aux enfants à utiliser le clavier.

I’ve discovered what it’s like being famous! Here the children mass at the windows, shouting for us to come! Whenever they are free, they think we are free, and shout for us to come and play. Now I’ve got a sort of fan club, and sometimes it’s really horrible! Most of them are very nice though.

Ici, les gens construisent un centre informatique. Ils vont avoir 20 ordinateurs. Pour l’instant il est encore en construction, ce qui fait que j’ai appris beaucoup sur la construction d’un bâtiment.

My impressions of India, by Eric (voir mon autre blog en français)

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I prefer India to China, specially because in India I am in a village and I experience Indian life. The streets of the towns are not very nice in India, but in the little villages, the view is magnificent and India is very interesting. I have learnt many useful things like: making and cooking chapatis (Indian bread), boiling some buffalo milk, cooking rice in curry, doing the washing up better, organising myself… I have difficulties to communicate with the children because they speak telugu. Each day, we normally go to the school of the village to teach easy songs in English to the little children who are learning English. I have also learnt some interesting things on the village. I think that I would like to live in India and develop a village (for now). I would also like to discover India more and also its traditions. It is very hot in India but we can get used to it in a few weeks. The food is nice but doesn’t change much. The people are nice and their way of life is very interesting. They wash themselves with buckets and a small recipient and are poor compared to Europeans. Some do not always have enough to eat, but it is getting better little by little with the help of priests and donations from America and Germany. I really like the life in India and I have already ridden an elephant.

Bonjour a tous!

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Non, nous ne vous avons pas oublié, et nous n’avons pas non plus fondu sous la chaleur (encore que) ou été dévorés par un tigre… Nous sommes tout simplement installés depuis plus de 2 semaines dans le petit village de Bhinamapally, dans l’état d’Andhra Pradesh, et nous n’avons pas Internet (même l’électricité est un problème ici… alors Internet, n’y pensons pas…). Nous allons tous très bien et sommes heureux de ce temps passé en Inde et, en particulier, dans ce petit village. Sans plus vous faire attendre, voici la moisson de blogs familiaux, postés en vrac sur quelques jours. Tout d’abord, un peu de rattrapage sur notre séjour au Rajasthan, puis nos blogs sur nos premières expériences dans ce petit village indien…