A year or so ago I begun to see this lovely symbol hand-painted in the villages surrounding Pushkar in Rajasthan. I was intrigued, so I looked up the words on the internet. I found that Educate Girls in a not-for-profit organisation that was established in the Pali district of Rajasthan in 2007, and aims to tackle issues at the root cause of gender inequality in India’s education system. It now works with over 12,000 schools in India and over 8000 villages to do exactly what their name suggests.
According to Educate Girls’ website, about 3 million girls are out of school in India and that for every 100 girls living in rural India, only 1 will reach year 12. In Rajasthan, about 40% of girls leave school before year 5 and 50% of girls are married before they reach the legal age (which is 18 years old), a truly horrifying statistic.
Educate Girls believe “that if girls in educationally backward districts are educated now, they will have the potential to enter the formal economy, gain employment and lift their families out of poverty.” I believe this too. India is a country that has many serious and institutionalised problems (gender inequality being one of them) but I also believe that it has an incredible amount of potential. I believe that a great deal of this potential lies within its women and girls, and that the education of these women and girls can release it.
You can look at the Educate Girls’website here: www.educategirls.ngo
On a less serious note, I adore the symbol that the organisation have chosen to use and that’s hand-painted on this wall. Almost every Indian girl I have seen walking to school has her hair in the most perfect of glossy plaits, tied with a ribbon at each end – delightful!
Neatly hung up on the wall outside a shop is this red and orange-handled broom, which I think looks lovely next to the colours of the roller door next to it. I think these brooms, made from a type of sturdy grass, are actually more effective than the western-style broom, as the flexible strands mean that you can more easily get into corners and tight spots. They’re more attractive too, in my opinion!
Kochi (also known as Cochin), a large port city in Kerala.
This is an image on a window of a Punjabi man welcoming visitors to his dhaba, a roadside restaurant. Dhabas are found all over India and there must be hundreds of thousands of them. They serve as a place for any traveler, but particularly for truck drivers and bus drivers, to stop for a meal and to relax for a while – you can see in this photo that there are several tour buses parked outside the window and there would have been at least several more. When I get off a bus at a stop like this, I always make a note of exactly which bus is mine, and keep a careful eye on it. I really don’t want to have my bus and my luggage leave without me!
Dhabas may serve local food, but very often they serve Punjabi food, that ubiquitous Indian cuisine loved all over India and the world.
I remember that the bus I was travelling in stopped at this dhaba at about midnight. I’d eaten already and I wasn’t particularly hungry but I certainly wasn’t going to pass on some chai (tea) and a valuable chance to go to the toilet!
I also remember that a storm began – the thunder cracked so loudly above us that people ducked to the ground in a mixture of surprise and fear, myself included.
Actually I can’t remember where I took this photo. I think it could have been on the way from Delhi to the alpine village of Kasol in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh. As we drove into that state and along its extremely windy mountain roads, I began to feel very, very queasy, and the rest of my night was spent concentrating on not vomiting…
These are chital or cheetal deer, otherwise known as axis or (unsurprisingly) spotted deer, and are found in India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
The name chital comes from the Sanskrit word citra, which means variegated or painted. Knowing this, you won’t be surprised to learn that the word cheetah has the same origin.
Trivandrum Zoo in Thiruvananthapuram, formerly and most commonly known as Trivandrum, Kerala
Pani is the Hindi word for water, which I’ve used in this post’s title because it starts with a P, but I should be saying vellam, which is water in Malayalam. Malayalam is the language of Kerala, which is from where I’m writing this post.
I wondered why this hot water, served to everyone as they were eating their breakfast, was pink. I discovered that the water turns this colour when boiled with the heartwood of Pathimugam, the East Indian red wood tree, a tree indigenous to India. The wood is whitish in colour when freshly cut but turns red when exposed to air. The wood is thought to purify the water and help to prevent water-borne diseases, and is also thought to have many Ayurvedic properties, and so i Ayurveda medicine, now also practiced in the western world, originated in India over 3000 years ago and is one of the world’s oldest holistic (meaning ‘whole-body’) healing systems.
In my hotel’s restaurant, near the Cochin International Airport, Cochin, Kerala
When my friend and I were exploring the historical city of Champaner, we came across a TV crew, filming around a tank (a body of water used for bathing and praying). Their cables are shown here. My friend talked to one of the many crew members hanging around and we found that they were shooting a scene for an episode of Razia Rani (or Razia Sultan), a historical drama about the first female ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, a Muslim kingdom that ruled a large part of India from 1206 to 1526.
I was excited! Were my dreams of becoming an extra in Indian TV going to come true? No. It didn’t seem that my not-so-young Western face had a place in this drama, sadly.
When I was watching the crew members rushing around, I heard someone yell “chalo, chalo, chalo!” in Hindi, which basically means “let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”. I have family and friends who’ve worked in the film industry in Australia and I know the stress that goes with it, and I thought ‘well, it’s obviously the same in India!’.
Champaner, an abandoned city in the Champaner-Pavagadh Archeological Park (a UNESCO World Heritage site) in the western state of Gujarat.
There’s nothing special about this image at all, but it’s the only photo I’ve taken of the Indian flag, and today is Republic Day in India, a very important day in the Indian calendar. Republic Day celebrates the Constitution of India, which came into force on the 26th of January 1950. It replaced the British imposed Government of India act, which had been law since 1935. Following the Indian independence movement, noted for largely peaceful non-violent resistance and civil disobedience led by Mahatma Gandhi, India gained her independence from Britain in August 1947 after British India was divided into modern-day India and Pakistan. An Assembly was formed and a draft constitution was discussed for nearly 3 years before final copies in both English and Hindi were signed in January 1950 and became law. By 1950 India had a population of approximately 360 million, an extraordinary amount of extremely varied people to keep in mind when writing a constitutaion with which to govern them!
Unlike Australia Day in my country, which also falls on the 26th of January and on which it’s common for people to have barbeques, watch fireworks and drink beer, Republic Day in India is a more serious and formal affair during which there’re great displays of military might, speeches and cultural programmes.
Here’s something I found interesting: each Republic Day parade has a chief guest, a head of state or government of another country whom has been invited by the Indian government to attend. The first female chief guest, as far as I can see, was Queen Elizabeth II, in 1961. Australia’s only chief guest was Prime Minister Malcom Fraser in 1979, and the United States’ only chief guest was President Barak Obama in 2015. This year’s chief guest will be Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates.
Are you wondering what the colours in the Indian flag represent? Saffron (NOT orange!) represents courage and sacrifice, white represents peace and truth, and green represents faith and chivalry. The navy blue symbol in the centre represents a traditional spinning wheel, symbolising Mahatma Gandhi’s goal of making Indians self-reliant by making their own clothing.
Red Fort (Lal Quila in Hindi), Delhi, India’s capital city. This spectacular fort was constructed from red sandstone in 1639 by the 5th Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan – you may know him better as the man behind the Taj Mahal! It was was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007.