Saturday, 27 December 2008

Christmas!!


All the ingredients were there for the least Christmas-like Christmas. In India people barely have a clue about how Christmas is celebrated, as only a very small fraction of the population is Christian. The fake tree we had put up in the corner of the living room looked pathetic and the 20 degrees weather outside, something that everyone is very happy with by the way, did not generate any cozy snowy December feelings. The guy who was supposed to cook for us backed out the day before the 25th and I figured we were left over with ordering food as usual.
How well it all worked out in the end! With the whole living room decorated with Christmas attributes, the fake snow spread out all over (sent by my mom, thanks! : )), the Christmas tree lit up, covered by fake snow and with all the presents around it.. A long dining table where twenty-five people were sitting at, and a great lot of native dishes prepared by all of us that made the whole thing complete. The sky-radio Christmas top hundred playing in the background was the cherry on the cake. We had a great dinner and an equally great gift sharing. I think the picture says it all.. : )

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Magician Hamid



One of the friends I have made during my period here is Hamid, ex-student and now operating internationally as a magician. It is really interesting to see close-hand how people like him go around the world to perform their shows and earn money with their skills. The journey always ends in Delhi though, where the close community is home to all the artists. Hamid has an endless drive to find new opportunities with everlasting faith in success. Over my stay here I have been assisting him with applications, his latest target is a huge project overseas, to be mentioned upon successful completion. ;) Among the list you will find his website as well, where videos and pictures can be found. Feel free to take a look! :)

Friday, 19 December 2008

One day, three religions

Today I went with my eldest students on an 'outing', which implies a schooltrip which usually takes the class to a park, a museum or a temple. Today we visited the biggest church in Delhi (the size of a random church in a Dutch village ;) ), a Hindu temple and a Sikh temple. Most impressive was by far the Sikh temple. Followers of this religion are easily recognisable by their turbans, which the male members are obliged to wear at any occasion. Anyone who wants to enter the temple has to cover his or her head with something similar. Most intruiging of the sacred place is that whoever visits the temple gets a meal offered for free. This holds for all the bigger Sikh temples, and in their 'capital', Amritsar, people can even have accomodation for free during the night in the Golden Temple. Upon leaving the main grounds I fould myself suddenly in a shedded area where hundreds of people were sharing lunch. The food was prepared and handed out by volunteers of the temple, and people were placed at random, as soon as a seat came available the next person in line was put there. It was a nice feeling to be sharing a lunch offered by the temple with total strangers. The food was good and the supply unlimited, and many people who had enjoyed the lunch helped out with cleaning dishes afterwards. Too bad I had not taken my camera with me.. But certainly an experience that will stand me by!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Jaipur Baby!

The old centre with red-painted buildings.. A lake palace as from a fairy tale.. An impressive fortress surrounded by foothills, and of course the ever present zoo on the streets with a blend of cows, camels, elephants, pigs, goats, monkeys and dogs.. Last weekend it was Jaipur time!

Jaipur is the capital of the biggest Indian state of Rajastan and is nicknamed ‘the Pink city’. Origin of this is the pink / red colour of the buildings in the old centre, painted in this shade to honour some British monarch upon his visit a couple of centuries ago. The city is perfect for a weekend trip, as the close proximity to Delhi makes it easy to reach and the sightseeing can easily be done within two days.


The journey back and forth by local bus is something I have gotten used to by now, a token of my integration in this subcontinent. Overcrowded streets were, in contrast to Delhi, mainly used by non-motorised vehicles and the classic bicycle rickshaw still flourishes in Jaipur, whereas in Delhi they are almost completely extinguished. Also representatives of the Animal Kingdom are more present in this city compared to the capital. :D

Most impressive during the weekend was the trip to Amber Fort; the journey uphill by elephant and the great view from the fortressed foothills surrounding the castle. Apart from the standardized version of the city palace that can be found in every town this fort was worth visiting and represents somewhat what one would expect of the ancient India. Of course the elephants only added to this image. ;)



On one of the platforms our version of the ‘Benny Lava’ dance was shot, though we had to add the music afterwards. Please enjoy this high quality dancing. :)

video

Thursday, 11 December 2008

POORVA






Recently I was invited by my college Poorva for dinner at her place. I truly love and value the occasions on which I get invited at somebody’s house, be it a slum house or a more middle class setting like Poorva’s.

Poorva is the counselor at Kalakar Trust, which implies that she is responsible for problem solving regarding the students of the school as well as for community issues, like clashes between relatives or groups in the slum. Often counseling sessions are held in her office, the room is then crowded with locals from the slum who tell her their version of the occurred trouble.

The dinner I got to enjoy at her place was typically Indian and tasty, and the warm welcome by her parents and sister was what I have come to appreciate of Indian people. Her house is located next to a big park and a temple, both of which we paid a visit. All in all a enjoyable evening!

Monday, 8 December 2008

Kalakar Performance

Last Sunday my school had a major performance in an open air theatre, and of course I was there to enjoy the show. Finding the theatre behind a metro construction site at the other side of the city was not easy, but worth the effort and time spent was the great performance displayed by my students. In total more than 300 children performed with drums, puppets, karate and dance.

All students were beautifully dressed up, as you can see in the picture on the left. The spectator seats were overcrowded with students, family, teachers and random people who wanted to watch the show. The result was a big blend of the brightest colours, something you don’t run into every day in Europe. In the picture below you see me among my students and one flat mate of mine here from Turkey.

As of now it is Tuesday and afternoon has just reached. Since it’s a national holiday today (Eid is a Muslim festival) most people don’t have to work, except for the few unlucky ones who work for big companies. I plan to go for some running soon, the massive lack of sports to practice here is not all too beneficial for my health. ;) Let’s see how this will work out!

Friday, 5 December 2008

Auto-rickshaws

The main way of transportation for locals as well as for tourists and a stable stream of income for tens of thousands of Indian people who drive the units: Auto-Rickshaws are hot in Delhi. The metro is still mainly under construction, buses take set directions and are often overcrowded, and thus many people take the auto when the necessity of going from A to B arises.



Personally I cannot afford daily drives by auto towards my job and back due to the large distance I have to cover, but for whatever other purpose of transportation within Delhi the auto is actually the only option. It requires quite some skills to negotiate a decent price with the driver as they often refuse to ‘go by meter’. However, my baggy Indian clothing as well as the few words of Hindi that I have learned for this very purpose guarantee me rather good prices in general. And as you can see, quite some people fit in one auto with a bit of an effort ;)

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

My school

Hey guys!
As the main reason for coming to India was the voluntary work I do at the slum school I’d like to tell something about that as well. The school is located in the middle of a slum area in the very centre of Delhi. Every day I travel by public bus and metro for about two hours back and forth from my house in Kalkaji to the slum school. The journey is an experience in Indian culture all on itself, as I often find myself in overcrowded buses on the congested roads in New Delhi!
At the school I teach six classes a day varying in age, level of education and gender. In between the classes I help out people from the community and socialize with my colleagues and students. I feel fully accepted and appreciated by everyone and it will not be easy to leave the school in January, as it really feels like a place I have come to belong to. In the pictures you can see the construction of new classrooms as well as some of my students.

As of now I write this story from my house in Kalkaji, my unconcerned eating behaviour has finally resulted in me in getting ill and thus I am not able to work today. But that is all worth it, as I really get to experience the true India! :)

Monday, 1 December 2008

Aiesec conference

Last weekend my first Aiesec conference in India took place. The venue was a nice private setting in the outskirts of the city, surrounded by trees and water you did not really have the impression to be in the capital of India. Topics that were discussed covered cultural differences and the like, we had a small but nice group of participants and in general I can say that it was a success!

On Saturday night we went by cab from the venue of the conference to a setting in East Delhi, where some guru from ‘the art of living foundation’ was giving a lecture. More interesting than the Hindi speech that the guy gave was the plus 1100 people sitar (Indian guitar) concert that was held, a new world record and to be registered in the Guiness book of records! Among the hundreds of Indian sitar players sat proudly my roommate Paulo from Brazil, what made the whole experience even more special. As you can see on the picture we were supporting him with all our might!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Pushkar!


One of the most recent trips I have undertaken was the journey to Pushkar, a cozy little town in the centre of Rajasthan, a state in the West of India which is mainly covered by desert. The whole trip started off rather typically since the train departed at six am and we were still drinking local beer the previous night at 2 am.. Reason for this was an unexpected visit of two British friends of ours. Of course we ran out of time early in the morning as Johan and I rushed through the main gate of the train station straight into our train that was about to depart.

The stay in Pushkar was great, as a camel fair was being organized during that very period (actually our reason for going there in the first place) and we got to see 25.000 camels crowded together on a few patches of desert. The town itself is worth visiting as well, as it is considered as sacred by the Hindu religion there are about five hundred temples in and around the place. A lake is located at the very hearth of the city and one would almost feel like being in the India of one thousand years ago whilst overlooking the sunset at the roof of a temple.



On Sunday we rented two motorbikes so that we could explore the surrounding countryside a bit. Unlucky as we were to get a flat tire ten kilometers out of town, we were fortunate enough to end up at a repair shop a mere two hundred meters from the place of getting stuck in the first place. And so we ended up in this cozy little village with hospital sweet people offering us tea whilst the guy took his time to put a new inner tire on my motorbike. All in all we greatly enjoyed the two hours we were stuck there, as the children were really sweet (picture) and we got to explore the settings of their dwellings.

Back in Pushkar we had the best time with the most random activities, as we were dancing on the street along with various processions and helping out shopkeepers to sell their stuff to random passers-by. The train journey back to Delhi overnight and the fact that I had to go straight to work from the train station made the impact of the journey last a bit longer physically than planned, but that was all worth it!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Polish party

It’s early afternoon and I find myself in the living room of our apartment. It’s a lovely easy going day, since we had quite a good party yesterday night everyone is just chilling out. My fellow country mate Johan enjoys the sun outside on our big balcony, Wojtek from Poland plays some rock music and Paulo from Brazil enjoys the pleasures of incense. The party last night took place in the Southern part of Delhi and was organized by a Polish group of trainees in order to celebrate the Polish independence day. They had prepared national dishes as zurek and pierogi and of course vodka was well supplied. The party took place at the rooftop of their apartment, the weather in Delhi mid October is actually still comparable to an average summer day in Holland, be it without the rain. The ride back home in the middle of the night was one to remember, as we were sitting with nine people plus the driver in a regular sized cab. It actually involved two people on the front seat, five on the back seats, and two people in the trunk! Sitting in the open trunk seemed quite enjoyable at first, but after half an hour of driving over the bad quality Delhi roads they were not that cheerful anymore.
As for now I will go to the house of a colleague of mine, as she lost a bet that costs her a dinner!

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Introduction



Hello!

Welcome to my blog! I am Tony, graduate in the bachelor program of International Economics and Finance and currently residing in New Delhi, India.


Via the international exchange program Aiesec I work for a NGO called Kalakar Trust (http://www.kalakartrust.org/). The organization seeks to protect the culture of Indian folk musicians, and part of that is the elementary school set up by the trustee of the organization. My role is to teach the children of the school English (mostly teenagers), which will enhance their chances of success in their later profession. The work is grateful and entertaining, and I truly enjoy working with the children.


Outside school hours there is plenty of time to enjoy the trainee life in Delhi and beyond, with regular parties and journeys that keep life varied. In later posts I will tell more about these undertakings by bus and train, great adventures where I truly get to know the real India! I live in an area of New Delhi called Kalkaji, in a nice apartment (picture) with about nine other trainees with roots from all over the world. The daily journey to the school takes about two hours and goes by the means of local bus, auto rickshaw and metro. Truly an insight in the Indian habits and customs as well!


I will post stories here at least twice a week, covering various issues of what I have experienced here, what is going on right now and what is planned for the future!