Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Agra back to Delhi

In which I am served a meal I'm way too young for
Starring Satyenden who grew up on the streets

We got a final late night train from Agra back to Delhi.  As it was the last night of our trip we decided to buy a few beers to drink on the way but Pancham was so concerned about us undertaking this illegal activity that in end we saved them until we got to Delhi and drank them in the rather gloomy and musty conference hall of the hotel. The train journey was as a result, uneventful except for the fact that the ticket price included a bottle of water and a rather disconcerting meal:

The main thing I still wanted to do in Delhi was a visit a program working with street children called the Salaam Balaak Trust. They provide day shelters for kids who turn up in Delhi train on a daily basis - up to 30 kids a day who have run away from home or been kicked out by their families.  The trust run walking tours through the back streets around New Delhi station and the walk is led by a former street kid.  We were led around by Satyenden who ran away from home after his mother died and his father remarried.  He has no idea how old he really is as when asked his age, he just repeated what the child in the queue in front of him had said.  We visited one of the residential centers where the kids were all busy drawing peacocks but happy to take a break to pose for a picture.  They have so many great success stories and a lot of the kids who grow up there end up working at the centre or leading the walks.  

That was followed by a third failed attempt to get into the Bird Hospital at the Jain Temple.  There was something desperately appealing about a hospital that only treats vegetarian birds - the carnivores can be outpatients - but sadly it was never open when I managed to get there. 

Just about the first thing I did when I got to Delhi was empty my backpack and bundle up pretty much everything other than the clothes I was wearing home to donate to a local charity.  It was fantastically cathartic and also meant I now had an empty bag to fill with (ethically sourced!) stuff to take home.  

Salaam Balaak boys home building

I spent the last night of my trip in a beautiful hotel in Connaught Place, the heart of New Delhi, listening the thump of generator in the street outside being constantly awoken by the doorbell which rang every time the electricity turned off or on (about 6 times through the course of the night).  I was very ready to go home.  

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