After breakfast, we headed to an organic farm by the name of Navdanya. Navdanya is an NGO that works with farmers all over India to switch from chemically modified seeds to organic seeds. The people there greeted us warmly, and after a short talk on the history , took us around the farm. Here, we meet Pablo, one of the many interns on the farm. He told us a lot about the mechanics of polycultural farming (Polycultural farms have multiple crops growing in the same area). Later, we had a wonderful lunch, full of all organic food. Anuj was amazed at the spices used in the dal.
Once we ate everything, licking our plates clean, we went back on the bus and drove to a slum which Doon School students work with. We started by introducing ourselves to the people there. One lady was upset due to a previously installed lightbulb defusing, so we called Shantum (our tour guide) to tell the lady that the Doon School students would fix it (more on that later). Then we took to entertaining the kids by showing them how to play catch with rocks. Aidan brought stickers, so we started to distribute them to the kids. The kids immediately flocked to us holding out their hands yelling “bharra wala dehdo” or in English: give me the big one. They were all fascinated by the varying sizes and colors of the stickers.
We then walked to the field to organize a game of kabaddi. We watched the kids play for a while until the teenagers at the slum asked us if we wanted to play. They split us up into the already established kid’s teams and we had a lot of fun. After teaching the kids different games, they grew fond of us. Some even decided to share their names (a fact they previously chose to keep secret).
The Doon School students finally arrived and showed us their new model for solar panel powered light bulbs. However, as we were installing the bulbs into a house, a man started giving the students a hard time. He questioned the students by bringing up the point that the unfortunate of the slum shouldn’t be a tourist attraction. “Why bring people to show off naked India? You’re giving our country a bad name!” Before leaving, all the children came to say goodbye. They didn’t seem to care about the arising political questions. Some kids went as far to say “this is the real India – let them see.” In the bus, we discussed what our purpose was there. Though maybe a case of confirmation bias, we decided that our reasons were just. And, like many days before, we concluded by going to the Doon S chool for Dinner and sleep.
Anuj and Josh
A few highlights from our time in Dehradun so far:
On Tuesday, we drove to Rishikesh, a beautiful town along the banks of the Ganga (Ganges) River – known a global hub for yoga. Here the students are entering the Ashram we visited, where we had the opportunity to meet with a Hindu guru.
After lunch at the Ashram, we headed to Rajaji National Forest and took a three hour safari – we saw lots of wildlife including elephants, deer, peacocks, monkeys, and many bird species.
After a hike through an area of Dehradun known as Rajpur, we had a cooking class – we learned to make a delicious chickpea dish and rolled dough to make puris (fried bread).
We arrived safely in Dehradun on the train on Saturday afternoon, and have spent the last two days getting acclimated to the city we will be exploring for the next week. We received a warm welcome at Welham Girls School on Saturday, where our nine girls are being hosted. Later in the day, the boys headed to Doon School, where we were met by Davan, the exchange student who came to Groton last year.
After a good night’s sleep, we awoke early to take a walk through the Paltam Bazaar with a local guide – it was a beautiful and fascinating tour as we saw some of the historic architecture as well as watched this vibrant city come to life — there were people stringing marigolds onto necklaces, newspaper delivery people buzzing through the streets on mopeds, and fruit being arranged at markets. We saw an abandoned mausoleum and then visited Darbar Sahib, a religious site that reminded us of the style of the Taj Mahal. There happened to be a festival going on celebrating the fifth day after the important Hindu holiday of Holi – there was a carnival, many worshippers, and a great deal of color and energy.
On Saturday afternoon, we saw a Bollywood movie at a local theater. It was in Hindi and there were no subtitles, but a number of local friends helped translate. We then headed to dinner at the home of Shantum and Gitu, two of our tour guides – they invited a number of their family and friends to join us, so we had the chance to hear from many locals about their experiences in Dehradun. It was a fun way to learn about the city and about Indian culture in a broader sense.
Today, we experienced a “day in the life” of Doon and Welham students — the boys attended classes and played sports with their hosts, while the girls took part in a variety of activities at Welham, including dance, pottery, and cooking classes. We all gathered at Doon School in the evening and had the opportunity to meet Doon’s headmaster for tea. We capped off the evening with a session with a local environmentalist who shared fascinating information about the ecology of the Himalayan region. This was a great primer for our outing tomorrow to Rishikesh and the Rajaji National Forest.
We hope you are enjoying following along. We have better access to wifi now, so our posts should be more frequent.
On Thursday (March 8th) we woke up bright and early to go to the Taj Mahal. The line was very long, but there was lots of entertainment such as monkeys. To make things better, we also got authentic chai (Zoe is a fan). Although we missed the majority of the sunrise, we were still struck by the beauty of the Taj Mahal. The light reflects on the Taj Mahal thus it changes color throughout the day, so it was really special to be able to notice the progression throughout the day.
Before leaving we went to the Agra Fort. Inside the fort there was a small mosque tucked away in a corner, and we meditated in it for a few minutes to bring ourselves back to the present moment. This was definitely our highlight of the visit. For lunch we got to try some South Indian dishes and Limca- similar to Sprite, but better.
Yesterday (March 9th) we toured all three museums of Sanskriti Kendra. This included textiles, terra cotta, and everyday objects. Our favorite was the terracotta museum, which had exhibits for each region of India.
Later in the day we took the metro to Old Delhi. For lunch we went to Haldiram, a popular brand with lots of great food. Our favorite part was visiting the Sikh Temple. They were very welcoming; first they showed Chris and Aidan how to correctly wear a turban, let us help them make food, and were overall very friendly. After we took a rickshaw ride to a Jain temple. The temple was also very beautiful and colorful. Then we returned to Sanskriti Kendra just in time for our meeting with Prof. Robert Thurman, a Buddhist academic. His love for his work was clear, and it was a pleasure to listen to him speak about his passion.
Today we are on our way to Dehradun. We woke up at the crack of dawn and are about two hours away from our destination.
Anya and Zoe
Greetings from Agra!
We landed in the “World’s 2nd Best Airport” (Delhi) two days ago and have much to report. When we came to, we found ourselves in a hotel with three museums, Terra Cotta, textiles, and artifacts from “daily use”. Perhaps more importantly, the hotel was home to quite a few monkeys! Chris had to fend off a particularly bold one from munching his breakfast… After an orientation with our guide, Shantum we set off to the house where Gandhi spent his last days. We followed concrete markers for the path he walked in his last moments and explored the museum. We then had “high tea” with Dr. Karan Singh, a politician/poet/scholar/naturalist/diplomat. Due to the many hats he wears, he gave us a lecture on Indian politics and history, fielded our questions about population control, and recited a Robert Frost Poem.
The next day we set off to Agra. This turned out to be a five-hour drive on which we learned about the Yamuna River and talked about cows. (A lot of our conversations seem to revolve around cows.) We spent our afternoon exploring a Mughal palace and mosque from the 1570s. The architecture, the gardens, and the history of the space left us all feeling a bit giddy.
Whether it was bowing lightly to Gandhi’s memorial, eating a heavenly meal of roti and chai tea, or watching a lady throw back her burka to take a selfie, everything feels somehow spiritually uplifting.
Jamie and Blair
Welcome to the India 2018 blog!
We are gearing up to leave for Logan Airport this evening for our flight to Delhi (via Dubai). Mr. Lamont hosted a Bollywood movie night last night for students who are on campus and we are heading to an Indian lunch shortly.
Throughout the trip, students will take turns detailing our daily activities on this blog and we will post as many pictures as we can (we are fortunate to have Ms. Andersson with us, so our pictures will be beautiful!). We are excited for our journey and hope you will follow along with us in the coming days.
The 4th Groton trip to India departs on March 3rd from Logan airport. They will arrive in New Delhi on the 5th morning and travel by train to Dehradun, where they will be at the Doon School for a week. After that they will go into the Rajaji National park and do some environmental work with David Black and Sanjay Sondhi. They return to Boston on March 18th. Watch this space for their BLOGS.