Sustainable Development in Northern India
Spring is upon us and it’s the end of the fiscal year for EduCARE India and it’s programs. So those of us in Punjab packed up our bags, locked up the house and boarded that hot, bumpy, crowded bus to Dharamshala to join the rest of the organizational interns, directors and officers (19 total) for a week of meetings, play and then off for holiday travel. Oh if only the bus had not… broken down 😦
So this is how it begins, 5 interns hanging out on the side of the road, 3 more hours of travel ahead of us, bags in tow, waiting for another bus to stop by so we could hop on. Luckily, a bus DID happen by and half of us even got seats! Crowded, bumpy and hot, we arrived in Dharamshala and all parted ways in the late afternoon to our respective lodging for the week.
Meetings, meetings and more meetings, it’s true. But interspersed we had quite a lot of fun and bonding experiences. Half of us attended a trip to Palampur to learn about organic farming, composting, mushroom cultivation and bamboo handicraft and architecture (posts and pictures soon to follow). We always found time to talk over coffee, get some continental foods in Mcleod Ganj, have a night out or two and share our trials and tribulations with each other. I’d have to say by far my favorite activity was the walk to Bhagsu, about 3-4 km away from Naddi, through the lower Himalayas. We were surrounded by greenery, tall trees, flowering rhododendrum, Tibetan prayer flag forests, and accompanied by a lot of friendly, furry and curious mountain dogs who have the roam of the place.
EduCARE has 5 different program areas, three of which are fully operational and two of which are still in the implementation and research and development stages (Rural Health Care and Education). Besides ConservEN, I heartily encourage you to check out the other Program blogs for Young Women’s IDEA and MicroempowerED.
Well, the meetings came to an end two days before Holi, giving us ample time to travel to our vacation destinations. One group of interns decided to visit Rishikesh and nearby villages. Another group went to Rajasthan. However, I and another coordinator chose to stay in Naddi and enjoy the festivities with our local friends and family, and also get some much needed R&R.
It was great! Holi was so much fun. We walked to a portion of the community we have come to know quite well and played with a dozen kids and adults, throwing colored powder, spraying colored foam, throwing water on each other and, well, washing colored powder from our eyes intermittently (it doesn’t burn so much as you might think, thank goodness!). The best thing is that first you are ‘blessed’ with the powder… then 20 hands are rushing at you to make sure every inch of you face and arms are a variety of red, blue, pink, green, etc.
Holi is a time of music, color, rambunctious behavior and… gifts. One tourist gave the village kids all key chains with different places represented in Malaysia (I’m guessing the tourist was… Malaysian?). I gave the kids… my smile. And color… lots and lots of color. I think at one point my bag of powser was simply absconded by some of the kids, but no worries, it’s all in fun. 🙂 Many children lined the roads holding ropes at each end, trying to get cars to stop and pay a “toll.” Of course, as the road is lined by so many, people get tired of paying these tokens and start driving through the ropes. Hence, as my friend and I took a walk down the mountain we saw many kids sitting about with broken ropes. They were still smiling and playing though, so no harm done. Everyone everywhere looked covered in color. And then there are the groups of, well, very “happy” young men playing up-tempo music and dancing….counter-intuitively? It was pretty funny, especially this group we spotted getting down to “Gangnam Style” and trying to, well, “bless” us with colored powders as we dodged away. Hmmm
Still, my first ever Holi was a riot of color, fun and friendship. I start the new “year” here at ConservEN energized and enthusiastic to see what the coming months will bring 🙂