Office and interns

“4 hands

2 heads

and a secretary please.”

I submitted that request a month ago and (obviously) didn’t get any of the things I asked for.   Life’s spinning a little out of control nowadays. It’s mostly been crazy on the work front- new projects, new people in the team and some encouraging results of the hard work put in together. It’s been rewarding but tiring.  Not tiring enough for me to crib about it (yet). I prefer action- packed days to days spend twiddling my thumbs. It’s far better to work hard and crash at the end of the day than to sit at night and what you achieved.

When there is so much happening on the work front, it’s natural to have a post of a work-related aspect. (A fun-ner travel post will follow.) I have had a trainee with me for the last 3 months. A young girl with a pretty face and a soft voice, who chose to intern in my department, though she would have been better suited in another department.   She came through the recommendation of a senior. We weren’t certain if she would be suited to the department’s nature of work, but with the recommendation note being waved in front of our faces, we took her on.

I tend to be judgmental about students/interns who come via the “approach route”, but I try to keep my biases at bay. Students must be assessed as individuals. Their backgrounds/recommendation letters/ parental connections shouldn’t colour our judgment of them.

Engaging with the intern closely was an eye-opener in many ways.  Her student life and mine were poles apart.

I come from a regular middle class family and I learnt early on that life=hard work. It was something learnt simply by observation. The parents worked hard. Both held jobs where they worked honestly and diligently.  The home front was never neglected- I don’t remember a single day when I didn’t get a home-cooked packed lunch or when I didn’t get academic support or when either or both parents were not available when I needed them.  Our home was basic, but always warm and welcoming, neat and well-kept.  My grandparents were as hard working. My grandmother didn’t work outside the house, but there wasn’t a single thing she didn’t do in-house- from tossing up great meals, to stitching clothes, to turning waste into gorgeous decoration pieces, to knitting and embroidering….. My grandfather was a professor and spent his spare time writing books. Everyone in the family worked hard. There was no other way of doing things.

When as an adolescent I had phases of doing things “my way” -which essentially meant taking it easy and doing nothing- they didn’t last long. The parents were quick to give me a reality check.   Basic fundamentals of life were made clear and like everyone else in the family, I learnt to live by them.

This sweet talking, cute looking intern was quite different from any of the previous interns I had worked with; or for that matter, my memories of myself as an intern. Everyone at office arrived at their desks by 9, the intern would waltz in at 10. She would normally leave by 3:30-4:00.   She preferred to choose her work- field work in the dusty and dirty Gurgaon villages wasn’t nice, writing reports and compiling data got boring,  working on holidays for special events wasn’t possible and travelling even short distances without a car was out of the question. Tasks given would take forever to finish and they would be done half-heartedly. A big chunk of the day was spent chatting on BBM or taking calls. It soon came to a point when where wasn’t much work I could involve her in.

It was hard to understand how such a disconnect existed between her expressed aspirations and actions. On her first day at work she expressed her desire to be independent, to work as a profession and move out of the shadow of her dominating (very well connected and very rich) father. Her actions didn’t match her aspirations. A quick, subtle chat session of getting the work life in order didn’t help. I followed that up with several hints on pulling up her socks….and then a warning. I made her reporting system more stringent. None of that worked.  She heard me alright, but it didn’t hit her. She knew she wasn’t being honest to herself or the job, but somewhere inside she knew she always had her father to bail her out. The sad fact of life is that some things can we worked out with pots of money & the right connections.  Once children know that, it is unlikely that they will care much for values such as honestly, hard work, integrity.  The pots of money and connections will serve you well for some part of your life, but I doubt if they work in the long term.  She knew  the MBA seat she wanted could be bought. She knew she could get a job by pulling a few strings. Why then was there any need to work at all?

I usually enjoy working with interns and this is the first time I have been so disappointed by one.  Not just disappointed that she did not learn anything concrete or do anything substantial while she was with us, but disappointed that like her there are other young people being brought up on the wrong value system, taking away opportunities that other’s deserve and doing nothing with the opportunities they have grabbed.

A Sunday well-spent

On some days I really like my job. On most days I like it, on some days it’s just about tolerable but on some others, I love it enough to write a post on it.

Take for instance this last Sunday. I spent half the day painting a government school in Gurgaon and loved every minute of it. The day was warm, the children infectiously happy, my mood upbeat and the activity fun.

Everyone knows the up-market, glitzy side of Gurgaon.  But behind the plush offices and big bunglows lives another Gurgaon- the original Gurgaon that has over time got pushed back by urbanization and industrialization. Pushed back so far behind that if you pass by Gurgaon or even live in it, there is a good chance that you won’t see it.  This is the Gurgaon that houses thousands of migrants who come to the city to find employment.  The Gurgaon that lives in cramped and unsanitary living conditions. The Gurgaon that lives without with we consider the basics for a decent life. The Gurgaon that you and I never visit.

A bunch of us from office got together to paint some learning aids on the walls of a government school in this Gurgaon. The school was a large one with classes from 1st to 12th and a sprawling playing ground. The overall condition of the school had seen improvement in the last few months. The company had made some investments in the school and that showed. But despite that, there was scope to do more.  And of all the options available to us, we chose to brighten up the school with some paint and plant some saplings to green it.   A professional painter was roped in to outline teaching aids on the exterior walls of the classrooms. We filled in the colour. Some who preferred gardening to painting, picked up a patch in the school and planted saplings.

Pull people put of the office environment and see how differently they behave. The competitiveness melts away, people are friendlier, happier, cooperative. It’s the same mix of people but they behave so differently. People may work together for years and they don’t bond they way they do when they are outside the office and on a common mission for social good. This was very evident that day.

It would have been great to share picture of everyone doing their bit to improve the school. But this is a public platform and people may not like having their pictures up here. So just a few pictures that don’t have people in them. Pardon the quality. Blackberry makes great keypads, terrible cameras.

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Painted the grapes and learnt thats  its easier to paint bananas or mangoes.  Painting individual grapes are time consuming.

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Cuber and cone done by yours truly.

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A pretty pink flower in the school

The mega post

As I sit down with my steaming cup of tea to write this post, I wonder when was the last time I took a three week break from this blog. Umm..Never. There is always a first time for everything, isn’t there? And with good reason. Work’s been a bit crazy. Everyone in the family has for some reason decided we are their favourite relatives and we’ve managed to get invited to meet the same set of people an obscene number of times in the last month or so. The conversation is beginning to get as repetitively boring as the menu. Plus there have been an issue with sharing the laptop. When the mother takes the laptop, I am struck by inspiration. When she hands it back to me, the inspiration magically disappears. Either that or I am too tired to reply to emails, much less write out a full post. Now that we are finally doing a post, I think we’ll just do a mega-post to  make up for all the missing posts.

Before we  officially begin, have you noticed the new header yet?  That’s thanks to dear Soli who took up my request and created this great header for me. I love everything about it- the colours, the graphics and yes, the trademark silhouette that’s so Soli.  I think after over two years of blogging, this blog deserves a customized header.  Thanks, Sol. I owe you. May be we can find a way to work off my debt…Urrm.. Would you accept payment by way of cakes/cookies/warm wishes?

While I’ve been away from the blogging world I have been catching up on my reading. I have read 3 books- Smoke and Mirrors by Pallavi Iyer, Shopaholic Ties the Knot by Sophie Kinsella and Brining up Vasu: the First Year by our very own Parul. All three very different, all three wonderful. In Smoke and Mirrors, Iyer writes about her experiences as an Indian working in China and reveals through her book many unknown facets of China- its culture, the education system, food, religion, industrialization, Indians in China, politics,  just about everything you can think of.  Truly offering an insider’s view, the book unravels some of the mystery surrounding the fascinating country. Iyer draws insightful comparisons between China and India. If you think of China as a fascinating country and would like to understand it a bit better and get the inside story, reading this book would be a good idea.

In Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic Ties the Knot, Kinsella does what she’s best at- telling a story with tons and tons of humour, the kind that has you in splits. Having read an abridged version of The Undomestic Goddess, I had sampled Kinsella’s style of writing and her brand humour but reading a full- fledged book, is a different experience all together. A riot to be exact. I can’t decide how much of the plot I should reveal, in case you want to read the book, I think it would be sufficient to say the book is about a shopaholic who has it all going right for her till such time that she decides to tie the knot. Incapable to come to a decision about what kind of wedding she wanted and thoroughly enjoying the experience of shopping all things disgustingly expensive, she allows her mother and mother in law to organize parallel weddings in two parts of the world. That’s when things begin to spin out of control. I wouldn’t want to disclose more.  Read up to know more! 😉

 Reading Bringing up Vasu was a joy. Most of the blog world has read it by now, I am quite sure, but the Crossword here took its own sweet time to bring the book to its shelves. If you read Parul’s blog as I do, you are bound to find a common thread between the book and the blog. It is autobiographical in the sense that it takes from real life, adds a little fiction to it and presents a concoction that is this very funny, warm book that you are sure to enjoy. If you are first time mom, more so. As per a first time mom I shared the book with, there are just so many things you can relate to in the book.   I have said this to you earlier, but let me say it here again Parul- Great job!! I think you were meant to write!

Speaking of Parul. Here’s what she sent my way-an award! One that declares me to be a superior scribbler. Let’s be honest here. Scribbler, I am. Superior, I am certainly not!! But thanks Parul. Coming from a real author, it means a lot.

Another award that has been in the closet for a long time is the one Niveditha had handed me. It was given so long ago that I can’t even come up with believable excuse to explain the immense delay in putting it up here. Sorry Nivs, I know its long, long over due but here it is at last!!

I am passing on the two awards to- Hitchwriter, Vimmuu( do you even do awards ??), Soli (nope, its not coz you made me that header),Monika, Indyeah and Colour me sunshine .

And now  to bring close this pos to a close, a few title-less pictures from the almost forgotten trip I took earlier this year.Enjoi!

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 Note:Image credit for books, Google Images.

Pack it all in

Thats what we are going to do in this post. We are going to begin with pictures and stories of Himachal, move on to blog awards and wrap it up with Diwali wishes!

This post is so long due that the contents seemed too stale to write about. But this blog is also about documenting my life. Toh late hi sahi, document to kar hi dena chahiye! So lets get started…

coffee

I  stop over at Delhi on my way to Solan. Delhi is a familiar city. Familiar in the sense that it still feels the same. It has changed the way it look considerably in the 6 or 7 years that I have been away. The roads are different,more congested.Landmarks have changed. There are fly overs everywhere. CP now looks like something else all together. With massive scale renovation/redevelopment work on for the Games(which, having seen the state of, I can assure you will not be done  in time) it  just doesnt look like the CP I knew. I met up with old friends at Dehli and had a rocking time! There are some friends with whom it doesnt matter how far apart you live, how many years have gone by without meeting in person. All you have to do is meet and it feels just like old times. Conversation flows easily. As does the coffee if you dont want to be thrown out of  Cafe Coffee Day. I seriously over dosed on coffee that day. But what is a little over dosing, I ask you? It was all for a good cause. 🙂

Himachal was everything I remembered it to be. The hills were green, the sky a clear blue, dotted with cottony clouds and the children pretty and energetic. Let me share with you some pictures that I took during the visit.

school

The schools in Himachal Pradesh are in a much better condition than the schools in the other states I have seen. The literacy level in the state is  general good and the economic condition of people is good too. I havent seen the kind of poverty I have seen in say interior Maharashtra  anywhere in Himachal. I am told Government policies support development. That is not to say that there arent any problems in the state or in the education being offered to the children. The terrain is itself a challenge. Five days of walking up and down mountains exhausted me. And I had a car to drop me to the nearest motorable place. Its obviously not easy for children and teachers to walk everyday to the school. The distances are also  much larger than there are in the plain. In Himachal  population is quite less and it is scattered. So you will find one tiny cluster of huts on one hill and another on the next hill. And the total population  of this scattered village will be served by one Govt. school somewhere on either of the two hills. So if you want to go to school everyday, its very likely that you will have to walk a lot to get there!The Government allots teachers as per the population of the school. So if yous school has 60 kids ranging from calss 1 to 5, you will get only 2 teachers. Thats means one teacher will be handling more than one class at a time. Multi grade teaching has its advantages but from what I observed, its also has its challenges!

That, btw, is a shot of one of the Government primary schools.

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Thats a picture of two girls trying to solve a maths paper.

The LPG cylinder hasnt reached all villages in Himachal. In some they still cook the mid day meal the old fashioned way- on firewood.The ladies in the pink is the one in-charge of preparing the meal. When  I approached the “kitchen shed” with my camera two other ladies said they wanted to join in and be a part of the picture. How could I refuse?

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This was a multi grade class with children of class 2,3 and 4 sitting together. With only one teacher, utter chaos prevailed. Himachal has a very interesting Government policy. On rakhi, karvachauth and bhaiduj, only lady teachers are given a day off. Women also get to travel on State Transport buses for free. We visited this particular school on karvachauth. One look at this class and we knew how terribly the solitary male teacher was trying to keep the classes running. He wasnt able to do much but I have to admit he was trying.

This was one of the sweetest girls I met.Amidst the chaos, she had decided she wanted to learn. So while other kids were busy looking out of the window, escaping from the class on the excuse of wanting to drink water, playing games instead of finished learning tasks given and basically adding to the general pandermonium, she was sitting with her siyahi and takhti, writing numbers 1 to 100.Nothing broke her concentration. She wasnt interested in playing nor did she get distracted by those who were. She just wanted to write her numbers.

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Do you see those 4 dots at the end of the path? Thats children racing throught the field at the end of a busy school day. They ran so fast that the pretty much reached the end of the path by the time I got my camera out. Made me wonder i whether it was the school that was so bad or if it was the mother at home that was so attractive…

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These little guys werent in any rush to get home. They stopped  on the way to chat for a bit.

corn

In place of apricots, I got corn this time. Having gorged on the apricots last time, I sorely missed them this time around. Corn wasnt a good enough substitute for the delicious apricots. October is corn seasion, so there was corn everywhere! In the fields, in the homes drying on the terrace, in flour mills getting convert into makai ka atta and in the markets for sale. Just about everywhere! If you want to eat some corn, all you have to do is stop by a house where the corns cobs are being dried in the sun and speak to the family for a few minutes.  As hospitable as Himachalis are you are sure to get a cup of tea and a roasted corn cob (or two!). I have found the Himachalis are essentially simple , uncomplicated people. You can stop by anyone’s house and you will be invited in and served tea . It doesnt matter whether or not they know you, they will be warm and friendly towards you. To me Himachalis come across as content people. They seem to be happy with what they have got and are undemanding.  May be its the terrain that makes them that way. In the plains  life is much easier so we want more, expect more. Its also easier to get what we want. In the hills life is tougher so you learn to appreciate what you’ve got.

mountains

I have come to believe that the mountains have a special property- that of viberating peace and calm. I have traveled a fair bit and I am yet to find a place that has the palpable silence that prevails in the mountains. You can hear the silence in the mountains and thats a wonderful thing. It is also a little scary because we are used to so much noise and activity.

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We finished our work in the 5 days that were alloted to us and de-toured to Shimla on our return journey. Do you want to know what the city made me realise? Never visit a city at 8 am. There is nothing you can do there if you reach so early. Other than roam the streets and take random touristy pictures. Which is exactly what we were forced to do. As per our travel schedule we werent supposed to go to Shimla at all but we begged and pleaded till we got our heart’s desire- a  de-tour to Shimla with 3 hours to spend as we liked in the city. So what if the 3 hours we got were from 8 am to 11 am? Had we known nothing, and I mean nothing functions there in the early mornings(not even eating joints) we might have changed our minds.

Shimla was much colder than we had expected it to be and we were so unprepared for the weather.  Thats why in our light shawls we f-r-o-z-e . Inadequate woolens and the hunger pangs were a horrible combination, I tell you.

We figured we couldnt do much(besides watching children in their blazers walk to school) so we  asked for directions and found our way to Mall road. All in the hope  that the most happening place in Shimla would have at least one or two eating places and shops functioning at such an early hour. Mall Road is to Shimla what town is to Bombay. The most hep and happening street in Shimla has all the big brands you can think of- mostly shoes, apparel and some handicrafts.

The   Christ Church is one of the most famous churches of Shimla and is  situated very close to Mall road. I think this  church featured in the movie Black, but I am not sure. Its is a  beautiful structure. I wanted to go in and say a prayer but it was locked. 😦

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I found this gorgeous Chinar tree on the Mall road. This was the first time ever that I saw a Chinar tree and  I was unduly excited about it, much to my colleague’s embarassment. The board in front of  the tree said ” Rare Chinar Tree”, I had ever reason to be excited about the tree, dint I?

the tree

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Another shot of the Chinar- the leaves against the sky. Dont miss the  fading moon.

Shimla has lots of  lovely Colonial structures. Its a remainder of the British rule and a beautiful one at that.  Its also what gives Shimla is character. That and the hundreds of schools kids. I dont know about you, but I have always associated two things with Shimla- the British summer capital  and schools.

I didnt get to spend too much time analysing the structures closely. To be honest I was too busy  admiring them and getting my pictures taken against their backdrop but they seemed to look pretty well maintained. All Government offices are in these pretty structure as are many shops.

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This is the state library on Mall road. I love the sloping roofs. They are so typically pahadi .

We walked up and down the Mall road and kept asking people when the shops will open. Trust me on this one, if you ever reach Shimla at 8 am and are waiting  for the city to wake up and the shops to open, donot believe people when they tell “nau- sade nau tak dukanain khulainge” becase no shop opens at nau-sade nau.Contrary to what people willmake you beleive, you have to wait till 11 to see the shutters go up. We couldnt  find any of the nice looking  restaurants open, so we settled to have breakfast at the Indian Coffee Shop. Located at the fag end of the Mall road, the Indian Coffee Shop  was  established sometime very, very long ago. The walls and ceiling will tell you that.  While I loved the look of the place, I dint like the food  too much. The idli bordered on being rock hard,the sambhar had radish in it and the coffee was so too strong that you needed a stomach of steel to digest it. But still, it was the only eating place open at 9.30 and it did get some fuel in our bodies.

By the time Shimla got started,  it was already 11 and we had to get back on track and move towards Chandigarh. We dint do too much in the capital of Shimla- we just walked a lot and ate a yucky breakfast, but I am still glad I got to see the city.

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Shimla is a pretty city but I am sure it used to be prettier. Its now very crowded, polluted and touristy. From a nice hill station it has turned into a commerial city thriving on tourism. Thats something I dint like too much but as time passes city change and there is no way to stop them , is there?

That was Himachal, now for the awards. Putting these up has been long due,Lively. Thank you for the award. I accept them with much gratitude.

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Its 11.30 pm so technically its still Diwali. Happy Diwali everyone!!!! I wish this Diwali brings you all lots of prosperity and happiness.

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Image source:google images.

PS: I am traveling again this coming week. No, its not for work. Its a vacation. To my favouritest place in the world.:)

We wake up late here

Figuratively speaking. While the swine flu scare was at its peak, our office slept through it, baselessly  assured that the  employees’ immunity systems were strong enough to resisit the disease. And now that the worst of the scare is over, they are bombarding our mailboxes with long, warning messages on symptoms, primary treatment and whatnot, putting up notices all over the office and ordering Dettol liquid soap as a substitute for the mild pink liquid that used to fill our dispensers. We received a circular  via email the day before that solicited our cooperation in helping the organisation keep the swine flu out. How you ask? By spreading our hands in front of the security guard when entering the office. No kidding.  You spread your hands in front of the khakhi clad man, he sprays a small amount of blue coloured  hand sanitizer. You rub your hands together and walk in enveloped in a distinctly lemony smell. If you go from one floor to another or if you exit the building and return, you are expected to have your hands sanitized again each time. The admin department is obviously –a-very keen on ensuring not a single swine flu germ enters the building and –b- ignorant. The hands aren’t the only way germs can get in.  Having taken so long to wake up to the flu, for all we know the germs are already in. But who is to argue with the bull headed admin? We do as directed.

The first “hand sanitizing” day can be described as fun. We walked through  the door way, one by one, holding our palm against our nose, inhaling the refreshing lemon fragrance and goofily smiling at each other, our eyes twinkling. We looked like fools. I am sure of it. Where have you ever seen so many adults get amused by such a regular thing? I mean just how exciting is a hand sanitizer?! Very, if you ask us. At least it is very exciting on day 1. By day 3 its neither fun nor exciting. It actually gets to becoming a leeetle annoying and very embarrassing. I come to office with a largish hand bag, an umbrella and another small bag that carries my lunch. With three things to cart, my hands are full. Extending my palm towards the security guy means major readjustment of luggage prior to the action. That’s the annoying part. The embarrassing part is queuing up for the sanitization exercise. There is only one security guard posted on each floor. He is the one who controls the all important hand sanitizer and when one of the company buses loaded with people reaches the office, you have to patiently stand in a line and wait for your turn with the hand sanitizer before you are allowed to enter. That doesn’t sound like an embarrassing situation and it isn’t, just so long as the guys from the other office are not added to the picture. Once you add them, you have yourself the perfect cocktail for a “socially embarrassing situation”. Our floor is shared by two offices- our’s and some overseas petroleum, petrochemical or some such company . The overseas guys don’t make it any less embarrassing for us when we line up with our palms stretched out. They make sure they stop, stare, smirk and then saunter off to their half of the floor, un-sanitized and uncaring.

Its not just that the hand sanitizing exercise is annoying and embarrassing, the security guard is also doing his bit to make the situation unbearable. In less than 3 days he has completely lost interest in his latest duty as the sanitizer sprayer. He sprays with complete disinterest now. As per admin rules, we are not vested with the authority to touch the sanitizer bottle. It can only be handled by the security guard which means we are at his mercy.  The disinterest has reached such levels that often  looks elsewhere while doing his duty and carelessly aims the nozzle at any random angle causing a healthy spray of sanitizer to either reached the floor or your feet. But I understand  the hand sanitizing job is probably not as challenging as the other things he does, such as forcing  unwilling visitors to hang the “visitor” tag around their neck and then directing them to various cubicles, screening the stationary shop errand boys, Pizza Hut and Mainland China delivery boys to ascertain if they are potential terrorists, reading the Mumbai Mirror and  chatting with the receptionist,but hey,its his job so he should be doing it right! Personal preferences are never a consideration in any job. Its a simple, uncomplicated deal-you do what they tell you to and at the end of the month they hand you a cheque.

I have survived three “sanitized”days but the promise of more such days leaves me distressed. I am therefore taking the next train out of the city and landing myself in some far flung gaon for ten whole days,extendible to 14. See you guys on the other side of the trip.:)

Sun dried to rain drenched..

..best describes my trip to Rajasthan. I reached the obscure village of Mundwa on a bright and sunny day. I feared the relentless sun would melt me away. Images of the Wicked Witch of the West melting away came to my mind. Except that she melted away when Dorothy threw water on her and I was liable to melting away in the complete absence of water, all due to the beautiful, round, flaming ball of fire that dominates the weather in the Thar desert. The very next day it poured. Poured so much that the narrow kachha roads of the village turned into running streams of water, courtyards got water logged and people stared up at the skies in surprise. It isn’t supposed to rain so much, in such little time in the desert. The day was obviously an exception.

There is nothing that beats the sense of euphoria that envelops one and all when it rains in the desert state.  The sense of relief that the people experience is palpable. The rains have been much delayed this year and the people were uncertain if the rains would come at all. Many hadnt sowed their fields. There is no point of sowing seeds if you engage exclusively in rainfed agriculture. If the rain gives your village a skip, you not only miss  harvesting a crop that year, your labour, time and seeds also go waste.   But the blessed rain turned up this year and effectivley put everyone’s worries aside.   The combination of the general atmosphere of happiness  and the smell of the fresh rain  hitting the parched land makes a heady mix.  Rain has the ability to uplift anyone’s mood. I dont think anyones can escape it,least of all me! Of course, its a different matter that the sun zapps away all the happiness and excitmentent exactly 24 hours later when it reappears it all its fiery glory, evaporating even the slightest evidence of the rain.

The trip was a great learning experience professionally. So if I chose to not crib about the horrid travel to and from the place and the not-so-great living arrangements and the insanely oily and spicy food, I can call the trip perfect. Great people, lots of on-field learning, fairly compliant weather, a trip duration just right. What more can one ask for? A railway platform or  hiking gear. I am not kidding. That was the only thing missing in the trip. The Government of India has the money to extend the railway network to the smallest of places in the country. Unfortunately it doesnt have enough money to build railway platforms and bridges. Which basically means that when you alight at Mundwa you have to jump off the train , land on the tracks or rather the rought, sharp edged stones that are laid in between the tracks and find scrape way to the exit. Getting off the train is easier than getting on it. To board a train you need hiking gear. Nothing else will do. I am sure you will understand working against gravity is hard enough. When you are weighed down with a travel bag that contains goods worth a few kilos, it only gets harder. You would never realise how high a railway coach is unless you stand on the track, at ground zero, and look up. It is high enough to make you feel like a dwarf and make the whole boarding process a serious challenge.  And if you are standing on the tracks right under the blazing sun  waiting for the train, the approaching engine and the caterpillar like coaches trailing behind it are gauranteed to scare you spitless. Watching large, impressive feats of engineering moving at high speeds towards you is anything but fun. It looks like I might have to make a couple of visits to this place in the near future.  I fear for my safety.. and that of others. And for that reason alone I am starting a fund. One that will be handed over to the Government to help it build platforms all over the country, starting with Mundwa. Its either that or investing in a life insurance policy.  Readers are requested to donate generously. Donations exempted from tax under 80G.

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Yes, flowers bloom in the desert too. The humble bougainvillea adds a splash of colour to the landscape.

lemons

Nimbus grow by the hundreds. People should use the harvest to set up a lemonade business I think!!

wood

The stump of a cut tree offers an interesting texture to those who take the time to stop and notice. Why the beautiful tree was cut in the first place, I know not.

doorway

The narrow enterance to an office. The laal pathar used  here is the choise of material for all construction in the area. The easily available stone is what makes kachha mud wall-thached roof type of houses very rare in the area.

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Switches curently in fashion.

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A small artificial pond created to provide water to an adjoining small patch of agricultural land.On the left top corner of the pond is a bird. There were lots of pretty birds in the area but birds are so difficult to capture on camera.While they are camera shy in nature, I am verbally loud in expressing my excitement at spotting them and not soft enough in my approach towards them. A great combination to scare the poor things away.

pomogranate

Pomogranates-low water intensive and easy to grown. You might note,the land in Mundwa is absolutely flat. The texture of the soil is similar to that found in other parts of the state but there are no sand dunes anywhere. I like many others expected to see sand dunes all around. Sadly disappointed. 😦

the land & the sky

The lone tree, the dry earth and the cloud specked sky.

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“Mhari photu kaade hai” said the oldest lady. For those who donot follow Marwari (I speak as if I do), I traslate “Our photo is being taken”

kair

Pretty pink flowers of the kair plant, the fruit of which is used to prepare the much famed kair-sangar sabzi.I love the sabzi and also the pickle made out of kair.Sluurp..

tree

A gorgeous tree,begging an artist to replicate it on paper.

pond

A shot of Lakholav pond, the largest of the four ponds situated in the four directions of the village. Dont miss the steps leading down to the pond, a very typical Rajasthani architecture. I found the greenest areas around the two  ponds. Most of the rest of the land carried a dehyderated, parched look.

tortoise tree

The day’s rain causes a temporary stream to develop. The kids frolick in the foreground of a tortoise shaped tree.

sunset

Resplendent colours paint the sky at sunset.

drenched

Raindrops cling to the leaves of a tree I cant identify.

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A picture taken hastily from the train window on the homeward journey. Somewhere after Valsad.