Picking weeds from the rice fields

30.08.12 | road trip

Our visit to Delhi on Monday happened to coincide with Kiran’s visa appointment at the British Embassy, and so we embarked together on a south-bound road trip towards the capital. Driven by the expert Manoj, we decided not to take the main roads but traveled instead on the narrow agricultural lanes that run along the Ganges’ irrigation canals. It was a really beautiful journey, passing by farmland and through rural villages  – and a chance for us to learn a little more about locally growing trees and crops.

The main reason for our trip was to meet Aanchal Sodhani, the Senior Arts Project Manager at the British Council, to discuss a potential collaboration in relation to Chandar Nager. It was an exciting meeting, and we talked about a number of options which could open up the process of working with the local community to a larger audience.  We also had a successful shopping trip to buy a printer and replace Alex’s laptop, which died on arrival in India… but almost risked loosing the new purchases when our rickshaw got marooned in monsoon rain and we found ourselves wading thigh high in flood water! In the evening we had a chance to catch up with friends based in Delhi: Julia King, who’s researching incremental housing strategies in Savda Ghevra; Ryan LeCluyse, who’s working on the sanitation improvement projects with Quicksand; Amritha Ballal who’s working with traditional craftsmanship in the Himalayas with her firm Space Matters. It was great to hear about their work, and talk about our project, over large plates of delicious momos!

We left early the next morning to head back to Dehradun, but not before stopping for some breakfast pakoras courtesy of Kiran’s relatives in North Delhi. On the way back she decided we should make a slight detour to visit two rural schools that were started by Nanhi Dunya, but are now thriving and being run independently. They were really wonderful places, full of spirit – and the kids and teachers seemed incredibly excited about us visiting. The hospitality we received was amazing… and we ate some the most delicious food we’ve tasted in India so far – all locally grown in the school’s organic farm. It was great to see the extent of Nanhi Dunya’s influence, and the amount of respect Kiran has from all of the people who work with her. The day was completed by a quick stop at the banks of the Ganges near Haridwar, where we offered prayers by lighting candles in the middle of bundles of flowers gathered together in banana leaf baskets. Experiencing India with someone like Kiran is a unique and inspiring opportunity to understand the cultures and communities here… we’re very grateful for her time and energy!