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India: On the train to Jaipur

Another very different day again today. Took the train, very early…no… very very early, from Delhi to Jaipur. I was a little disappointed it was not a Harry Potter train, and rushing to get on and struggling with heavy bags meant I didn’t really take in much of the station experience. In hindsight we should have got a porter.

It would have been about 30 rupees (45p) but we were  worried there would be a huge bill at the end, as everything here seems a bit negotiable. So we struggled on, my suitcase wheels not wanting to go in the same direction as me, and I felt a complete wimp. I blame it on the heat, (which even at 6 am this morning was very noticeable) rather than my unfit state. (But on the bright side, we have been walking around all day in T-shirts, whilst you guys back home are freezing cold and wet!)

The journey was a very civalised, hospitable affair. The conductor brought round a choice of English worded newspapers. (Very interesting article about the Delhi buses by the way – don’t get on one! The blue line buses have been responsible for over 1,000 deaths in the last 10 years! Anyway, I digress). Then we had tea. Then later we were given breakfast and more tea, all included in the cost of the ticket. We had been told, eating out on our first night, that it is actually considered rude to refuse second helpings, and the host will almost force more food on you, even pouring food over an outstretched hand.

We travelled through slums for the first hour, giving an indication of the size of Delhi, which has now got so large it has been given state status. But from what we could see, the slums today were far worse that those “approved slums” we’d seen yesterday. Very flimsy, temporary structures made out of tarpaulin, tin, bits of wood — in fact I guess anything that could be found. And all very close together and leaning up against each other. There were large pools of stagnant, dirty water, large piles of rubbish. It was shocking to see very small children playing on the railway lines themselves.

Jaipur is very much a tourist based city, and the street children and beggars were not as noticeable as in Delhi, but maybe we are just staying in a better part of the city. We met the state team who were so very welcoming, and keen to tell us about the various projects here. They had prepared a great presentation for us, full of lots of information about what we will be seeing over the next few days.

Despite only a couple of hours sleep we did a little shopping close to our hotel. I managed to get some travel sickness pills — I’m terrified of being car sick again, all over the lovely Save the children car. Bought a couple of gifts, not telling you what as I don’t want to spoil the surprise for my children back home. Needless to say the saris are beautiful — lots of hand stitching, embroidery and bead work, I wonder who does that? And how much they are paid?

The hotel is lovely, very colonial looking with pillars and a verrandah. There was a man watering the lawn and another painting the terracotta pots… a terracotta colour. We sat out on the lawn tonight, in thin shirts to have our evening meal. Did I mention how warm it is here? 33 degrees, lovely this evening, but awful once out of the air conditioning during the day. We were covered in deet spray tonight to ward off the mosquitos and probably smelled awful. We are continually washing our hands in anti-bacterial gel and only drinking bottled water- with the seal in tact. It is incredible how much we take for granted back home.

The more I see of India, the more I realise how very diverse it is and how much I don’t understand. And how many preconceptions I had. I had half expected a steam train this morning with passengers riding on the roof, and was genuinely disappointed it wasn’t. I expected to see cows all over the streets, and although they are there, they are not holding up the traffic. Even saw camels today pulling loads, as there is large Thar desert here.

Well that’s me for today, need to sleep and get ready for a long day tomorrow.

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