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India: Dehli’s Lotus temple

We arrived safely at Delhi airport after a good flight, although none of us got much sleep. The Delhi airport terminal was plush and could have been anywhere, apparently built specially for the commonwealth games, but the entire airport was surrounded by building work. Jo, from the India office met us and and has been wonderful.

Driving in India is not for the faint hearted. There seem to be no rules on right of way, other than who can honk their horn the loudest and who out-chickens who. There was a vast assortment of vehicles on the road, which is full of enormous pot holes. Honestly we moan at home but that is nothing!

There awas a motorcycle with a woman, holding a baby riding side saddle on the back, bicycles piled high with goods, rickshaws and buses that look so battered you wouldn’t expect them to work, let alone be allowed on the road. But, as yet, no cows.

The hotel is great and we have nice clean rooms with all the amenities. We wanted to explore Delhi a little this afternoon, as we had not got anything on the itinary. We were advised to visit the Lotus temple, just 10 minutes down the road. After an exhilarating taxi ride (not brave enough to try the tuk-tuks yet) we found ourselves at a beautiful oasis of green. The temple is shaped like a lotus flower in white marble, and there were lots of families there visiting. It was beautiful and very peaceful. We had to take our shoes off and observe silence inside. It was a Bahai house of worship, which as far as I could understand, wants to unite all the faiths of the world, bringing them to work and worship in harmony. Many of their ideals, for equality of men and women, elimination of prejeudice and discrimination, universal and compulsory education, the elimination of poverty could all be those of Eglantyne Jebb herself.

The people were very welcoming, although we stood out, and were asked to have our photos taken by Indians who wanted their photo taken with a westerner. We were accosted by a large group of school children who all wanted to practise their excellent English on us, and they then laughed at us trying to say “Namaste” (hello) to them in return. The families were dressed in their Sunday best and the children were beautiful in their colourful clothes. We noticed the black colouring around the childrens eyes, like eyshadow, which looked very dramatic. Later our photographer told us that the painting of childrens eyes is a cultural tradition and is supposed to ward off the “evil eye”.

Save the Children, through their education of midwives, is trying to educate people about the use of Kohl – it’s detrimental to their sight and can lead to loss of sight as it gradually blocks the tear ducts. Other such traditions, such as removing a new born baby from the mother just after birth so she does not give the baby her yellow breast milk, which is thought to be teinted, is also deeply ingrained in the culture. Midwives are re-educating on the health benefits of the colostrum.

We have had a fascinating and wonderful day, but tomorrow we will see a different side to life as we visit a street children project and the slums of Delhi to see a mobile health clinic.

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