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India: Poverty is never far away

As it’s Sunday and the Save the Children offices are closed, we felt we had earned a little retail therapy and I must confess I got a little carried away.

I am planning an Indian evening on my return, with food of course, although the Indian food we get at home is nothing like the stuff I’ve been eating here – not a chicken tikka masala in sight.

But I hope to try and organise some authentic Indian cuisine, as far as possible, and I’ve been buying a few bits to decorate the tables as well as three beautiful Indian saris to decorate the hall.

I want to have some Indian goods as raffle prizes, so that was yet another excuse to walk the whole length of the street traders. And I might throw in a little presentation on my trip and some entertainment, so the panto group had better keep practising their Jai Ho dance.

The stalls were fab, loads of different stuff. I even managed some bartering, it’s actually quite entertaining when you get into it. Whatever price they ask, you offer about one-third of that, and eventually meet at a price somewhere in between.

The trick is to walk away, they then start following you down the street, getting lower and lower in price. Bulk buying gets you more discount, which was another excuse to buy more. I thought I’d done really well on one item, having started at 3000 rupees eventually got him down to 1500. Great I thought. But then further along, saw the same item, only to have the man there start at 1500.

Never mind. You win some, you lose some. But at least I didn’t buy the beautiful rugs from Kashmir that a wonderful man insisted on showing us, they were about £1000 each.

It’s been good this afternoon, but poverty is never far away. Everywhere you turn there are beggars, often young children carrying babies. There are children asleep on the pavement or in doorways. There are disabled adults knocking on the car windows.

I am reminded that a family may earn 200 rupees from a long day picking rubbish, barely enough to provide some food and water for themselves. And I paid that for the little stone elephant, to go on a table, that I really didn’t need.

India is so very diverse, from the mega rich to the very poorest of the poor, living next door to each other,…. and it gives me much to think about.

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