Chapter 19 The One With The Long Division Lesson…

We had headed back to our little home stay after movie night where we faced another example of a bit of a culture clash with an interrogation from Mayank who woke us at 11pm to insist he filled our water jug for us and to find out who the man was that had driven us home (our uber driver…). Sara and I couldn’t blame him for looking out for us but the intensity was a bit much so we were glad to head out! Mayank had explained he owned an NGO nearby but as he was busy during the day we were driven there by his friend and the actual founder Nitin who told us that Mayank was actually just an occasional volunteer! We were joined by the crazy free spirit Liverpudlian Micheal who had been to visit the NGO’s centres multiple times and explained his mantra of love first academia second as he puffed away on his e-cigarette. The NGO is titled Saksham which translates as capable and is a centre spread across 5 sites providing children and women’s education in Hindi and English and aims to empower women through improving their vocational skills such as teaching them sewing skills with the goal to create their own brand. We arrived at the first center, a kindergarten class where in the entrance Nitin had organised for a nurse to vaccinate the youngest kids. Based in a slum area populated by thousands this was no mean feat! We were introduced to the most beautiful group of about 25 kids all around 4 years old. We sang some classics (head shoulders knees and toes), attempted to join their Hindi songs and jumped with them until it was time for their breakfast where we sat and played with them. Saying goodbye was so sad as their lovely personalities had just started to emerge as they giggled at Sara and I with the most infectious laughs! Leaving parting gifts of biscuits we waved goodbye and headed to another centre, this time aimed at women improving their life skills. It was a tiny room with 4 sewing machines on benches and packed with 8 women all practicing embroidery and sewing. Nitin explained his plan to start up a brand ‘Kaliko’ where women would work to create high quality pieces from yoga pants to kids clothes to crop tops using organic cotton, natural dyes and recycled polyester to sell to a Western market. With the sale funds going to the women who crafted the items they would have moe control over the family purse and money of their own or at least additional income. Whilst it seemed incredibly ambitions, Nitin explained it was in very early stages and he was after help from a fashion designer or expert. So if anyone reading this is, please contact him!! Our final stop was at the school room that teaches women over a lunch hour and helps with after school homework (or just general life advice and support) for older kids. We sat in the beautifully decorated but tiny room as handful of women filtered in. Often there can be as many as 20 but one of the women explained that a wedding was taking place so as we have come to see, weddings attendance is pretty compulsory! We began the lesson learning the names of fruits in English, Hindi and how to write them in both alphabets. This was pretty bloody hard – I think the woman next to me assumed I was proficient in Devanagari writing as she seemed pretty confused that when she explained the spelling of a word I simply didn’t have the letters for it. For the first time in my life I found myself copying from the woman in front! Then we moved to mathematics….Sara and I were desperately trying to remember methods behind long division and multiplication but were utterly stuck and everyone around us were nailing the calculator free answer for 10101785 divided by 5! We left the class laughing with the women at our lacking and their proficiency and it felt so special to be in a classroom where the drive to learn was so passionate. The walls of the room were decorated with messages defining the rights for women and I found myself welling up at how powerful such a tiny space could be! We left buzzing and headed to a local restaurant to learn more about the NGO (ill post the Facebook link to their page) and devour some Choley Bhature which was this huge head sized puffy bread with an incredible chickpea curry.
Eventually we headed back to check out of Mayank’s place and after dropping our bags at Dougs much more chilled and central apartment headed to Narghar Fort. Our tuk tuk driver was hilarious if a little intense and explained he would sing for us if we went first. So, intrigued about his own song choice, we performed a near perfect version of Its raining men as we careered up the road to the fort. His response of a pretty quiet Hindi love song was hard to join in with but a hilarious moment none the less! We settled down once we reached the fort with cold beers and watched yet another PERFECT sunset! Then with a train to catch we grabbed pizzas on the way home and eventually boarded our train at midnight after an amazing day!
P.S. Find details and videos of Saksham here –


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