People and Places in the Fascinating,
Beautiful Country of India
On June 3 2007, I left Chicago for India, a 10 day trip. From Chicago to Frankfurt to Hyderabad and eventually to a place called Rajahmundry India, where a guy named Isaiah runs an orphanage for 20 boys, called the Rajah Boys Home. My trip was organized by Children’s Relief International, a relief agency which was started by my wife’s brother Dr. Alan Pieratt. CRI focuses on very poor children in developing countries and has projects in Beira, Mozambique, Nairobi Kenya, and the latest is this one in India.
As of this trip I have now visited every one of the CRI projects and am personally involved in their progress. I’ve found that it’s one thing to write a check and send it off someplace to help starving kids somewhere. But it’s an entirely different thing to actually get on a plane and go to the place where your money goes and meet the people who are doing the work. I would strongly encourage you to do the same – and to consider donating to organizations that let you do just that.
We traveled to the “deep forest” where the untouchables live. And a few tourist spots along the way, like Delhi and the Bay of Bengal. Here are some pictures of the people and places we saw….
MAP: Andhra Pradesh province (red in the picture) is in the Southeastern part of India near the Bay of Bengal. Rajahmundry is about an hour from the coast, and about six hourseast of Hyderabad, the largest city in the province.
We also enjoyed a brief stop in Delhi, which is the capital of the country, in the North Central part of India.
Help For Jet Lag: Before I went on the trip (India is 10 1/2 time zones away from Chicago) I bought an ebook from www.jetlagpassport.com by Daimon Sweeney. The claim was, I could learn a technique for shifting my body’s time clock while riding on the airplane. Do an accupressure technique / mental affirmation exercise every couple of hours, body is already adjusted when you arrive.
For $20 I figured I had nothing to lose so bought the book, did the exercises. It’s based on EFT (“Emotional Freedom Technique”). I’ve gone on a lot of trips like this before, and usually the Jet Lag messes me up for 1-2 days arriving and 3-5 days coming back. I’m very happy to report, this seems to have greatly reduced the effects. My Jet Lag was barely noticeable the day I arrived in India and lasted for only about a day after I came home. Very impressive. I’m now curious about applying EFT to other problems… Thanks Daimon!
We took a 2 hour ride from Rajahmundry into the “deep forest” part of India where I snapped a picture of these children. Many villages in the deep forest are not even connected by roads.
The Deep Forest is 99% Hindu and most people there are members of the Dalit “untouchable” class in the Hindu caste system.
The weather in the deep forest is hot, humid, tropical. The land is hilly and sort of reminds me of the deep south of the United States, like Alabama perhaps.
Isaiah who runs the orphanage in Rajahmundry (more about that later) is also friends with a group of pastors who minister to people in the deep forest. When we arrived (on a Tuesday morning) they had an impromptu church service in the village. The pastors told many fascinating stories.
For example one of the pastors long before his ‘pastor career’ had been a thief. He had convinced 39 other people to join him in a revolt of sorts to rob a rice distribution company. Sort of a Robin Hood deal. They ransacked the place and stole a whole bunch of rice and they all got caught by the police and were thrown in jail.
He suddenly felt very guilty about this and he knew he was the ringleader. So he prayed, he said “God if you’re real, please show me you’re real: Let all these other 39 people off the hook and I’ll take the rap for everything.”
The next day they released everyone and charged him and he spent some time in prison. He decided to take responsibility for his life and turn from his ways as a thief. He apologized to the owner of the rice company (I think he may have paid him back too, but I can’t remember the exact details) and now he’s a pastor.
Rajahmundry is a deeply religious city. There are temples and shrines EVERYWHERE.
This is the Godavari River in Rajahmundry. It’s about a mile from one side to the other and is adorned by this beautiful bridge.
This is a Hindu holy site on the river, where once every 10 years millions come to bathe in its waters.
One of the best things about traveling in India is all the beautiful people you can take pictures of. Here’s a boy from the deep forest.
In Rajahmundry there’s a huge rock quarry and right next to it is a wide open space where about 1000 families break rocks with hammers for a living. Isaiah told me these kids don’t go to school or anything, they break rocks for 25 cents a day.
We visited the rock quarry, and brought along some treats from the local bakery. We were swarmed with kids, but you know what they wanted even more than treats? They wanted their pictures taken.
We were mobbed with kids who wanted us to snap a photo and then show them the display on the camera.
This photo taken by Jeremy Flanagan.
This boy looks to be about 10 years old and he’s chiseling a decorative piece of stone. You can see his canteen and cup sitting there.
Of course we’d all like for these kids to be in school instead of breaking rocks for a living. This is not something that’s not going to change overnight but progress is being made.
A big factor in all this is the Hindu Caste system. Hindus are labled from birth as members of four different castes, which are basically high society / business class / working class / untouchable.
It’s impossible to function in India or move to a different city or anything else without the label of your particular caste going with you and dictating, to some degree, your options and opportunities.
The Indian constitution (in place since 1949) officially says that people are not to be discriminated against for either religion or caste, but in real life it’s not really possible to get away from the caste system. Nonetheless, the caste structure in India has been greatly weakened in the last 50 years or so and is slowly losing its grip.
In one of my travelogue emails I made it very clear that I believe the caste system is a false belief and morally wrong. I think it’s no more justifiable than, say, slavery of blacks in the United States. Though not as blatant as slavery, it’s just another form of prejudice and racism. It’s a system of gross inequality and I publicly stated my opposition to it.
Some people told me that this class system allows very poor people to be content with their lot in life and that this is a good thing. A number of people sharply criticized me for saying the caste system is bad – that it’s not OK for me to judge peoples’ religious beliefs.
Well, I don’t know how you can have any system of human rights at all without making those very kinds of judgments. A person who criticizes me for speaking up is, after all, judging my beliefs, are they not? There is a large segement of Western society in which it’s politically incorrect to speak up about such things, to make negative comparisons between various belief systems, but I think that political incorrectness is hypocritical and really just chooses to arbitrarily judge some people and not judge others. Truth is, it’s not possible to have a conscience and not make judgments about such things.
OK, so what are we doing about the Rock People? We can’t change this overnight, but CRI is going to hire a minister – who will be the only such person in the area at this time – who will live at the site and attend to the needs of the community. If you would like to contribute to make this possible, contact Children’s Relief International.
Another set of beautiful faces, a baby girl and her big sister.
These kids pose in front of a rickshaw in front of their house.
Another beautiful Indian face. Jeremy snapped this one.
The same girl, with her elder sister.
An elderly man in a village in the farm country of Andra Pradesh province. The people there grow sugarcane and rice.
Jeremy snapped this picture of a street vendor at dusk.
Shepherd boy on a dirt path. Photo by Jeremy.
A young fisherman walks to shore.
A boat crosses the Godavari river.
The boys from the Rajah Boys Home orphanage pose for Jeremy in front of our rickety tour bus.
Isaiah and his wife and tiny staff look after these 20 boys (mostly ages 5-12) in a 1000 square foot house. The boys are clean, mannerly, cheerful and LOVE attention.
Isaiah would like to double the size of his orphanage during the next year and in order to do so, needs sponsors. Right now only six of the 20 boys are sponsored, the rest of the orphanage is supported (as of right now) by a few large donors.
I hope that you too will decide to sponsor a child and help the orphanage in this way.
You can sponsor an orphan for $1 a day, and for that the boy gets a place to live and sleep, three square meals every day, and goes to school. (It’s actually a Catholic school in Rajahmundry.)
I hope you’ll consider helping. If you would like to give, you can do so here.
I would also like you to consider going on a trip like this yourself. Children’s Relief International organizes several such trips per year. For example one such trip is planned for Beira Mozambique in Fall ’07, and Jeremy Flanagan plans to lead a 2nd trip to Rajahmundry in Summer ’08. Like I said, it’s one thing to write a check or have some organization whack your credit card and send money to some remote place in the world; it’s an entirely different thing to go there yourself, meet the people, meet the kids, shake their hands, eat dinner with them, take them to the beach, play games with them. Contact CRI if you’d like to learn more about an upcoming trip.
Laura and I have made a habit of going on trips like this for the last 5-6 years and it’s become an exciting part of our life. I think it’ll be a new adventure for you, too.
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