Six Australian women and two from South Africa, all friends or friends of friends arrived in New Delhi mid-November just as the smog had lifted to bearable levels.
Only one of us had been to India before and that was multiple times. The rest were fulfilling a long held wish to see some of the country we had all heard so much about.
With the guidance of Royal Expedition Tours and our own Pratham in-house experts, a wonderful path to Agra, Jaipur, Jodpur and Udaipur was arranged. As some of the road journeys were very long we stopped along the way in beautiful guest houses and hotels where we continued to be marvelled by the history, beauty, art, architecture, culture, landscape and food of Rajasthan.
In Jaipur we visited two of Pratham’s Second Chance Programs where women ranged in age from their early teens into their 30’s. Here we saw classes in English and Hindi, both oral and written, and Maths too. The dedication of the teachers and the enthusiasm of the students was inspiring. To be told that the classes operated 6 days a week, the roll called, and those multiple absences resulted in a visit to the home by Pratham, underlined the high importance placed on education by Pratham India.
Whenever the chance arose we visited local village schools where children of both sexes sat cross-legged on the floor earnestly listening to their teacher.
From the conversations we had with our guide and with other people we engaged with, it was very clear that education is regarded by all as the key to bringing people out of poverty. The high family values still firmly held in India ensure that the fruits of success are shared – the education of one person flows to the well being of others.
For us, the trip can be summed up as follows (I quote one of our group) ‘….wonderful camaraderie, lots of laughs, new insights and friendships….it has been such a journey!’
The quote below from a recent article about India summed up for us, the bigger picture of this remarkable country.
“It is thrills and terror, laughter and tears, colour, noise and pandemonium. It is life at full tilt – exhausting when you’re there and a bittersweet relief to leave behind ………..In India, there are no straight narratives, no black and white, and no earthly comparisons. It is, as many travellers have remarked before, unlike anywhere else on the planet.”