Day 17, Thursday March 2, Sangam

Woke up at 4:00, couldn’t settle so now I have caught up my journal and am listening to the din of the traffic and at 6:11 I hear the call to prayer from the local Muslim community. We will be touring there this week I think, but today is a full day visit to temple areas in Pune. I’d better get up and try to post some previous days events, maybe the internet is strong right now.

My day began doing yoga with Kirti at 7:00 a.m. My muscles were a little sore from the day before but she changed it up and I felt great! Really am going to have to continue for the rest of the trip and at home. Prior to flag raising I had to find out where to leave my laundry to get picked up by the dohbi wallah. Jeans and the heavy uniform pants would be more difficult to swish around in a sink by hand, and the fee was minimal per garment, 20 rupees. They would be clean for the next leg of the journey. Found the cloth bags and task done. After breakfast I had to make sure that I checked out the photo proofs of the welcome ceremony and place my order. We were ready to board the bus to first visit Alandi a temple area. Bouncing along in the back of the bus we passed so much construction. Sewers and new road was being built, infrastructure in Pune is being upgraded to keep up with growth. Some of this growth in my opinion is thanks to the west, Canada and my home town in particular have shipped jobs through the internet to India. We have a newspaper in town that had many people hired. Now the photographer sends a picture to India to be edited for mere pennies where an employee in Canada would have to be paid dollars for the same job. It’s a no brainer business wise, but what will the long term consequences for us be??

We got off the bus in a shopping market area adjacent to steps that descend into the Indrayani
River, a holy river of pilgrimage where people bathe, wash clothes and lay their dead to rest. Years ago you would find a funeral pyre but now the bodies go to a crematorium and the plastic bag received containing ashes, are put into the river after a ceremony. You see bags and garbage and water hyacinths gently floating down the river. Across the river is a huge temple where an enormous screen is built in high up on the side of the temple for audio visual show during special events.

Back on the bus and several kilometres later we turned left into another temple area named Talapur. We removed our footwear, hid our cameras and tucked hats into our backpacks/ bags and entered the temple area. There was a camera crew inside the courtyard of the temple. They were filming a commercial. A beautiful woman perched on the edge of the low wall was waiting patiently. Never did find out what the commercial was for.
Inside the temple were statues of Shiva, Parvarti and Ganesh. This was an old temple and very interesting to me.
We head out to a set of steep stairs descending towards a river and it felt like they were tipping you out forward. Had to be careful. There was a woman with 3 playful goats near the stairs plus a family who tried to moor their boat at the bottom of the stairs. A man came down and proceeded to give them proper you- know – what. Not to moor there! Eventually they pushed off as they waved to us. Bye bye!! There was another temple down a ways on the left where you could hear men chanting and drums. I’ve filmed it and I hope it picked up the audio.

Back up to the main courtyard where colourful flowers bloomed, we sat down in a little restaurant area and had deep fried onion dipped in chick pea flour fritters. It was really good but a bit spicy. What a treat! I ordered a Slice drink, mango, I thought it was orange. So much fun!
The next stop took about 10 minutes through farmland and little villages. There! I finally saw the disks of cow dung laying out in the sun to dry! The locals snatch up excrement from the animals, form it into uniform disks, dry, then pile up into a circular tower to be used for cooking fires. That practice hasn’t gone by the wayside yet. Progress is happening everywhere though. Bulldozers clear land to build communities here and there. There still are, however, women in bare feet carrying concave metal dishes on their heads with maybe a couple shovel fulls of soil, walking away and dumping into another pile. Saw that 15 yrs ago too.

We passed by a couple of white oxen one with blue painted horns. We immediately slowed down and made a slow left turn and drove along a narrow driveway with grassland mixed with small bushes and trees. It reminded me of where I grew up for some reason. Buildings and a dirt courtyard, pens with animals, women in saris and a very friendly white dog, well, grey from rolling in the dirt, greeted us.

This was Ishwari, Medical Missions Sisters, a type of school for women. A nun who they refer to as ” mother” started it years ago. Nowadays women are doctors and working in hospitals in larger centres so the focus is now on rural areas. A girl may come here for skills training over the age of 15 and after several years may decide to become a “sister” receive training to go out and train others. There is no separation of faith, Catholic and Hindu work together. Rosalie has not had any Muslim girls come for training but that is her hope someday. She believes in inclusivity. Women come here to learn their potential. Learning arts and crafts to earn money, build their self esteem and self worth. Here there are 6 main sisters and on the 26 of March, 22 more will graduate. At this time 99% are Hindu, no Muslim or Christian.

The lunch we were served was delicious! Corn soup, spring rolls, papadum, fresh bread out of the oven, lettuce salad that was washed in filtered water and a rice pilaf. They were easy on the spice but condiments could kick it up a notch if you preferred. After stuffing ourselves there was an opportunity to purchase some of their artworks, handmade greeting cards. They also had several varieties of jams and a ginger wine. Never tasted that but apparently is good. I bought a couple of packages of their famous ginger cookies ( what am I going to do with them!!) and thought I’d keep one for me and gave the bus driver one. He accepted with a head wobble for yes and a huge smile!
After a group photo we said goodbye to one of Sangams’ community partners, Ishwari.

The group had an opportunity to go out this evening for a meal to an Italian restaurant but everyone was exhausted and chose to relax, use the pool, have a nap or catch up on laundry. These World Centers really keep you busy, no one should ever have a reason to be bored.
After a super meal at the centre we were briefed on the next days visit to Anandgram, another community partner of Sangam. We were to be interacting with approximately 130 kids, from 4th grade and 6th grade. The majority were to be boys. What to do with all these kids? There were 12 of us that split into groups and planned to creat activities for these kids. There was origami, singing songs, hula hoops, parachute and others. Tomorrow was really really anticipated!


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