Village life is slow. There’s time to breathe in and breathe out -- and plenty of time to spend thinking about it. The day starts at sunrise, and not a moment after, once the roosters call the village to attention and the daily chores begin. The servants wake up and begin boiling water for their morning baths (since running hot water is unavailable), while the women of the household wake up alongside them and begin preparing to make a day’s worth of food. Children run outside, playing and laughing, before they’re called inside to help in the house. Soon, the two dozen or so of them who actually attend the running government school emerge from their abodes adorned with perfect braids topped off with flowers and bows, while the boys look immature and handsome in their uncoordinated outfits. A few hours later, around 11 a.m., the electrical current is finally turned on (it’s only on for about nine hours a day), the ceiling fans come to life, and the hundreds of flies previously camped out on every imaginable surface scatter and buzz around the room. While we’re accustomed to a landscape dominated by buildings, business, technology, and transportation, the village pace is set by none other than the near countless animals and insects roaming the roads. Cows, left to their own devices, have a knack for blocking an entire street, while stray dogs will playfully walk after you with their innocent eyes (we laugh in the face of rabies... wait, none of us have that vaccine?). Goats, chickens, geckos, the occasional cat, and wild parakeets all complete the scenery. Not to mention the innumerable spiders and unidentifiable insects we discover on an hourly basis. Ananthaiahgaripalli is a picture of serene and slow life. Each day passes with the same itinerary, the same calm acceptance of simple, enjoyable life filled with relationships and lazy afternoons spent conversing about life and the project’s goals on the steps of a temple devoted to none other than Lord Krishna himself.
The functioning government school in the village plays a fairly minuscule role in the lives of the villagers and their children. It is comprised of two poorly maintained rooms and a highly unsanitary hole in the ground undeserved of the title “bathroom”. Children sit on the ground, which is very unclean. It should be noted that Nadine sat on said ground and stood back up with about five bites from (an) unknown critter(s) on her rump. Since it is a government-run school and will not be shut down, we have resolved to buy benches and playground equipment from Hyderabad to be shipped to the school to improve its condition. This school only runs up to the fifth standard, leaving children older than the age of around eleven or twelve unable to further their education. It is Telegu-medium as well, which significantly lowers their chances of securing any other means of education, since English-medium is increasingly becoming the norm. Children come and go as they please, and the teacher is almost ignorant of the constantly shifting numbers of children repeating after her. Working in the household and/or contributing to the family’s labor output is often more valued than spending the day in school, an attitude that Sanjeevani hopes to change.
We had the good fortune of being invited by Senator Vivekananda Reddy to lunch at his other residence, the same Senator we met previously for dinner. This time, he generously gave us a tour of the social work being done and funded by his nephew’s wife: an orphanage and a school with Christian undertones. It was quite inspiring to see what devoted individuals can accomplish. Women who worked at the orphanage found out it was Nadine’s 21st birthday and instantly crowded around her to clip freshly picked flowers in her hair and suffocate her with loving embraces and kisses. These children are most certainly in the best possible hands.
We will meet with the Cuddapah District Collector on August 14th to submit our site proposal, and hopefully receive the ‘okay’ to begin construction as a legitimate government approved presence in the district.
On our way back to Hyderabad, we stopped at Tirumala, the residence of Lord Venkateswara, the richest god in India. Pilgrims flock to Tirupati, the city atop seven hills, to see the deity for one fleeting moment before they are ushered away to allow the next shaved-head pilgrim a chance to make a wish in front of the god. The pilgrimage to the top of the seven hills consists of somewhere around 3500 steps spread out over 14 kilometers. It took Vic, Abhita, and Nadine about three hours to complete the pilgrimage. Most pilgrims complete the same journey in significantly more time, barefoot, and blessing every step they climb with colorful spices and devotional mantras. Our journey to Tirupati solidified our belief that India is like no country we’ve seen before. The culture is wholly unique, and we feel so lucky to have this opportunity to experience its magic with our own eyes.
Blessed steps and devout pilgrims.
A word to the wise: do not eat the ladus just outside Lord Venkateswara’s temple! If you are unwise enough to attempt digesting these right before boarding a twelve-hour train ride, Vic will be more than happy to teach you the simultaneous “vomit and poo”, which involves skillful pivoting, an Indian-style toilet (i.e. squatting), and some Pepto-bismol.
To learn more about life in the village and/or our project, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will be more than happy to speak to you!