I've been here 4 days and my senses are reeling. India seems to inspire huge generalisations and then immediately force me to revise them...It's a terrible place to be a child- those tiny boys at the street kids project had been sleeping rough at the station...its a wonderful place to be a child - they are welcomed and indulged everywhere they go. It's so modern...so ancient...
Basically, it defies description, except in terms of sensory overload. As I write, I can hear the frantic barking of a pack of stray dogs the putter of the ubiquitous scooters, the whistle of traffic police and motor horns, always motor horns. The only rule of the road seems to be Honk and Hope as traffic weaves in and out of impossibly tight spaces with no apparent system at work. Little yellow rickshaw trikes are everwhere crammed with a family of 4 here, a solitary veiled begum there. A bus queue across the road heaves and twitters like a flock of tropical birds which takes off when the bus arrives, to cram impossibly into the vehicle already filled to overflowing.
A couple speed past on a 2 wheeler he the epitome of western modernity talking on his mobile, or plugged into his ipod, she representing the past in the elegant jewel-bright beauty of her sari. They belong together, for it seems to me that India is one vast contradiction.
Repeatedly we're brought up against this. We visited a school for special needs children from the slums, and witnessed miracles wrought with almost no resources but love and patience...We left that building and walked a few yards across the compound of the same church to enter a school, the glossiest of glossy establishments whose marble hallways and state of the art facilities would not disgrace Eton! The children privileged to come here are on another planet from their neighbours across the compound. The Principle, urbane and charming in his beautiful boardroom suit, is frank about the issues facing his country.
"Yes education is compulsory for all,- but where are the schools?
Children work from an early age, specially in rural areas. The church does what it can but little can be achieved without bribery. So many people, so many languages...Who can manage India?"