Eid Mubarak and greetings from India!

Posted on September 28th, 2009 by

Eid Mubarak everyone, my name is Kirk Bjella and I go to Concordia College and it is my turn to relate to you what exactly we are up to over here in India. Eid Mubarak is the greeting that we used as a group on Monday to celebrate Eid (so yes I do realize that it is a little late to use that greeting), which is the end of the fast in the Muslim community during Ramadan. On Monday all of the men from the group were allowed to attend the prayers at what was essentially a large open field. Usually prayers would be at a Mosque, but due to the fact that there were approximately 50,000 men present (Sham, one of the staff at Visthar who is a Muslim, told us that is how many peoploe were there with us) it would have been difficult to find a place with enough room for everyone to sit, let alone line up to do their prayers. The girls of our group met up with us later at Sham’s father’s home to celebrate the day with his family. It was great food and great company and as usual when we visit someone they fed us until we were ready to burst.

To follow on Tuesday we had a debrief of our week in Koppal directed and supported by David Selvaraj, and followed by him presenting on the caste system and untouchability in India. Then on Wednesday we had a discussion with a LGBT panel made up of members of two local groups: Aneka and Sangama. The panel consisted of Shubha a representative from Aneka and kind of director of our discussion. She gave us a broad understanding of the issues that are present for these groups in India and introduced the members that were present from Sangama. The three people were there to give us their perspective, so that we could see a glimpse of what life is like for those in India that identify as members of the LGBT community. Then in the afternoon Ranjit, a Reiki master, visited and had a short discussion with us. He explained to us his personal views on a practice known as natural farming (which is basically what it sounds like no pesticides, no fertilizer, very little work) and what the philosophy of Reiki is. He explained it as a form of natural healing that originated in Japan.

On Thursday we got up early and set off on a bus right to the Kolar Gold Fields (KGF). KGF is the site of some very old gold mines (surprise surprise), that were heavily industrialized during the time of the British Raj. However, following independence, and the removal of 600 tons of gold, the mines were pretty much depleted. This along with land that had become useless thanks to pollution from the mines and the local mills has made for very difficult times for the local community. During our visit we stopped by a mine, a bungalow that once belonged to a wealthy British individual, a mill where the gold was extracted from other materials and finally to a local community college. At the college we were given lunch and met with some of the upper level female students finishing up their education. It was great, they put on some performances of dance and song for us, which we followed with a couple of the songs that we have been practicing as a group. To top off the day we then had a short time spent getting to talk with the girls and to get to learn about them.

That night we stayed at a women’s shelter. Some of the group got up at 6 am Friday morning and planned to hike up to the top of a nearby hill. We began to hike and shortly into it we came across a well traveled path and then a staircase, carved right into the stone of the hill. We followed it up to a temple on the hill. Everyone did a little bit of exploring before heading back down to the shelter for breakfast. After eating we sat down to have a discussion with a couple of the woman that were residing at the shelter. About 20 minutes into the talk a scorpion was actually spotted ON my shoe, and after a large disturbance, and the removal of said scorpion from the building, everyone calmed down and the conversation was able to continue. It was really a different experience hearing what types of issues that these young women were dealing with, though it was great to see that there was a place like this that was available to them. That afternoon we drove back to Visthar and had dinner with a local (though very important) politician. He was actually late to our dinner because his plane was delayed after bringing him bak from a meeting with Sonia Gandhi! Friday was also Jordan Walker’s 21st birthday!

Saturday we went into Bangalore for a play. It was a one man show and it was really exciting to get to see one example of what the theater is like in India. Following the play we had a little down time to wander through the city and do a little shopping (again) before we met up at a Chinese restaurant for dinner.

That pretty much sums up this last week for the sjpd crew, just another amazing couple days half way around the world from home!


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