The road was fairly straightforward, no steep hills, and the first half in the shadow of an elevated highway, which this minion was very grateful for. I passed skyscrapers and slums and suburbs with names like “Electric City”. There were the usual street stalls lining the roads selling chai, fizzy drinks, strange packets and vegetables: anything to scrape a living. It was dirty and dusty. I turned right off the main road and headed towards the countryside – lots of new housing, new developments, being built from concrete, with advertising hoardings portraying the dream of happy families. Schools advertised too – with names that included the word “International” in them to attract new paying pupils. I stopped in Arekal to indulge in an icecream as I suspected (rightly) that there wouldn’t be much in the way of pudding over the Christmas period. It was very good ice-cream and I hoped it would be open on the way back too (it wasn’t).
I arrived at Navadarshanum Farm/Community Trust at around 4.30pm – and would have been much quicker if hadn’t stopped so frequently to check I was going the right way. Gumularapuram is a small village. Gangenalil hamlet is even smaller. Navadarshanam is beyond both of them – truly out in the sticks!
I met Deepa first of all. She had been a Primary School teacher once upon a time and would have been excellent at that job I suspect. I also met Nagarajan and Gopi – I didn’t know the names of the others, but all were friendly and welcoming at supper time. I was shown to my own little house – there were other empty bedrooms in it, and a fully fitted kitchen. The roof was adorned with solar panels to heat the water and provide electricity.
Supper was spicy, vegetarian, organic – tasty and lots of it, but relatively plain fare. It was followed by the regular nightly ritual (as I was to discover) of a puja (several prayers and songs from a Hindu music book or sheets) to the accompaniment of a droning electric music box – it would put out two notes which bent, mingled and blended in with each other. There would usually follow a discussion by the adults, with sometimes a quiz of the children. This particular night they were introduced to me and the children were asked about Europe and capital cities.