DAY 5: Vijayawada to Warangal

We started the day with a 1.5 hrs ride to Jagayyapet where many of us attended our first church service.  It was indeed one of the most enthralling experience as the music was blasted, emotions were heightened. Some of the girls witnessed what I would call a cathartic release. A member of the church started jumping up and down, and eventually collapsed on the floor with her face buried in her hands n sari. I am presuming that the weekly church service must be a place to let steam as they gathered to praise their maker.

We were also extremely privileged to have our fellow friends, issac, cas ANd Mcloud to contribute to their service with a message, a song and cas playing the drums! Is sac’s message was extremely heartening as he reminded us of our trials and tribulations being part of the  test by God.

We were then led by the vice president of the factory to visit the cotton mill. Seeing the scale of the manufacturing, It was very much an eye opener for many of us.while I marveled at this extensive mechanization, I couldn’t help but also observed the solemn faces of the workers. Though it was a short 15 minutes walk in the factory, many of us came out with irritated throats and eyes. How happy could one be, working in this chain production? Clearly, welfare is far from the concern of the owners, which comes to my next question, if  this factory is entirely indian owned. The massive production chain was sophisticated and certainly in every sense ‘art of the state’ technology. Given the enormous income disparity in this country, I am pretty sure one of the wealthy Indian would be able to throw in that amount of capital.

After which we were brought to Pastor Kumar’s home for lunch. By now, on this 8th day it is needless for me to explain what was served for lunch! Most of us are accustomed to the voluminous amount of rice/ briyani served and the Indian spices used in the curry, vegetables, potatoes, sauces;not forgetting  the warm hospitality we have very fortunately received everywhere we had gone.

We then took a 4 hours coach ride to Warangal where we met the member of paliarment for Warangal, Rajalah Siricilla,  Mayor of Warangal and David. After the official reception, a very elaborated procession awaited us. The Indian boys strutted their stuff as they danced to the Drums and whistles, the procession was also interluded with fire crackers  very seemingly to make the most amount of noise as possible to let our presence be known and felt in this historical town! Most of us felt very honored and grateful to have this procession planned for us as we  joined in the dance, throwing punches in the air. And cas who couldn’t get over the inhibited session at the church, took over the drumming in closing.

After a short 30 mins freshening in the hotel, we were then whisked to Scarvodaya Youth Organisation office. It is saddening to hear from Hepsibah all the countless issues their country are facing. Some of which are pervasive due to the strong culture, i wondered if these old beliefs and  traditions are primarily the reason why poverty remains largely a problem Here. Girl illiteracy, caste system, violence against women, HIV/AIDs. In this county where there is approximately 250 people every Km square, SYO’s job is enormous!

While I tried to look at the issues India is facing in macroscopic ways, I also realized how massive and heavily populated this country is. Due to the severe lack of basic infrastructure (as we may call it), transportation, sewage system, access to health care,  it is extremely difficult to disseminate information of food safety, basic hygiene, other form of campaigns from the government!

At the end of the day, to loosen this heavy heart,  I  rather embrace this diversity of the human race. and To my fellow friends from 11 countries ( including wales as an independent country not part of UK ) please choose to be on one end of the axis which is to appreciate what we have,  and to make use of what we have got – a brain and a heart, to all the people you will meet, 3 rd world or not.

DAY 4: Ramachandrapuram village & Mylavaram Child Labour School

It’s a 1.5 hours ride from the hotel to R Village. About 30-40 farmers had already  gathered at the compound to welcome us. Each of us then gave a very brief introduction of ourselves before the farmers started asking questions. ( please see below)

Panel discussion with the native farmers
1. How to ensure enough Water storage for mango farm ( India suffers from droughts) 
– dukes, create water tanks with shade n plastic base 

2. GM cotton seeds creating a pollution problem affecting Health n skin problems of farmers???
-problem doesn’t lie with the cotton seeds! It’s the way pesticides usage is being abused!
-nationalization of research in crops n fertilizers
– start a farmer co op to start own research
– political reasons

3. Challenges with extreme climate – excess rain  or drought
– know how on the type of crops to grow in different climates 
– limited by $ n simple mechanization 
– try diff crops in diff season.
– water ditch channeling
– drip line for intensive crops very efficient and cost efective

4. How to increase Padi production
– crops rotation – water melons
– resting n re fertilizing the soil with buffalo du
– Break the common disease / cycle
– organic rice to rest the earth
– soil testing ph lime application
– organic matter / dung / green/fallow crops increase water holding capacities of soils they also break disease cycles/resistance
– breed different varieties far more resistant to disease

5. How much land is needed to raise how much quantity of frogs?
LOL. Hilarious that they asked. My only concern is the water quality here which will bound to affect the quality of livestock!! 

Fellow delegates were very helpful to offer suggestions feasible to the Indian farmers in terms of cost and efficiency. Farmers’ responses however was lukewarm as they don’t seem ready to embrace the changes! 

We then travelled to the child labour school where again the host prepared a feast for us!! We ate among ourselves while the children sat on the floor to have their lunch. After which we waited for about an hour while they tidied up the same dining area to set up the seating area for us. To entertain myself and the 50 bright eyed kids, Mcloud and I started asking them to translate the words below to telenggu. 

Goat – meka
Horse – gurram
Frog- kappa
Sheep – gorea
Cow – aavu
Chicken – kodi ( looks easy but I can never get it right!!)
Duck- batu
Egg – guddu
Dog – kukkaa
Cat -pilli
Monkey- koti

The kids did have a lot of fun embarrassing me cos the Indian Rrrrr thingy is one thing I can’t do! The children know very minimum english but were very excited to interact with us. After that there were then a few sharing of the residents about how this NGO had helped changed their lives. Were deeply heartened that there are people like Mr xxx who is believe fervently in this cause. Sadly, we didn’t see any part of the children being educated or the Embroidery Training Project taking place.

We had such a lovely connection with some of these Children, wondering how these innocent lives are ever going to be provided with equal opportunities to education, food and a safe environment. Realizing that they eventually will need to fend for themselves was indeed a poignant moment for me, not knowing where the future of these children will lie.

DAY 2: Traveling to Vijaywada

We were given a de-brief first thing in the morning. Many hindu rules and practices were explained to us. Wats ironic in my mind is that men to take care of the ladies in India. Like how our fellow delegate Hapsibah has a male  farmer to follow her around to make sure she is all right. In Singapore’s context we might call that being over protective and just for sharing, there’s a social stigma in Singapore that most domestic violence happen more in Indian families then any other races!

We were also told that not only cleavages were a no no, might b better idea to keep the entire chest out of sight – by wearing a scarf! Also tight clothings are absolutely frowned upon. This completely contradicts how Singaporean  Indians wear back at home. I always tot that their saris are one of the most sexy n attractive costume! We were also told to take instructions as they were given, in order for things to move n for us to be safe.

At the international airport, we saw many guards dressed in military clothings. Some of them in the land rover n had a machine gun perched on the open top of the vehicle. That to me is unsettling. As much as we know the reasons behind this defence, some of us were scared stiff! Sadly In the discussion, many delegates feedback that they probably would not travel to this airport or rather to India again due to this uncomfortably tight security check.

Finally reached Vijayawada on kingfisher jet. It was indeed a rollarcoster experience with a pun intended. We were introduced to our Indian guides who took us to our hotel ( the gateway). We were greeted with such warmth n hospitality that I think is truly amazing with the Indian culture! They handed out freshly wrapped, hand held bouquets n bottles of cold water was quickly disseminated to each of us! The Helpers deftly climbed up the already pretty tall bus n tossed all the remaining luggages which couldn’t fit into the small boot on top of the bus!

Spoke to Cassie on the short flight n listened to her sharing about the influx of foreigners in Sydney n competition with vet jobs etc. She was rather candid about the explaining how the Asians always overachieving in results and she’ll be safe n have not problem with it that Sydney always need Vets in the countryside where criteria for entry was not so stringent! 

On the way to visiting a couple of Hindu temples, I sat with Mildred from Zambia, and queried her on her experience in Singapore.  She then shared how rice is only eating on special occasions, corn flour mix was eating as staples, and at times rice could be only  eaten with sugar. while we have tried to play a good host, I did wondered if we could have practiced some LOHAS value by serving the meals in smaller portions ( simply because we human are not like cows! We do not need to eat by the gallons!!) 

The day came to a close with a big Indian traditional dinner which I practiced eating with my fingers! It was fun in the beginning but towards the end, OMG. Cementing ( as Anna put it) the rice with buffalo curd and den scoffing it down your throat was far from a pleasant experience. The FANTASTICALLY delicious Meal at the beginning, felt like a OMG. It is SO ENOUGH. 

We then took a short walk back to the hotel. I was still keeping my eyes open for a Chinese person.

Interestingly, i Did meet this chinese person who also turned out to be a fellow Singaporean in the hotel lift!

‘hi! For 2 days i’have been looking out for a chinese! Did not expect to meet a Singaporean here!”

‘ So which company do you work for?”

‘ jurongfrogfarm’

“Jurong wat?”

” frog farm”

“Sorry, I beg your pardon?”

‘F-R-o-g’ 

Blank look…. The end.

Before I end off,  issac, the very very sweet GHanian, gave me some of their local goodies- pouch, bangle, earrings, keychain from Ghana which reads “Greetings from Ghana the land of Gold”. Its so True with Issac being the ambassador for his country. He is truly a GEM n i’m totally touched.

DAY 1: HYDERABAD

Day 1 –  hyderabad. 

The weather  was good at 21 degrees when we arrived here. This place has a system of very stringent security checks and everyone was puzzled how their bags were going through the layers of security right from arrival at the airport to the hotel! We stayed in novotel airport hotel. This place is massive n modernly constructed. Even the free Internet kiosk were powered by MacBooks!I only found out last night upon arrival that t shirts ( those cap sleeves) n the berms I brought were not adequate at the places which I’ll be visiting. Luckily we have native guides who will take us to the local market to stock up some of these clothing.

I’m v curious on the types of social/agriculture issues pressing ones or not which will unfold themselves as we travel from place to place. Already we hv been intro to problems like domestic violence, child slavery, sanitation, agriculture habits  through the sharing with some of the natives from Hyderabad.In Singapore, our problem is serious as well except that it is Not starkly in your face. Given a small land area with conflicting land use, our government sees defense/economic development being more important than security of supply of food! What fight would it be if our army do not know how to grow their own food. Even food could be used as a warfare, just like water isn’t it? We are facing a war now against these issues much higher on national agenda ( an so we think) but with most of our fellow countrymen living in abundance and comfort, It’s somehow, ironically hard, to instill the thought that food security has to be prioritized! People need to be taught n trained and seeds take time to grow!  In the light of the natural disasters in our neighboring food exporting countries, i’m praying that this will inadvertently start to awaken Singaporean’s sleeping minds.