Thursday, 31 October 2013

India: Going Back in Time

Going Back in Time

My Swatch watch recently stopped. Yes, I know I'm probably a bit too old to have a Swatch, but I got attached to them during my teenage years and have had them ever since. Anyway, I was a bit gutted when it stopped the other day.

But the great thing about living in India is that everything is repaired or recycled. Not like in the West, where we just throw out a toaster or TV when it's broken and buy a new one. Here repair men still do a thriving trade, and most things are repaired or recycled, often in ingenious ways.

So I confidently took my Swatch to the watch repair man in the bazaar (see photos below). For some reason he sits in a little perspex box in a TV repair shop. Anyway, after about 20 minutes he returned my repaired watch for the princely sum of just 100 rupees (about one pound). I was delighted, my pride and joy had been restored!

Unfortunately my joy was shortlived. The next day strange things started to happen. My watch started going backwards, with the second hand going anti-clockwise. Then bizzarely, the actual watch face started to rotate backwards, with the numbers completely out of place. My watch was literally going back in time.

Sadly, this was the end of the road for this Swatch, and I ventured back to the bazaar and bought a flashy (fake) Emporio Armani watch, which will no doubt break soon.

But the moral of the story remains: re-use and recycle if you can.

The watch repair man destroying my Swatch

"I'm a living in a box": Watch repair guy's base

The box and the road at Landour bazaar

Here Comes the Sun (Nahi)

October is supposed to a gloriously beautiful month here in Mussoorie, with constant sunshine and views of the snow-capped Himalayan peaks. Visitors and alumni of the school flock back at this time to enjoy the Indian alpine experience.

Except this year it has just not happened. Monsoon went on interminably, from the 1 June to about last week. Then we had a few nice sunny days, and now the really cold weather has come in.

We have gone from Monsoon to Winter, without the sunny bit in between! It kinda sucks, as my American colleagues would say. Maybe it's a one-off, maybe it's down to changing climate conditions which have seen strange weather patterns everywhere.

The one positive is that we are getting a new, super-duper bukari (wood stove) soon, so that should keep us warm in this particularly cold Winter. It's due to arrive in the next six to seven days (not 67 days as I first understood!), so I'll blog about that next time.

A local man shelling beans by treading on them
Going Back in Time 2: A Week in a Himalayan Village

It was recently Activity Week at Woodstock, when the whole school has a week off classes and goes out into various parts of India for an outdoor education experience.

This year I accompanied a group of 15 Grade 9 (14/15-year-olds) students to a village in the Aglar River Valley, about a three hour drive from here.

Before we went, there were the expected moans from kids asking how they would survive away from the internet, computer games and TV for seven whole days. I, on the other hand, was rather looking forward to it.

Corn drying by a house
Our village was called Gaird, and staying there was a wonderful experience. Away from the distractions and obsession with modern technology, we taught at the local schools, helped the villagers harvest and shell their beans and chillies, tried our hand at ploughing with oxen, hiked in the surrounding hills and frolicked in the Aglar River for a day.

We were reminded how we take our food for granted and appreciated how hard some people have to work to get food on the table. Many of the villagers lost land in the recent severe rains in Uttarakhand.

We built up friendships with the villagers, were given the tastiest Indian khanna every day, and learnt to just enjoy having time to "be", not rushing around checking our mobile phones every two minutes.

Gaird village from above
We were the centre of attention for the village kids, and we also enjoyed demonstrations of local Garhwali dancing from the children, games of tug of war, arm wrestling and kabbadi with the guys.

By the end of it, even the kids agreed it was great to "go back in time" in a sense and experience a more simple way of life, where people who have much less materially yet seem in many ways a lot more content than those of us who are comparatively richer.

By the end of the week, we had all gone for seven days without the internet and a mobile phone, and guess what, the world didn't end!

Below are some photos of the week:

From generation to generation: Grandfather and grandson
On the pull: Tug of war
Just bought a yoke of oxen, trying them out!
View from above: local kids look down on the Woodstock kids
Buffalo Stance: Water bovine
Traditional Garhwali house with wooden arches
Our Woodstock group