A Travellerspoint blog

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We're on Indian TV!

Today we woke up again at 5:15am for yoga! I did not want to get out of bed this morning! Yoga was good though and I attempted one of the balances, which I think is called the crane in English, where you position your knees on your upper arm and hold all of your body weight on your hands. I was successful at this first time! :D

Today we made our way to the North bus stand by auto-rickshaw… we are getting quite good at using public transport now. The journey to Thekkumkara was not as long as the journey yesterday and we interviewed five current women representatives and one member of office staff at the Grama Panchayat. The men and women were all very friendly and seemed open to expressing their opinions in each other’s presence which was promising.

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Towards the end of the interview the local press arrived to film and photograph us. They also
questioned us about our project, but Destin had to translate. So tonight at 8:30pm we were on the local TV channel TCV.

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After the interviews Destin told us that the village we were in was the village she grew up in.
She then took us to her old church; all the people outside the church were very welcoming and happy to see us. They also liked the fact that we dressed like the locals :)

We then visited Vazhani Dam; the first mud built dam. This was where we conducted our final interview with a former women representative. We went for a short walk around the surrounding area of the dam; the gardens and view over the water was beautiful.

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We then got the bus back to Thrissur… I fell asleep for the entire journey, a full day from 5am – 1am is starting to get to me! But for many Indians this is a normal days work; Indians are very hard working people.

We got back to the flat much earlier than usual tonight and completed typing up our work by 11pm. I can’t wait to go to bed tonight… 6 hours sleep tonight hopefully rather than 4!!

Posted by laurandtheworld 11:49 Archived in India Comments (0)

My interest is developing...

Ok so I have had to write basically seven days worth of my journals again as my memory stick corrupted and I lost them all! So I will do my best to try and remember what we did.

Day three of Yoga and I’m tired and I ache! Went straight back to bed at 8am – so much for being 'awake and refreshed for the day!' I do enjoy yoga and feel myself getting more flexible, just don’t like the early mornings.

We met Destin at 10am at South stand to get the bus to Kaparambu Grama Panchayat. Had ten interviews here with current representatives. We spoke to one very interesting, highly educated lady who was experienced in politics and also a retired school teacher, she had even inspired one of her former pupils to enter politics and become a representative.

We grouped the interviews together today so ended up finishing around 2pm. This evening we went to the internet cafe to do some research before tomorrow’s press interviews. I’m finding researching about Indian politics really interesting – just wish we had more time! It’s amazing to think how powerful India could be if it planned and used its resources more effectively, since it’s now one of the world’s fastest growing economies.

Posted by laurandtheworld 12:32 Archived in India Comments (0)

Change at all levels

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We had to get to yoga even earlier this morning as some of the men wanted to show us how to do some of the yoga positions technically correct which was useful.

Our work with Destin has been really interesting lately, we have been speaking to people with higher standing in society and the women seem to be more educated and more able to communicate with us in the higher panchayats such as district level, where we went today. We met Destin at the corporation building and were taken upstairs to the Mayor’s office. After going through the grand double doors, it was easy to see that this wasa room of importance which had been lavishly furnished. The office was huge, the walls were lined with wood, there was a 42" flat screen tv on the wall. The room was filled with people answering the Mayor's phone, bringing his tea and asking him to sign documents so we didn’t get to speak with him much but he did seem interested in our project.

In the Panchayat, part of the reservation is that when the President is male, the Vice-president shall be female, and vice versa. This is the same with the Mayor/ Deputy Mayor position so we went to speak to the Deputy Mayor, Subi who was very welcoming. She is an Advocate and clearly a very knowledgeable lady. Along with the deputy mayor we interviewed three other current representatives, who were a retired bank worker, a retired physics teacher, and a current bank manager who also has a husband who is a famous barrister and her daughter is going to study astrophysics at the University of Sheffield! Their answers were brilliant and the language barrier was much less of an issue which made everything much easier.

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We were then interviewed by a reporter which was exciting and he also gave us some of his views on the situation in Kerala.

We thought our work for the day was done so Destin took us for food. We walked in to be met by one of the waiters saying “I have seen you on TV and in the newspaper!” which was rather exciting! He gave us the newspaper which Destin translated from Malayalam and the article sounded good! It was like being a minor celebrity!

Destin then received word that some of her Advocate friends were able to chat to us so we made our way back to the corporation building and sat on some logs with three barristers who were a great help for us to understand the difference in the way people from different backgrounds and with different education think and feel about not just poltics but society and it’s problems as a whole. I found it quite sobering that intelligent men of this caliber still believe that the woman is the head of the house so it is good for women to join politics so they can address issues such as lack of water because this is their “area of knowledge”. These views are narrowing the power of women in Indian politics. However, I guess it is not so different from the west where some professional men regard it as their position to be the main earner in the family household whilst the woman deals with household and family issues.

They are well aware though that society here is not the most beneficial for their people and they were all agreed that changes not only need to come on a local level but they need to come from the grassroots by educating children (young women in particular so they are not thrown in to politics without any experience which is what is happening in the panchayats at present) and from the top by the State and National leaders.

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After what felt like a satisfying day, full of intelligent conversation we were done.

Posted by laurandtheworld 12:34 Archived in India Comments (0)

In memory of the Yoga Master

Today yoga was only from 5:30am – 7am as it was the anniversary of the death of the previous yoga master so at 7am there was a remembrance ceremony with candles and flowers and everyone paid their respects. We didn't stay long for the ceremony though as it was in Malayalam. On the way back home George stopped for us to get some kind of rice bread. It was freshly made; the Indian ladies were sat outside their houses and we watched them make it. The lady we bought from also recognised us from another newspaper we were not aware that we were in!

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Today we went to the Adat Grama panchayat where we conducted sixteen interviews. We had a while to wait as most of the staff were in a meeting, but they kindly offered us chai and snacks while we waited. We interviewed seven office staff and nine current women representatives.

We then went to Destin’s house where we interviewed three males; Advocate Sujeer, Advocate Seby and Paul Sebstastian (one of them was a millionaire!). They agreed that women are sincere however their efficiency and administrative capability are poor, the reason behind this being that women so far are not in the mainstream however now due to the reservation women have the opportunity to become leaders. It was said that in some situations that husband rule their wives, referring to the notion of "back seat driving."

It was expressed that part of the solution needs to come from the way women are traditionally viewed in society, this is one of the problems stopping a lot of women being able to progress to higher leadership roles since they are seen as needing to be protected by the males.

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Today was a long day. We didn’t get home until around 6:45pm and George came round at 7:30pm to discuss how we are getting on so far and our plans for Kochi tomorrow. After George left we went to the internet cafe to try and figure out where we want to travel after the internship – found some interesting places we would like to visit! But don’t really have a plan.

Posted by laurandtheworld 12:49 Archived in India Comments (0)

Kochi

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Today we had to get up at 5:15am... to go to Cochin :D George picked us up and took us to the train station. The train wasn't at all as bad as I expected.. only a bit worse than the trains I have been on in Eastern Europe! Although as I found out when we got the train back, this was due to the early start so there weren’t many people on the train.

Once we arrived in Cochin we met Anupama, who is a former intern of Jananeethi. We went for breakfast at a restaurant – I could tell it was a place frequently visited by tourists as there were two white people (maybe German) in there who were eating omelette, fries and toast! We went for the traditional India breakfast though – Masala Dosa. It’s strange seeing other European people again since I think we are almost the only European people in Thrissur!

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It was interesting chatting to Anupama, she’s a lovely girl. She is currently undertaking a law degree and has previously completed a short internship at Jananeethi. To do an LLB in India you need to complete another bachelors prior to this. They don’t get much time off studying and in the few weeks they do get off they have to undertake internships! It seems to be much more difficult than in England. I have noticed that the Indian’s are very conscientious and passionate about their work. Not everyone gets the chance to attend university here, so I think they are more grateful for this opportunity than in England where I think it is sometimes taken for granted since most people have the opportunity to receive funding for university.

After breakfast we took a rickshaw to Fort Kochi and went on a boat trip on the backwaters. The backwaters are picturesque, but this depends on which way you look! I was slightly disappointed with the trip we took since it didn’t go very far into the backwaters and canals and the large ships machinery seemed to ruin the views.

After the boat trip we met Anupama’s friend; Vidhya and went to Kochi Fort and saw the Chinese fishing nets which were impressive! This is a unique method of fishing operated from the shore. The weight of a man walking along the main beam is used to cause the net to lower into the sea. They are used to catch fish and crustaceans which are then sold to passers by.

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After this we went to St Frances Church the oldest European church in India. We also went to the Jewish part of town and visited the synagogue which was interesting, and did some shopping.

When we finally caught the train home we found ourselves on the wrong carriage by accident and the train conductor was going to charge us Rs 200 each for a reservation as we were in the sleeper carriage! But we managed to convince him to let us change carriages to second class at the next stop (you cant get from one carriage to another by walking down the train). When we got off at the next stop we didn’t realise how far it was to run to 2nd class carriage and when we got there it was extremely full – people hanging out the doors and windows! There was no way we were getting on. So we found another sleeper carriage we could fit on but we ended up standing in the doorway next to the toilet for the journey home which wasn’t pleasant! The journey passed quickly though as I began talking to some Indians who were local to the area, and the next ticket man who came down was more understanding so let us stay where we were, thankfully.

Once we arrived back in Thrissur station we decided to find out how much train tickets are for when we leave Thrissur to go to Varkala. The queue was massive, but was only men so we decided to start our own ladies queue and it worked; we just went straight to the front to the desk and they served us before all the men! This is an Indian custom which should be introduced in England!

Tonight is Laurens last night we are all sad that she is leaving! I’m going to be on my own in my room after tonight!

Posted by laurandtheworld 13:29 Archived in India Comments (0)

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