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Published: January 22nd 2013
Beautiful Belur home
Rajendra and Janhavi
Saturday 19 – Sunday 20 January 2013
We said a fond farewell to our Mysore hosts and headed off to Hassan today, ready for our fourth vocational day. I visited a local newspaper printed in the local language of Kannada. I think what has surprised me most is that the paper costs 150 rupees for just four pages. To put that into context, we bought supplies of biscuits, sweets and juice at a supermarket and it only cost 80 rupees (about £1). Yet the paper is increasing in popularity as more and more people want to keep up to date with local politics. Unexpectedly, the editor took the opportunity to throw a camera and microphone in my face and then tell me that he also runs a local TV channel. It’s hard to be part of an interview without any questions though. I asked him what he wanted to know and he wasn’t exactly sure himself! I managed to cobble something together. Those who know me will know that this it wasn’t too much of a problem for me to keep talking!
After the vocational days we headed to our next home........wow! That’s all I can say! Due to
some unforeseen circumstances, Nicola is also staying with my host for the next three days and we both feel like we have walked into heaven. Rajendra and Janhavi own a 200 acre coffee estate. The house is a new build but reflects the style of most coffee estates in this area and has British influence. So, as well as having an amazing fireplace, we also have our own bar! The house is packed full of beautiful pieces of antique furniture and books about foreign destinations they have visited. We have our own twin rooms and bathrooms bigger than our own homes. Oh, and a cook. I don’t think we will want to leave Belur!
It’s an early start on Sunday morning. 5am to be precise! But I wake up to find out that I’m front page news here. And I was on the local TV news last night. I’m not sure that it was factually correct but I can’t read the local language anyway so I will let that one slip I think!
We need to get up early to enjoy the views at the top of Shravanbelagola, a Jain temple, and there are 800 steps to walk
up on the way. It is certainly worth it as we get to the top and see the shrine and watch worship rituals taking place. It’s fair to say that we would never get an opportunity like this anywhere else and it is amazing to watch people who are so involved in their beliefs. I think that the one disappointment for me is the young girls with babies and children who are begging us for money. We haven’t seen much of it here as we are staying with relatively wealthy families and not visiting too many tourist areas. However, when we do see it, it makes me very emotional and it’s hard not to offer them the money in your purse. Some of them are so young and even the children are calling for you to give them food. Time to put the sunglasses on and pretend I’m not crying at the sight of them.
On the bus, we also get to see more of rural India. This area seems to have a bigger Muslim population as we see men in traditional dress on the streets. There also seems to me to be fewer women around here. Transport here
is amazing and you see a bus packed with people, often jumping on and off while moving, cyclists grabbing a lift by holding the back of a truck, bull carts packed with huge amounts of straw, families of five on one two-wheeler and trucks packed to bursting with people hitching a lift.
We stop off at three Rotary Polio Immunisation stations around the town. Today is a national immunisation day and children under five are brought to the stations to have drops placed on their tongue and purple ink put on their left pinkie finger to show they were immunised. Thanks to Rotary, Polio has almost been completely wiped out in India. We are told that although the stations are not so busy, they have to have lots of them dotted around the city to encourage people to come. If they see a queue they will simply drive past without stopping.
After presenting for the fifth time, this one for the Hassan and Belur clubs, we head to Halebeedu and see an ancient temple with intricate carvings. Unfortunately some of this has been ruined by invaders hundreds of years ago. This evening we have been able to spend
some time with our hosts Rajendra and Janhavi. They have shown us around their estate, including the coffee pulping and drying areas, the crops and then the viewpoint on a hill behind the house, looking over the Western Ghats. Stunning. Rajendra and Janhavi have many family members who own adjoining estates and much of the land we can see is theirs or their relatives. Rajendra explains that the drought is affecting his business and he can’t tell from year to year how it will be. This is one job where nature really does make a difference. The pepper which they also grow here helps to keep the business going.
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