On Tuesday we met with representatives from Habitat for Humanity India. We learned about their initiatives throughout the country and traveled to visit JJ Savada colony.
This is a grouping of government housing projects for people that had previously lived in slums and were evicted from their homes for the 2010 Commonwealth Games when the country was trying to clean up its image as the world focused on them. Some of these homes were only 200 square feet. Some people managed to save money and build additional levels upward. Others were able to install decorative tile or paint their homes but most were not as fortunate. It was amazing to see the children that followed us around like we were rock stars. I remarked during our visit that childhood seems universal regardless of social position or culture. These children were all excited to see us and did some of the exact same things I would see Wyatt doing to get attention of others.
It was disheartening to see some of these living conditions but it was also important to see some of the good work Habitat India was doing to make a difference for these people. Some of these homes only cost $6-7K to build and that was out of the realm of possibility for many without their help.
We also met with some local women that are part of a self-help group. They pool their resources and personal savings to create microloans that are available for minimal interest rates. Other avenues of financing for them can cost up to 125% APR. They come together and help build each other up, which is important in a society where women aren’t nearly as empowered as in other countries. They didn’t speak English fluently but our wonderful guide Raj translated for us.
After our visit to the resettlement colony, we visited a carpet store where we saw a demonstration of how these beautiful silk and wool rugs are made. Some have up to 400 knots per square inch. While they were definitely out of my price range, the work and craftsmanship that went into each one was certainly appreciated.
That evening, we went to Surjivan, an agritourism destination that featured lodging and an organic herb farm. We were again welcomed by a cultural song and dance show.
Raj told us that in India some things were considered as important as the gods. Those include mothers and guests. We were certainly feted with highest regard. We were led into the facility in a shower of flower petals and entertained the entire way with music.
After touring the herb garden, we visited their guest cottages which were all created in traditional mud and plaster walls. They had built in settees and beds and still featured modern amenities like air conditioning and modern bathrooms.
We were able to experience grinding millet and sampling traditionally cooked naan and other Indian specialties. During several rounds of appetizers we were treated to a puppet show, more dancing, and a fire breather. Supper was amazing traditional Indian food and we all left stuffed and happy.