Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Delhi Christmas

After spending some time in the state of Bihar I took the train to Delhi to spend Christmas with some friends from Landour Language School.

The party was hosted by Kate who was house sitting for a friend who lives in the in the Residency of the Bulgarian Embassy. Needless to say it was quite posh in the Diplomatic section.

In fact it was so different from the rest of India it was hard to remember what was outside those walls.

Kate created a wonderful (if not a bit ad hoc) Christmas atmosphere with all her perfectionistic tendencies. (including chrstmas cookies and buckeyes)

If you haven't noticed, the cat, Pancake (either a reference to it's strangly flattened face, or a tragic forshadowing of it's demise) was a centerpice of the celebrations.

The celebrations started on Christmas Eve and didn't end until the day after Christmas. Many of the guests were Fulbright scholors or working on their PhD's so conversation stayed lively.

We even got down a little bit to Davids selection of music once Kate got her fill of Christmas music.

One of the highlights for me was playing football (soccer) on Christmas afternoon, which was warm and sunny, just like Christmas day is supposed to be.

Photos complements of David "#1" J. (Too bad he couldn't be in the pictures)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


After a Christmas party with the MCC staff in Kolkata I started off on some holiday traveling. My first stop was in Bihar to visit the EHA Flood Relief Project and my friend Esther.

The hospital compound specifically and Bihar in general were oddly reminiscent of my childhood, and strangely felt like home. I really fell in love with Bihar.

The first day we went out to a rural clinic EHA is starting.

That evening we had a fish barbecue and chatted late into the night. I was even able to follow some jokes told in Hindi.

The next day the EHA team set off to the villages that were most affected by the flood.

The flood washed most of the bridges in the area away. This one was reconstructed using sand bags. Another was reconstructed by the Indian Army in 24 hours.

One of the major bridges, however, has still not been reconstructed so we took a boat across the engorged river.

This land was under water for months and has still has not completely dried out. When the EHA team first arrived they traveled by boat to the villages.

Farmers are starting to replant the drier fields but many are still submerged.


No need to teach this young man to fish.

The flood waters reached the height of the white line across the house and remained for months. North India is also very cold during the winter... even the cattle have to wear blankets.

In each ward relief cards were handed out to the most needy according to a survey that was conducted earlier. However, there were some issues when some people found out they were not on the list and thought they should have been.

In each ward, names were read off the list, people came forward, details were checked, the cards were signed and handed over and they were checked off the list...

... and the team moved on to the next ward.

The next day all of the 1624 people who received relief cards (and quite a few others who wanted to see the spectacle) gathered to receive the relief packets.

Cards were brought forward one at a time, signed with a thumb print and checked off the list...

They then went to the truck, showed their card...

And received a gunnysack full of food containing:
Rice 17 kg
Dal 5 kg,
Sattu (gram flour mix) 3 kg
Sugar 3 kg
Salt 950 gm
Biscuits 1 kg
Mustard Oil 1 L

Relieved after the strenuous process...

They carried off this months food rations.
The cards are good for two more distributions in the next two months.

Coming, as I did, at this stage in the process it is hard to see the trauma these people went through now that they are beginning to put their lives back together again. That is until you are walking through the rice patties with a woman who starts to sob, and through her tears points out a partially buried skull in the patty and explains that this is where they found her daughter's body as the flood waters receded. The team hopes that the relief they give is ultimately helpful and doesn't just add more stress to the already traumatic situation.