We walked through an alleyway smelling of sewage and emerged into a new section of construction. This building site seemed bigger, more important, and more professional. The structure seemed much taller and wider. In every nook and cranny all over the structure were workers wedged into every possible position. Laborers passed boards and bricks to different floors by dropping and throwing the needed supplies. Even though the construction workers in the USA are more trained and professional, the workers here seemed more skilled in teamwork.
We passed the construction site and entered into a hospital and into a room with taped green fabric squares for floor tiles. Around the room was a ring of plastic chairs surrounding two tables, one with drinks and one with food. The drink table offered water and tea, and the food table was limited to chips, cookies, and sandwiches. We chose not eat the sandwiches because the ingredients were raw cucumbers and tomatoes. In India, anything raw has the risk of upsetting a Westerner's stomach due to bacteria. We ate a limited breakfast of chips and cookies and soon were introduced to the president of the medical center. He gave us a tour of the hospital.
We were allowed into the emergency room, which looked bigger than most of the other ERs that we have seen in India, but still much smaller than an American ER. There were a few patients inside, but we could not see them closely. There seemed to be fewer medical gadgets and more space, and the beds seemed less modern. The hallways throughout the hospital were open and not very active. All along the hallways were doors with numbers and descriptions above them. Even though some of the rooms had patients inside, some parts of the hospital were still under construction.
We walked back outside, where the cars and rickshaws were waiting for us. We had rented new rickshaws that looked more colorful, comfortable and spacious. Unknown at the time, the rickshaws were more of a pain than the ones we had used at the beginning of the rally. I rode in a car, with Ivan, Mom, a translator and the driver. The translator, was a kid about 16 who was the son of our driver.
The most notable part of our drive was stopping at the Ganges, a holy and famous river for Hindus and non-Hindu Indians. We stepped out of the car on the bridge into total chaos. All around us were cars, bikes, trucks, rickshaws, and pedestrians, some of whom were beggars. Everything and everybody came up to me at once so I knew I needed to get my observations and photos quickly! I looked over the bridge and saw families in rowboats fishing and kids playing in the river. On the shores were also families living in tents. I was expecting to find burning bodies on ghats (a Hindu tradition we watched in Kathmandu at Pashupatinats) but did not see anything of this sort. I presume there are certain sections of the river used for play and others used for religious ceremonies such as burning bodies. I watched for a while, but soon we all jumped back in our cars and rickshaws.
We continued on with a specific plan. Our car would drive far ahead of the others to our night’s destination and get the situation and rooms set up there. The other support car would stay behind with the rickshaws, which drive more slowly. Also, by this time, the rickshaws were having trouble shifting, and some were breaking down. Occasionally, the drivers would have to restart and tend to the vehicles.
Up ahead, we had a harrowing drive of dodging in, out and around other cars, tractors, bikes, horse and oxen drawn carts, pedestrians, and trucks that could have exterminated every one in our car with even a slight accident. When the scary drive was over, our car pulled into a sweet courtyard with flowers and a playground. We were told by the hospitable headmistress that this is an orphanage, serving 55 kids from this area. The headmistress showed us to our rooms where we settled in and took nice, warm showers.
The gang showed up and a surprise awaited us. We walked downstairs for dinner and were greeted by some of the orphans. A line of children were waiting to bless us by placing a beaded neckless around our necks.
Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!