Widening Horizons Programme, Chennai, India
Day 6– Friday the 21st of August
It is our sixth day in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, South India and I have officially fallen in love with this place. Today we embark on another adventure and set off on a 7 day trip with final destination Kanyakumari, the southernmost tip of peninsular India.
Before we set off, we plan to fit in a shopping trip and a lecture. A few of us head out to buy some last minute things for our travels and shock horror the process turns out to be a little more convoluted than need be. We put our trust in a Tuk Tuk driver to take us to a market that we have heard has everything we need (rookie mistake no.1). We get there and find pretty much nothing so reconsider and ask another driver to take us to Fab India (rookie mistake no.2). Five of us pile into one small tuk tuk so I have to sit up front on the same seat as the driver (rookie mistake no.3)… I nearly fall out every time we turn a corner. We arrive to find Fab India has shut down. We then make our own way to a shop which looks suitable, grab a few things and head to the checkout in a rush (rookie mistake no.4). The process of buying anything in India is apparently extremely lengthy and we are now late for the lecture that professor Ramu Manivannan is going to give us on ‘Issues in Globalisation – An Indian Perspective.’
Luckily, our poor time keeping goes fairly unnoticed. Professor Ramu’s lecture was extremely engaging and very insightful and I particularly liked one critique he made about the ‘trickle down’ theory. He used the metaphor of a Golden Cup and described trickle down as the overflowing of wealthy people’s cup once it is full and therefore spilling out to reach those below. He then presented the critique that because of capitalism it may bet the case that we will never reach the point where people allow their cup to overflow. Insatiable wants mean they will just continue to buy more cups. This really struck a cord with me. Professor Ramu Manivannan is one of the most humble and giving people I have met and I find his empathy and compassion very touching.
After our lecture, we set off in our trusty minibus – the Blue Missile – and headed to our first stop: the Garden of Peace, Ghandi-King-Mandela farm. It is a school set up by professor Manivannan himself and is one of the most inspirational places I have visited. The journey was supposed to take 2 hours but delayed by a monsoon and multiple traffic jams, we eventually arrived 7 hours later. The school has been set up by professor Ramu for poor children living in the villages surrounding it. It is completely free for them to attend and gives many children in the area an amazing opportunity to get an education which will give them more choice about their future and open up many doors for them which would not be possible without the Garden of Peace. Professor Manivannan believes education and opportunity should not just be for kids with money. The man is a legend.
We are shown to the classrooms we are staying in and then invited for dinner. After some delicious potato curry, chapatis, tomato rice, mango chutney, a ‘sweet’ and a banana, cooked by the local women, we meet in a small room to share stories and do some meditation. Professor Ramu is going to give us a rooftop yoga class at 6am the following day so we head to bed excited for what tomorrow brings! The perfect end to a magnificent day. I never want to leave!!
Montanna Mathieson – taking on the wonders of India, Summer 2015