Friday, October 24, 2008

Rajistan Trip

October 21, 2008
The trip to Rajistan and the pictures represent a great time, a wonderful learning experience, but it came with a price. An 18 hour day and too many hours in a van and jeep. Our backs were killing us by the time we got home. The next night I was up until 11:30 PM working on another project after Sister Tanner had outdone herself with a roast beef and mashed potato dinner for the elders. Oh, and a zuchini cake with ice cream for desert. Back to back big days start to add up. But amazingly, we were up and going today with no problem. A Career Workshop was held in our group building. I had asked Elder Brown to come over and present since he is a pro at it and has experience working with the Indian members. As I listened in the workshop today, I learned a lot about the culture along with the good stuff in the workshop. We had 2 members and 2 investigators attend and another member who had to work today will be with us tomorrow. These are the real rewarding things, along with the joy of seeing people benefit from a humanitarian project like the one that follows.

One of the Latter-Day Saint Charities (LDSC) projects that we are involved with is the building of catchment dams in the Sikar region of the state of Rajistan, India. The moving force behind many of the dams being built in the region is Rotary International. LDSC has partnered with Rotary International to build 20 dams in the region. In order to get us engaged and educated on what was involved in the project, Rotary arranged for us to be present at the inauguration of one of the dams. The dam in the first picture was completed over a
year ago and has captured water from the past 2 year's monsoon seasons. The dams have two purposes. The first, and primary purpose, is to capture rain during it's brief season and hold it to allow the aquifer (ground water level) to be replenished. The second purpose is to directly use some of the water for irrigation, but this is very limited. Raising the ground water level has allowed the existing bore holes (wells) to produce the water necessary for irrigation. The ground water level had become so low that there was essentially no water for irrigation and the farmers barely made one crop a year. With the dam you see here, the ground water level raised enough to allow 3 crops this year, the difference between survival and relative prosperity.

The jeeps we changed to for the final leg of the trip to the inauguration.

A shallow lake, maybe 13' deep, the height of the dam, but a good surface area for adding to the ground water. There is enough water here that it would take 2 years with no rainfall to dry up the reservoir. Let's hope there are no droughts.

The man to the right of Sister Tanner is the chief architect for the dams and learned the trade from his father who has won awards in India and has been recognized internationally for his work with catchment dams. Sorry, I do not have his name, but met him on this trip.

After we left the first dam, which a good example of a completed project with water, we continued on to the next dam site where the inauguration would occur. The next dam serves a collection of 6 small villages which are collectively known as a panchayat. This is a picture of 2 of the village/panchayat elders/leaders and I believe the gentleman on the right is the one I mentioned earlier who is the catchment dam champion. A tent like structure was in place with the women and children seated on carpet and waiting for us to arrive. The dam is a very big deal as you can imagine and its inauguration was also a very important event. As you will see below, we received turbans, flowers, and marks on our foreheads, all a traditional means of honoring us. The "honored" guests all sat at a row of tables. The village elder said a blessing prayer in Hindi on the dam and the occassion.

Each guest was recognized, then the panchayat elder gave a short speech followed by a response from two of the Rotary officers, Sushil Gupta, Delhi, and Charlie Clemmons, Houston, TX.

Notice that most of the ladies kept their faces covered. Sister Tanner saw a couple of the women looking at her and gave a small hand wave without lifting it off the table and then the smiles began and they started passing the word and Sister Tanner had won them over. See the pictures that follow of the instant sisterhood.

What a sweetheart?

After the initial ceremony, the women wanted to dance for us before we headed up to the dam for another brief ceremony. Notice the village elder who comes in at the end and stops the dancing so we can get going.

This dam is much higher and narrower than the other and sits in a small canyon. Sister Tanner thought it was like hiking up Little Cottonwood Canyon, with monkeys.

Sister Tanner was the first woman to make it to the dam on this hike. What a trooper!

On the way back for lunch, we paused for a picture with the "sisters" who had waited for Sister Tanner. The lunch by the way, had at least 3 things that were unique to Rajistan. I'm pretty sure they must have toned the spices down and it was really good.

After lunch, the free loaders showed up as soon as the people began to move away from the wall. They got chased away by the villagers pretty quick though. Check out how long their tails are.

The young lady on the right is almost as tall as I am, but much, much better looking.

The "turbanator". Thanks Pete.

When we left, the jeep we were riding in had 6 Americans, an Indian driver, 2 more villagers in the back with Elder Brown and me, 2 on top, and one standing on the back bumper and holding on. A total of 12. And even though I was in the back, it didn't seem crowded.
This picture has nothing directly to do with the trip, but I've included it as a visual to my concluding editorial. The picture is of work on one of the LDSC funded dams that we will site visit on our November trip. All of the dams are hand built, no machine equipment. The rocks are harvested by the people, the foundation was hand dug, etc. On the way back, we were talking about the contrast we had observed between the people of Bihar and those we had just met in Rajastan. Here there were smiles, people who obviously were willing to work to better themselves, etc., and granted, they were not the victums of a flood and displaced from their homes, but we commented on the difference we had seen. Atul Dev, one of the Rotarians and quite an individual, a Punjab by birth, offered his own opinion that the Rajastanies worked for what they got and the Biharians seemed to feel entitled to the help they received and expected more, possibly because the constanting flooding situations and rescue operations have inculcated in them that sense of entitlement.

1 comment:

Jordan said...

Oooh man ever since I found out you were going to India, I was waiting for a picture of Elder Tanner with a turban. I can die happy now...well at least go to sleep happy!