In December 2005 I took two weeks off to visit my parents who were working in India at the time.
The transformation was abrupt but smooth. One moment I was in hot and muggy Singapore the next in hot and muggy Mumbai.After that it was just a series of taxi rides and then I strolled through the gates of Mukti mission.Mum and Dad are looking good, healthier then I have seen them in a while and it’s good to catch up on what has happened over the last few months.
Let me try to describe the Mukti mission and its surroundings.The mission was started by Pandita Ramabai in the late Nineteenth century and after some years established itself on land near the village of Ked, Kedgoan simply means Ked village. It now comprises a number of schools, churches and a hospital and is home to more then a thousand women from eight months to eighty years. The building Mum and Dad are staying in is apparently one of the oldest structures but it looks pretty nice and they are happy with it. The drawback is that it’s next to the street and like everywhere else in India that means there is enough noise to wake the dead. Still you get used to it and there is always something to see.
We walked out across the railway tracks and into the fields. It immediately is a different scene. It is quiet the noise of the village is far behind us, a man is irrigating his fields by slowly filling the rows he has hoed with water from a nearby well. A heron and a drongo fight over some of the insects his work throws up. There is no one else around. In a combination of Maharati, Hindi and English he tells us about his work. It looks like hard labour but he seems content.We walk a little farther and have a look at one of the wells the mission has put in. It’s close to ten meters in diameter and looks very deep indeed. The water is clear and sparkling, I wonder if you can drink it but don’t try. Dad decides he has walked far enough and sits down on a small wall in the shade of a Tamarind tree. Mum and I walk a bit further out in the fields. I could spend all day here.
Here is a description of a typical day for me at Mukti mission.7.30 Get up have a breakfast of four small slices of toast with a fried egg or jam and sometimes a bowl of rice with chilies and spices. One cup of coffee.8.00 Make a bucket of hot water to wash and shave. Throw yesterdays clothing in another bucket to do my washing.8.30 Attend morning devotion. Normally a few songs, a bible reading and prayers.9.30 Have another coffee after church.10.00 Walk to Kedgoan village, take some photos, buy some fruit or sweets.13.00 Lunch with the mission staff. Two chapattis, a vegetable curry, rice and dhal. This never seems to vary.13.30 Afternoon nap.15.00 Visit a village with the mission team or one of the family houses with my parents.19.00 Dinner the same as lunch but occasionally a chicken or fish curry.19.30 Retire to my room, read a book.21.30 Go to sleep, strangely enough I am normally tired around that time.
Christmas programme at Manorama Memorial English medium school.We started only twenty minutes late. That’s pretty punctual out here.After prayers first up are the standard one girls. It’s cute and hard to describe not at all what you would expect, more like fifties jiving by five years old to Indian music of course.There are lots of plays songs and dances but my interest is as always with the crowd.
Unfortunately if I am to catch my flight back to Singapore I will have to make it to Mumbai today.So at 9.30 I said my goodbyes and headed for the railway station. The train to Pune was on time but absolutely chockfull of people and I made the hour-long trip in the luggage rack. Then a change of transport and a long distance taxi to Mumbai where I am currently stuck in a traffic jam trying to get to Colaba to find a hotel.Arrived in Colaba at 16,00 hours and am currently trying to get a room in the Taj but you guessed it their computer system is down and they can’t tell me if they have any vacancies or not so I have decided on a coffee in their coffee shop while I wait for the system to come back up.after a coffee and some more waiting I end up with a suite in the historical part of the building, shades of the raj, with butlers in uniform and more staff then patrons. A pleasant way to end a pleasant journey.