I’ll get to the title in the minute. So the end of the trip is fast approaching and I’ve been determined to make the most of our final days in India. The last few days have, as always, been pretty packed full, mostly with bus journeys, but also with some great experiences.
Monday’s trip to President’s House didn’t go exactly as planned, but had its moments nonetheless. As with the visit to Parliament, we were warned to bring nothing but passports and prepare ourselves for frisking so invasive it would make a stripper shudder. But when we arrived at President’s house expecting to meet with important people and do vaguely important things, the schedule changed without warning.
After one brief and fairly disappointing frisk we found that circumstances had changed – I suppose we aren’t important enough to make important people stop doing important things and talk importantly at us. Fair enough. Instead we were offered a tour of the House’s museums and gardens. The museums were particularly interesting, with rooms devoted to various things including:
-past presidents of India
-a history of the British rule of India with many portraits of fancy looking fellows with very sharp wigs and serious expressions
-a museum of all things kitchen-related (no, really), from the humble spoon to the more obscure ‘crumb scoop’ and ‘grape scissors’
-a room full of various gifts given to the President of India over the years, from paintings, robes and golden daggers to a stuffed sea turtle and a signed photograph of Charles and Camilla.
So that was all very curious and interesting when you like your history as I do, and some of the trivia felt obscure enough to be on an episode of QI.
When we left President’s House with a great deal of the day left to spare, we were given a choice: either visit an old people’s home where the CSR volunteers have worked regularly, or go to a mall to pass the time. The problem we had was that the old people’s home was not on the schedule, and many people had doubts as to how suitable it was. In the end, just a few of us decided to go (Me, Matt, Lousie, Jesse and Lucy Miller). The experience was, on the whole, a pleasant and rewarding one.
The old people of the home seemed genuinely pleased to see us as it gave the someone to talk to (or at, as the case often was) There were some great characters. One guy was a law coach and clearly a very intelligent man, and knew it. He claimed ‘I know everything!’ before talking at length about the state of marriage in the EU and, after finding out I was a literature student, quizzing me on Byron, Shelley and Shakespeare. Which was a little bit surreal. Many of the people were remarkably friendly and cheerful, despite some of them having some pretty sad backstories from the sound of it. The place had an optimistic atmosphere which was wonderful to see, and the people had a lot of wisdom to impart. I thoroughly enjoyed our afternoon snacks, chats with the occupants and look around their garden, and I’m glad I went.We may not have been able to make a properly planned impact, but it was still a good thing to see.
On Tuesday (and now we get to the crux of the matter as explained in the title) we visited an industrial complex at Mohan Nagar (company name ‘Mohan Meakin Limited’, i think). The place produces quite a variety of things, including breakfast cereals, apple juice, glass bottles and ice, but most notably it is a brewery. Its most famous products are ‘Golden Eagle’ beer and ‘Old Monk’ rum.
We were greeted by the head brewer, who introduced himself with the words ‘I make beer. I also drink beer.’ Top man. After snacks at a very fancy house, we were given the tour. We passed machines and workers sorting glass, grinding and packaging cornflakes, and churning out bottle after bottle of Golden Eagle beer. We also got to have a taste, and my word, it was particularly nice stuff. And you can’t get fresher than straight out of a factory vat, can you?
The brewer talked passionately on the subject of corporate responsibility and such issues as caring for workers and the environment. Though I’m often prone to suspicion and cynicism on the subject of business, this place and these people seemed very genuine and I was both very impressed and more interested than I had expected to be. Another good day.
Now today I will cover briefly. We visited Katha school again, to see and take part in a presentation about the work we have done there over the last few weeks. The students themselves, from the food security group and the publishing group of which I was a part, had composed some talks on their experience which were impressive and encouraging. I feel like they’ve genuinely taken something out of the experience, which makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I must say, I’ve been deeply impressed with the English, IT skills and general enthusiasm of the students there, and I hope that we are able to continue this project after we leave. Some of the girls were talking about setting up a Katha society back in Lancaster to help with fundraising and continuing the work there, which is an exciting prospect. Tomorrow we will return to Katha for the last time to take part in their Founder’s day celebration, which I look forward to.
So, it’s been a very varied and interesting few days, and though I admit that I’m feeling ready to get back to England now, these final days aren’t disappointing. All very enlightening and good fun, and I’m not just saying that because I’m still drunk from yesterday. Golden Eagle is strong stuff…