Chotila – Bhogravadan – Deduki: India
Sunday, 7th February – We first journeyed to the small town of Chotila which was around four hours drive from Ahmedabad and not too far from Rajkot. From Chotila, our band of five travelled off-road to reach our final destination, the village of Bhogravadan, to attend a ‘Rang Mela’ held at the local school. Rang Mela simply translates to ‘colour festival’.
We arrived at the school in Bhogravadan at around midday to see small groups of children playing games on the dusty outfield. Over the surprisingly loud PA system we heard children’s voices coordinating the day’s activities. We were taken on a short tour of the venue and got to see some of the exhibitions which the children had put together. The Rang Mela brought children together from the surrounding villages to help create a sense of unity in the society.
What impressed me was that, although teachers and adults helped organise the event, the actual management of the timetable was carried out by a group of children. Even more impressive was that over 600 children were participating! Many activities were taking place and included drum making, fabric dying and model making to name but a few. In the heat of the day, a puppet show was performed by the teachers and watched by an attentive crowd. Along with a number of outdoor games the Mela was completely entertaining! For me the visit to the Rang Mela was an inspirational experience and it was great to see so many young children taking part, learning new ideas and making friends!
From there we travelled to the village of Deduki where we had arranged to stay with volunteers from America who were currently on an internship with Indicorps and were involved in the planning of the Rang Mela. Our journey to Deduki was very interesting as we shared a space of no more than 3 square metres with a group of fifteen children who had attended the Rang Mela. Our transport was a rikshaw with a motor bike at the front and a large cart at the back upon which we sat. The terrain was rough and bumpy and the lush outfield made the journey quite memorable.
Upon arrival we were taken on a walk around the village by some locals and met Kalpesh, Sunil and Vipu who kept us entertained during our stay in Deduki. We eventually ended up at Deduki’s community centre where our friends from Indicorps prepared and planned their activities. It soon grew dark as the evening approached. We all met for dinner where we had the opportunity to meet some of the local community workers. After giving our brief introductions we made our way to our overnight resting place which was outside and underneath a starry night sky. That was a unique experience and one I won’t forget in a hurry!
Monday 8th February – The morning arrived and the plan was to introduce the local kids to the game of Frisbee! Ultimate Frisbee is being promoted by Ahmedabad Ultimate to encourage children to take part in a fun activity and to work collectively as a team to win. After chai (tea) and naasta (snacks) we met with community leaders at the community centre. From there I made my way, along with five members of the Indicorps team, to the school where we sat in the day’s opening session, which included prayer and songs performed by the children.
After a brief introduction with some of the kids we headed over to a dusty playing field.
The session began with warm-up activities and the group of children was split up. Each group was taken through small drills based around passing and receiving the Frisbee disk. As the session progressed one could see a marked improvement in the children’s ability as each child’s confidence grew. At the end of the session we sat down with the children to hear their thoughts on Frisbee and whether or not they could collectively form a team to play in the local league. The response was positive. I had great fun helping to teach the children a new game and, hopefully, something that will bring benefit to their lives. After an afternoon Frisbee session we ate a ‘pre-wedding’ lunch!
Some members of our group had to head back to Ahmedabad. However, three of us remained to experience the village wedding to be held later in the evening. Again, the evening seemed to draw in very quickly and with limited street lighting it was difficult to get around the village. Luckily we had a torch and headed over to the house of the groom. This was where the wedding procession started and would travel around the village. A large cart was blasting out Indian music to which people began garba dancing; a traditional form of dance that normally takes place during the festival of Navaratri. The cart stopped at various points in the village and the groom followed behind whilst riding a horse. As it was so dark and with hardly any street lighting, the only source of light was provided by the camera man videoing the whole event.
The colourfully clothed people could be seen dancing to the music behind a cloud of dust being kicked up by the movement of feChoet. The evening once again ended sleeping under a starry night sky.
Tuesday 9th February – We awoke early to head back to Ahmedabad. Our plan was to catch the bus to Chotila which was an hour away. However, we managed to get a lift part of the way in a milk delivery rikshaw! After arriving in Chotila we stopped for some chai and naasta and caught the bus back to Ahmedabad. An amazing weekend with great memories.