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January 3rd

The next day we headed into the field to visit our area of study.  The area is called the Mewat District and it is just about an hour south of Delhi, but it’s a completely different world the likes of which I had never seen.  As we drove further south the urban landscape turned more and more rural.  Along the road we saw the men sitting in circles around small fires smoking while the women began the daily chores.  The women do most of the work, including the agricultural duties.  After an hour or so of driving, we arrived at a school.  It was basically a large dirt courtyard lined with small classrooms.  IRRAD had implemented a rooftop rainwater harvesting system which met the needs of the school.  Before the system was in place, they were drinking saline water with over twice the amount of salt deemed safe.  This can lead to health problems affecting the bones and joints.  When we arrived a big mob of people surrounded us, not only students but local villagers as well.  Our guide explained to them in Hindi why we were there visiting.  We were not allowed to take pictures as we pleased, especially of women.  We headed to another school using the rooftop system.  There we visited a first grade classroom.   It was very simple with benches and a chalkboard with Hindi and English characters.  Our guide told us this was one of the nicer classes she had seen in Mewat.  I volunteered to pump water from a small hand pump in front of all the school children and villagers.  The water was brownish but at least it was not dangerously salty.  A small boy came up and started speaking to me in English and after exchanging names I gave him my pen which he really enjoyed clicking.  As we left he furiously waved goodbye, smiling ear to ear.  It was time to head to our village of interest, Ghagas, which was even deeper in the boonies than the schools we had seen.  We passed through the village in our SUVs, drawing the stares of the villagers.  In Ghagas we visited three check dams, structures that stop the flow of rainwater coming off of the nearby Aravali Hills so the water can pool during the monsoons and recharge the fresh groundwater pocket beneath.  A large crew of male children and adults (the women were busy working) followed us on our hike from dam to dam, and we managed to get a group photo with many of them on top of one of the dams.  I picked up a stick and began drawing in the sand and soon a group of small boys were drawing with me.  We then headed back to the village to the community center, where IRRAD had installed an FM radio tower and studio where entertaining/educational programs were aired.  There we ate the best meal of the trip so far.  About as authentic as Indian food can get, it was amazing.  We left Ghagas and headed a few km north to a beautiful gorge in the hills where a freshwater stream inexplicably flowed down from the arid hills.  There were many women doing laundry and they had hiked quite a ways to do so.  It was time to head back to civilization, and my head was spinning with what I had just experienced.  It was great to finally see the area, and the people who we are attempting to help.

 

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Last modified on September 10th, 2015
Posted on March 31st, 2013