bombay/tilonia :: 08/01/08

The sleepertrain to Ajmer (endstation Jaipur) is OK. AC2, 1280Rs for 1200 km, leaves Bomay at 9pm. Waking up, a dry, red, ondulating landscape shows up through the window, some mountains on the background. Waiters are running back and forth with masala chai, coffee, water, juice, vegetable cutlets, sweets — and you can get a ‘trainmade’ lunch at noon. It’s a ‘stop train’ so it slides … slowly, slowly, slowly. The doors never close, everybody can jump off and on. We pass Gujarat and enter Rajasthan. Landscape becomes dryer, with here and there a tree or some bush and cactus. Mustardseed fields are boarding the railway, peacocks are proudly walking by.

4.30pm, Ajmer. Not immediately an attractive city. It’s a marble-center, and this explains probably the dust everywhere. After a while I find my contact: Mr. Dev. Dett Sharma, a friendly old man. He arranges a private taxi for me, the driver doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Hindi, so this will be a silent trip, 60km to Tilonia.
Actually it becomes one of the most scary trips of my life! We drive on the new ‘highway’ (to Jaipur and Delhi). There’s a lot of traffic, trucks, hughe trucks. It’s a 2 lane highway, and all drivers seem to take the opposite lane. All the time our car is pushed to the side, sometimes 4 cars are passing each other on this 2 lane way. Nobody wears a seatbelt, cows, dogs, riksha’s and motorcycles and bycicles are all on the same highway. I see an old man on the backside of a bycicle, reading his newspaper – in this buzz! Women are veiled. All men are wearing colorfull, mostly orange, turbans.

ajmer to tilonia ajmer to tilonia ajmer to tilonia ajmer to tilonia ajmer to tilonia

We get off the highway and take a small road. The roadsign indicates: Jaipur 110 km, Delhi 350 km. The driver doesn’t know the way and has to ask for directions all the time. We get more and more into a bled, in the middle of nowhere. But everybody has a cellphone, and they seem to work everywhere.
Finally we reach the Barefoot Campus, I recognise it from the photo’s on the site. Vasu is still in hospital in Jaipur, he has problems with his respiration, but he’s getting better. I meet Mr. RamNiwas, who’s reponsible for the communication and the puppettheatre. He speaks english. He explains me briefly the how and why’s from Barefoot. The origin and basic philosophy in a nutshell. No difference in caste, nor in religion or gender. It sounds very promising. A group of 30 girls from Buthan arrived for 6 months to follow the solar engineer workshop. I’ll meet them tomorrow. I have dinner together with all Tilonia Barefoot workers Self service, and afterwards clean the plate and range it.