"If there is one place on the face of this Earth where all dreams of living men have found a home from the earliest days when Man began the dream of existence, it is India."
Today, Monday 6th February was our first day at St Francis School in Bangalore. We were both very excited and had know idea what to expect.
It had been an amazing journey to get here and just being here, filled us with great anticipation about what would happen next.
At breakfast we quickly ate our typical South Indian breakfast of Chick Peas and rice, with a small quantity of ‘Cajun Spiced Potato’, on the side. It was accompanied and washed down with a traditional sweet mango Lasi and then it was time to head off into the busy morning rush hour.
Once again the journey was an experience in itself, as we dodge pedestrians and cows just meandering along the road. The traffic was again incredible, so busy with vehicles all around. Bumper to bumper for much of the journey, with the odd daredevil driver attempting to over take three cars all at once. Heading towards us, head on, on the wrong side of the road.
When we finally arrived at the school it soon dawned on us that we were late and the whole school (of around 1500) was out on the playground waiting to greet us, in the warm morning sunshine. As we drove into the dusty car park, we were met at the taxi door by both Anitha and Ritu, with flowers and large beaming smiles.
We got out and at this point we were hustled into the school building, like celebrities. Then ushered straight out through a side door and onto a large stage.
For few moments we had to take a deep breath as we not only had the intense heat to contend with, we also had over 1,000 little faces looking at us, praying on our every word. As far as the eye could see there was people and a large crowd of staff and passers-by (including two dogs) were gathering to hear us speak.
The ceremony started with the children saying a few words of motivation about the start of a new day and looking forward to the week ahead. Then there was time for some prayers and thoughts for the day. This was vibrant and lively and included a traditional Hindu greeting, where we were each given a red powder mark on our forehead and then showered with flower petals.
This was a very moving moment which was continued further through the giving of gifts and flowers. It was all very humbling, but also of great importance, something I guess we’re not used to. At this point you couldn't help feel like royalty.
The ceremony then continued with songs and traditional dancing and a moving speech from myself. I was given the microphone and asked to say a few words. Miraculously, I weaved my magic and enjoyed the experience of inspiring the audience. The whole audience appeared to listen attentively, but were probably just wondering 'what on earth was I on about?' On arriving back in my seat, I saw people in tears and reaching for the tissues. Despite my nerves it was an amazing experience.
After a short break we then had the opportunity to walk around the large school and visit all of the classrooms. This was a wonderful experience for us both as all the children were so very excited and enthusiastic, by our presence and interest.
The children stood and posed questions and there were plenty of opportunities to show off their fabulous work and take many questions about the UK, my life and the things I enjoyed. It was all very interesting to hear and their knowledge and interest was truly remarkable.
In the afternoon we went with Brother Cletus to have lunch. It was again a delightful experience as we were waited on by staff and given a variety of interesting traditional dishes to try. We particularly liked eating Dahl (Spiced Lentils) and Chapatis, with a range of local fruits to follow. One of which tasted like a fig, but was called a Chiku. It was not only wonderful in taste, it also was picked from a tree in the school grounds.
This is an extract from my journal, while visiting India. I was lucky enough to work alongside the British Council, obtain funding and secure a link with a partner school in Bangalore. During the three year project I managed to visit India myself, work on several collaborative projects, but also allow teachers from the UK to visit India and the Indian teachers to visit the UK.
I was an inspiring project, something I worked very hard to achieve. I'm very proud of what work was undertaken. I hope to go back there one day soon and continue with the work I started.
You can read more about the project here: India Link