Day 2: Pratham and the Dutch embassy

New Delhi Travel Blog

 › entry 3 of 11 › view all entries
our driver

On monday we would start with our first official visits of the trip. In the morning we would visit Pratham (An NGO with the mission to provide education for every child in India) and in the afternoon we would have a reception at our embassy in Delhi, so everyone was ordered to wear formal clothes for the reception, even though the temperature would rise above 40 degrees that day. I finished my morning ritual of applying sun block and DEET early and had a few moments to check the internet in the hotel lobby as the rest of the group was getting ready. I wrote an email to my friends and parents, but I noticed that it was difficult to explain everything I had experienced on my first day to them.

school in Delhi
I wanted to tell them so much, but as I was sitting in front of the computer I didn't know where to start.

Miraculously the entire group was inside the bus on time and we departed from hotel Pablas International for another busy day filled with new experiences. The bus trip lasted for about an hour during which I got increasingly more respect for our driver as he maneuvered his large vehicle through the chaos without hitting anything and without showing any signs of anxiety or aggression. We passed a construction site where people were working on the extension of the metro system and I saw cows walking between the busy traffic for the first time. We picked up the persons from the Pratham organisation at their office and drove to a public school as they explained the goal and method of Pratham to us.

class in Delhi
At the location of the excursion our group was split in three parts and we started by visiting a local school in an area which was comparable to Karol Bagh, the neighbourhood where our hotel was located.

The school was a large concrete building with several floors around a small courtyard and housed some hundred children in different age groups. Because of the shortage of space the classes were separated: the boys go to school in the afternoon and the girls in the morning. The kids wo saw us were amazed to see so many foreigners walking around in their school and were paying a lot more attention to us than to their teachers. We were introduced to a class of about 20 children who were around 10 years old and who had been working on a project about The Netherlands and had been corresponding with a primary school in our country.

children at a school
They performed some songs for us and after that they could ask questions about us. Some of their questions were about the food we eat in Holland, what festivals we have and how many children we all had.

After saying goodbye to the class, we walked back towards the bus. Attending school is not obligated in India, so there were a lot of children on the streets who were following our group. Everybody was very happy to see us and I shook a lot of hands before getting inside the bus. After a short drive we arrived at one of the slum areas of Delhi to visit another school. The people here were even more amazed as we walked towards the school and it was hard to believe that anybody could live under the conditions I saw. The area consisted of small cottages which were patched together from various materials along dirt roads.

another school class
The garbage was collected and burned at the street corners and the smell and heat in the area were oppressive. At the school we were shown some more songs and we shared a child song from our own country with them, after which everybody received drawings from the children.

The third school we visited that day was in the largest lepra-colony in Asia: Hope village. The class was held in a very small and dark room and the children were very young. When we arrived at the bus we met the rest of the group and everyboyd shared their experiences. Casper was sad that he hadn't received any drawings, but I had got 2, so I gave him one of mine. The people from Pratham invited us to lunch in a nearby restaurant. We felt bad about the fact that they wanted to pay for our meals as we could all afford our own meals and their organisation depended on charity, but they insisted on it.

Thijs showing his camera
They did however accept donations, so everybody donated something extra. The food was mostly the same as we had had the evening before and by this time I was really beginning to miss meat in my food.

The 6 members of the organisation commitee of our study tour started getting worried about our time schedule, so we finished our meal quickly and after thanking the members of Pratham for their time we left to drive to the Dutch embassy on the other side of Delhi. Our driver demonstrated that you can turn a bus around in the middle of a very busy street without causing too much trouble and after one hour we arrived at the embassy, which was guarded by three or four Indian soldiers. We were received by a woman at the embassy and it was nice to hear someone outside our group speaking Dutch again.

Erik, Bertrand and Marij at the embassy
The meeting started with a short welcoming presentation by the ambassador (Mr. Niehe, who turned out to be a brother of Ivo Niehe, a Dutch television host). He introduced us into the political and economic situation of India and told us something about the Indian culture and what differences people could expect while doing business with Indians compared to the Western culture. He also told us about the incredible economic growth in India and the enormous differences between the rich and the poor in that country. This huge difference could potentially lead to social unrest in the future, but he believed that this threat was not as great as in countries like China, because most hindus accept their fate if they are born in the lowest class. Most don't even consider the possibility of taking things from other people who are in a better economic position.
Marlous, Dennis and Jeroen

As the ambassador left us for another appointment we had a short discussion about India and then went outside for a reception by the pool with some embassy personnel. It seemed somewhat surreal to me that we had been walking around in the worst parts of Delhi in the morning and only hours later we were drinking cold beer besides a pool in the garden around the embassy. I talked to the second man in India, who had 'mobility and infrastructure' in his portfolio, which meant that he was following the major developments in Delhi on that topic. He asked about our experiences so far and told us that almost every dutchperson who travels to India is shocked by the poverty and wants to do something to help the poor people.

After a relaxing hour we took a group picture and left the embassy again.

Casper chilling at the embassy
Our bus dropped us off at the Karol Bagh metro station and we walked to our hotel from there. After refreshing at the hotel I went to look for a place to eat with Edo, Casper, Erik and Charlotte. There was a crowded market street about two streets away from our hotel (although I still had no idea how to get there on my own) which had a few western establishments and we ordered something to eat at a coffee bar. It was also nice to drink some real coffee again after the powdered coffee that was served at breakfast in our hotel. We walked around the market after dinner and looked for some souvenirs while ignoring most of the traders who tried to sell belts, handkerchiefs and necklaces to us for expensive prices. The market was still filled with people and cars in the evening and the air itself seemed to be filled with life and energy.
Our entire group at the embassy
I bought a flashing light as a gift for my sister in my first attempt to improve my bargaining skills. Eventually I was happy with the price, but I believe I could have gotten it a little bit cheaper if I had had some more experience.

When we returned to the hotel I spend the rest of the night drinking in the hotel bar and playing poker with Casper, Edo, Merijn, Tim, Bob and Jochem.

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
our driver
our driver
school in Delhi
school in Delhi
class in Delhi
class in Delhi
children at a school
children at a school
another school class
another school class
Thijs showing his camera
Thijs showing his camera
Erik, Bertrand and Marij at the em…
Erik, Bertrand and Marij at the e…
Marlous, Dennis and Jeroen
Marlous, Dennis and Jeroen
Casper chilling at the embassy
Casper chilling at the embassy
Our entire group at the embassy
Our entire group at the embassy
playing some serious poker
playing some serious poker
New Delhi
photo by: peeyushmalhotra