Chennai Travel Blog› entry 7 of 8 › view all entries
Thirty hours on a train is a long time!!! In addition to looking out the window and taking in the beautiful landscape and/or getting bored, it also gives you the time to make some new friends. There was a group of 7 Bangladeshi Buddhist monks on their way to sri lanka in the same carriage as me and this made the whole trip a lot nicer. They were telling how they were traveling from their hometown in Bangladesh all the way to Sri Lanka over land and sea and the whole trip took them like five days or something. Must be exhausting! They were on their way to a buddhist university in Sri Lanka to go and study. One monk was telling the story of how he, on the way back to Bangladesh last time, got drugged on the train and had all his stuf stolen (and monks do not have a lot of stuf). The worst part was that he was carrying a lot of money this time because he was supposed to come back with this new group of monks, and had to make all their travel arrangments. Almost 200 euro's worth of rupees was stolen. Not a nice story amd it makes you want to be very careful with what you eat on trains...
After (finally!!!!) arriving in Chennai, I checked in to the Salvation Army guesthouse, which was grubby but cheap. The next day I went to a neighbouring town, Tirruvallur, to the office Sidamma's organisation. Upon arriving there she was not in, but not to worry, one of her emplyees called her and so we could arrange a meet up back in Chennai. After three years, we finally were able to great each other in front of the Chennai trainstation and were very happy to see each other.
Siddamma is an amazing woman, who runs an organisation that works for the tribalpeople (adivasis) of Tamil Nadu. She not only defends their rights, helps to set them up in education and defends their rights, but is also heavily involved in reconstruction work after the tsunami, since many of these adivsis live on the Tamil Nadu coast and are fishermen.
She immediately made me stay in her house, stated that I was very skinny and not looking well and stated feeding me at every moment she could. The next day, she went on a trip visiting all the reconstruction sites and took me along to see her work. It was amazing. The first stop we made was on a large organic farm, which she had started to give freed bonded-labour workers a chance to become self-sufficient. This also expleined why I was not able to find her on her old address. Taking up work for the rights of bonded labourers will make you some enemies and threats were issued to her family. She had to move a couple of times to insure their safety. The far itself was lovely. Green, spacious, fertile, a real good place to live, or if you are just visiting, to relax and hang out for a bit.
The next day we went along the coastal area's to see the new houses build for the people that lost everything they had in the tsunami. The houses were in their final stages and were looking lovely, painted bright green that was sparkling in the tropical sun. Siddamma had truly been working hard!!! The days for the opening ceremonies were fixed with the villagers, who had been invloved in all the stages of planning and building the houses. It was really their village!
We stayed the night at one of the regional offices and the next day we were on to see more sites. Here it became apperent that it can also go less wel sometimes. One of the sites had been build with the help of a German organisation. In all the other places Siddama's organisation had done the fundraising itself, and involved the villagers in the whole proces. Here the funds were handled by the German organisation, who skimped majorly on the materials for the houses, but splashed out on salaries for consultants and engineers. The houses were of less quality (which was even visible to a total nitwit on building like me) and Siddama swore that she would never work with an outside organisation ever again. Good for her!
All in all it were some truly amazing days, in the rural area's of tamil Nadu, and as I was gearing up to leave for Bangalore, Siddamma was fixing the dates to be interviewed by a singaporean tv channel. I was said to leave the comfortable hospitality of this Siddamma and her family. I hope to be back soon!
Ok that's it for now, more on Bangalore the nex time,