A particular low point

So in a week that was supposed to be full of positives, the launch of Silo India, customs finally processing the sports equipment, its turned into week which has seriously got me questioning whether things here will ever really change. It certainly testing my resolve to be here and I think even my overly optimistic view is starting to diminish.

So before the launch it was a 3 day trip to Madurai, meeting contacts, doing some stuff on my blog and maybe even some time at a hotel swimming pool, however, this then happened!

Madurai rain

It hasn’t rained here for months and even though April and May are the hottest months its really unusual to get rain.  After a failed monsoon last year it seems this years has arrived early.
Being close to the equator it isn’t just rain either its tropical downpours and of course it has to happen just as I get off the bus!  So spent a soggy 20 minutes huddled under a make shift shelter, soaked through having a cup of tea with about 10 locals.
Rain eases off so go for lunch and then decide to walk up to the temple to pick up some stuff.  After an hours rain this is what the roads were like!
madurai floods

So having dried out slightly I now had to wade 20 minutes from the temple back to the bus stop.  I lost my flip flops numerous times, almost fell over in the floods and when cars helpfully came past they didn’t really slow down.  Instead it caused a wave which sent the water higher.  By the time I got to the bus I was like a drowned rat, much to the amusement of the locals.

By the time I got back into town later the flooding had completely gone, where the water had gone I don’t know because there’s no proper drainage system in place, no way of harvesting this water.  Tamil Nadu is experiencing a significant water problem, many homes in Madurai have been without running water for months and even when rain like this comes, most of it goes to waste because they haven’t got the proper infrastructure in place.  The rain continued on and off like this for 3 days.  A lot of rain, a lot of water but most of it now gone to waste.

Thursday morning and time to meet Tennis Alicante India.  A really proactive sports club set up in the heart of the city to provide training to talented youngsters with the potential to compete on the world stage.
The club have hundreds of ideas of how to get more kids (and adults) into sport and I hope over the coming months I can help them put some of their plans into action.  The discussion was back into my comfort zone as this is much the same role as I do at home, the huge difference is the challenges faced here.  Sadly corruption, people cheating each other, lies and a want to see someone/club fail are very much the norm here.  People want things to improve but they don’t want to be the ones to do it and if someone else is doing it they want to see them fail.  Conversely once an organisation shows success, everybody wants to be a part of it!
I’ve been impressed though by the steely determination of the club to make it a success and to avoid their involvement in anything underhand and after the meeting I was really full of optimism about the potential this club offered.

So back to Manur, back to my flat and this is what awaits me.

random bird nest

This is on the inside of the house.  I’m the only person that has keys and even though its been quite breezy I wouldn’t say its been that bad!  I just stood there totally baffled and bemused wondering how the heck and what the heck is that.  After a bit of discussion and removal of it we conclude that it must be a squirrel or rat nest.  Totally random.
Next morning and the mystery is resolved, I think, as I’m woken up to a tapping noise on the window. Look up and there’s a small bird tapping on the window frantically trying to get in.  This has continued for the last few days so think its safe to conclude that it was a bird nest.  Lesson learnt though, make sure all windows are shut before I go away for a few days.

What has since followed this week though makes these events definitely things that you can laugh and shrug off, its all part of the craziness here, becoming accustomed to expecting the unexpected but events since then have been far more difficult to shrug off.
Those that know me well, will know that I’m pretty laid back, things don’t really bother me and I’m probably overly optimistic.  But this week I feel tired, drained, angry, hurt and seriously questioning everything!

In the last few days I’ve received a call from the press to talk about an issue which I really didn’t want to get involved in, found out that some of my money has gone missing with accusations flying everywhere and on top of that I’ve had the same people ask me the same questions about what I’m doing here, like I’m going to give them information that they can use for their own advantage.

I’m not even sure how to explain all that has happened or even where to start.
Pretty much every week since the others flew back to the UK (on 5 April) someone or a number of people have tried to warn me about different people.  Told me to be careful working with them, told me not to say certain things and probably the most infuriating line which no one seems to be able to back up is ‘many people are watching you, you know’.  The skeptical side of me of thinks, yep I’m sure they are because they have this warped view that I’m a rich westerner that has landed in India with a bag full of money which if they speak to me in the right way I’m going to let them have access to!  Which bemuses me I have to say, as rather than make any money here its actually cost me thousands of pounds to be here!

I was starting to get pretty fed up of having to conceal the truth from people, watch what I say, watch what I do, who I do it with it etc etc.  It just isn’t how I am and certainly not in a work context.  Perhaps I am too honest with people, not afraid to have difficult conversations and very upfront about how I feel about stuff but I don’t want to change that.  So I started just being myself and working on the basis that people would either accept that or not.  I certainly felt better for it, at least if no one else was being I was being honest to myself and to everyone else; but perhaps that left me and leaves me in a position for people to try and take advantage of it?

Having spent the last 6 weeks trying to figure out who, if anyone I can actually trust,  what to believe, where to focus my time and energy I totally hit a low point today where I thought, do you know what, why am I here? why am I making such an effort to be up front with people?  To build trust when it seems that everyone here is entirely out for their own gains.  I wouldn’t say people have necessarily lied to me but they’ve certainly not told me stuff which would of been useful to know.  Perhaps there is an expectation that I am just supposed to understand the way things work here but with everyday I seem to know less and less.  My experience here so far is raising more questions than it is answering.
Someone recently said to me, you know, when someone says they’ll do something, whether its be somewhere at a certain time or undertake a task, it isn’t a commitment its a statement of intent.  Sadly its true, there are very few people that actually when they say they’re are going to do something actually go ahead and do it. Perhaps that’s why everything here operates on ‘Indian time’?

There’s no denying that being here this time has been tough.  I totally stand out in the crowd, white female, short boyish hair style, western clothing but it isn’t that that makes it hard.  Its trying to work out what people want from you, do they just want information? Do they just want to parade you around as the token white person because it increases their status?  Or do they genuinely want your input and value your contribution?  It is today that I’ve felt being here totally on my own, no one else close by from the same culture to sound out if I think I’m being a bit paranoid, to help me understand the culture that I’ve found really tough.  Its been a particularly bad day and perhaps its the accumulation of what have been some quite challenging weeks.  Perhaps my body hasn’t quite recovered from the infection, I probably haven’t been looking after myself that well and I haven’t been sleeping because its been far too hot.  Perhaps its all that and a combination of events over the last 7 days that just all took their toll today.  I hope it is just that.

As everyone says, tomorrow is another day.  And you know what I could feel totally optimistic about everything again and perhaps, tomorrow could be the best day I’ve had here for a long time!  Who knows and perhaps it would be boring if we did know!







3 thoughts on “A particular low point

  1. Hey Jo, what an incredibly honest and incisive post. Real ‘heart on the sleeve’ stuff. I think anyone who’s spent any short space of time in India can relate to the mental/physical/emotional roller coaster that you’re riding.

    Living through that on a long-term basis is a tough endeavour and I guess those low days will occur but hopefully they’re a minority case. Keep your eye on the ball and remember why you’re out there – you’re making a difference!

    I don’t think it’s possible to ever fully understand the cultural idiosyncrasies and particularly the work ethic. It’s sad to hear paranoia creep in and for such a positive pants person that speaks volumes about the challenges you’re facing down remarkably!

    Whenever paranoia crept in for me out there, something always came along to remind me of the beauty of the people and the place. The kid in Varanasi who led us through the labyrinthine old town to our hostel, expecting nothing in return. The train guard who asked to see our tickets to scare off a ‘cheater man.’ The kid in Khajurajo who fixed my dodgy bike chain who just wanted a foreign coin for his collection.

    I’m sure you’ve got dozens of positive tales like this to draw on. Kindness and generosity doesn’t always translate into action. But I think our cooler Northern European climate certainly makes us more proactive. Keep plugging away Jo! Enjoy those hard-fought, incremental wins and hold your head up high.

    We believe in you and we’re mighty proud of you too (he says with an affirmative head wobble!) x

  2. Pauline

    Jo, I had not actually read this blog before we spoke today …I must not have completed the link correctly to remind me when you added a new blog. That was some shower …it is such a shame that more of it isn’t captured for use with the need being so great there. The rain really brought out the blue colour in the Temple !! When you were that soaked I doubt if you spent much time admiring the refreshed colours on the temple!
    You have had some painfully frustrating experiences lately and that is really disheartening when you are making such efforts to make a difference and help improve lives there. Perhaps the same people do not understand that you do not have a hidden agenda like they all seem to have ….to one extent or other. I hope you find ways to relax and clear your mind from the stresses and annoyances so that you can make the best of your time there and that the good karma will come your way very soon.

    I had forgotten about the head wobble until I saw the reference above.

    Those birds are some builders ….

  3. Pingback: Culture Shock | Jo Clay in India

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