Transportation A La India

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TRANSPORTATION A LA INDIA

Something interesting about Tamil Nadu is the infamous Indian traffic and road rogues. From our first journey to the training house – the buses – Tuk tuks I can safely say that Indian traffic is not for the faint hearted.

But there’s something kind of beautiful about it. Cattle, rickshaws, mopeds, huge vans, and people swarming about the road like there are no rules. Colours popping out of the dust, often way too close for comfort, and lanes are to be laughed at.

Horn heavy drivers substitute indicators for deafening horns and practice the art of heart stopping proximity, to the extent that a stray finger out of the window is at risk.

And what about Tamil’s drivers? Just today we saw two 14odd year old girls on a moped and our bus driver stopped on a corner to take a cigarette break. Bus drivers also stopped to pick up a cabin full of shopping whilst two parallel moped drivers took up a conversation on the highway.
Perhaps we could say this is chaos! Wrong! Dangerous?
Obviously there are huge risks, of course, but dodging bulls every few yards, avoid darting mopeds (sometimes on the wrong side of the street), and pulling out on a crossroad without being crushed… That’s skill.

I leave this post without any particular judgement. I think I’m still processing what I’ve observed.

So here are two guys on a bike who really wanted a picture taken. Happy Saturday!

View From The Streets

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Too commonly we are told the same old sob stories about development, its easy to assume that there is no end to poverty.

But people forget that charities have a motive: money. We see the same old horrific videos because if all you see is progress, why should you give?

There is a light at the end of the tunnel and this video proves it. Yes there has always been poverty and perhaps there always will be, but people need to stop thinking that the third world is in a fix.

It isn’t. Western dominance is only one short story in the history of global powers. Dynasties, Empires, and Kingdoms have been rich everywhere once, and each day they are fighting to be rich again.

But development isn’t about who’s powerful and who’s not; its about people. Its about making sure that people have rights, voices, and knowledge. If we continue to ignore this why shouldn’t communist powers? Its time to accept a global responsibility of care.

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Today is the day of my fundraising deadline, and with a lot of work I have finally hit: eight, zero, zero, pounds! I never thought I would do it. From crying to my Mum about the harsh and ungenerous nature of humanity, to screaming at strangers on Oxford Street, this thing has definitely been a tough journey. Though I will never understand why 90% of people make a good deed so gruelling, I can summarise my ICS fundraising experience as incredible. That rare gem of support when you least expect it can keep you smiling for days. This is about what makes and breaks collectors.

I learnt this thing in Psychology ages ago called weapon focus theory. If a man comes at you with a knife, naturally your attention to his face is going to be a little distracted. Exactly the same thing happens with fundraising. If you see someone pointing a bucket at you, you panic. ‘Where is my wallet, is it safe, how can I avoid this.’ You can see the step by step thought process and nothing you say is reassuring. People don’t understand quite how much most collectors would rather hear the word ‘no’, than see that same wounded expression of disgust muddled up in shame. We know we can’t give to every fund, and we can’t always find the time to stop. Its ok to say no, its so much nicer to be treated like a human being.

A second thing that is rather nice is the ‘community of collectors’. Sometimes, you don’t even care what people are collecting for but when you see that helpless person standing uncomfortably on the corner receiving evils for working that good cause, you have to stop and say: ‘I know its tough, well done.’ I’ve had past collectors approach me when collecting, and talking to the India team we’ve found its a common feeling. 

Are they legitimate? Its a totally understandable fear that’s surfaced a few times. I don’t mind when people ask me, in fact its great that people are responsible enough to find out. I can assure you though that any collectors on privately owned land have license to be there, security would boot them out otherwise. If anyone asks you and you’re not sure, just ask their charity number so you can look into the organisation. Anyone has access to these numbers so its no guarantee but it usually cuts out the liars pretty well.

Taking an interest is worth £1000. Even just asking why a bucket collector is giving up their time is an incredible thing to them. The same applies to friends and family when people share a cause. I’m actually rather scared about working in rural India for three months, as I’m sure collectors are about exposing themselves on the streets day after day. I’ve only experienced verbal abuse but it does get worse! When people treat us with respect and appreciation, it makes us feel way better.

And finally, there is no moral high ground. Its a common thing that people feel superior, giving to charity, inferior when they feel they are begging, whatever. It doesn’t really matter. Giving a few coins to somebody means nothing unless you are truly interested in understanding stuff about humanity. If you look into causes, give time, and work on meeting people you get this kind of bug for it. You understand things you never could before and, honestly, I’m not playing saint. I never had it before but in the drive to make my CV look hot I am hooked. You learn so much more because your relationships with people are no longer economic. You step outside of the world where you’ll only talk to people if you have to put up with them or if you want something. You stop clock watching your wages and you start looking at what you can learn from people. Thanks to the Active Change Foundation for the gig.

So, I hope your perspective on fundraisers will be changed forever! Probably not, but its out there. I leave you with the story of walking under Waterloo bridge seeing a Big Issue seller parting the crowd like your modern day Leper. I walked up to him and apologised for only having my card and being in a rush. He thanked me as though I had given him a tenner before stepping into no man’s land to let me walk past. Respect ain’t so hard.

Welcome To The Jungle

Bathroom attendants work one of the grottiest jobs around. They sit and watch our drunken chats about the opposite sex, clean up our mess, and worst of all take our abuse. More and more I’ve seen the horrors of this degrading job, and even collecting for charity has aligned me with the same dehumanising disgust of being named “””Beggars!””” Why does the question of money make us forget that people are human?

In one of my local clubs in Kent there is this little African bathroom attendant with an incredibly persistent smile and a gorgeous voice. She sings a hardly distinguishable mixture of “Oh my baby, eh my baby!” Her undertones of sarcasm (when talking to vain drunk girls) are hilarious to those listening on the sober frequency but are innocently comforting to us on our tipsier levels. I never really thought of any social implications or trends, I just respected the mettle of this woman and glared at the other girls who saw ‘just another invasive beggar.’

When I moved to London I met more bathroom attendants, and was disgusted by the things they told me. When we asked how much one woman earned she just pointed at the bowl sourly and another nearly burst into tears. The second woman was working in Piccadilly and was shuffling continuously on her barstool when we entered the room. I am told off frequently for being a friendly drunk and sparked a conversation with her when she handed me a towel. Leaning sleepily over her stock she said she had already worked illegal hours that day and surrendered tucking her children into bed just to face abusive drunks. This lady was clearly tired and therefore gave the first indication of abuse in her profession; I have found most to say something evasive about it ‘not being so bad’ before indicating in the direction of the management’s ears.

Lastly is the story of a kind lady in Colchester: smiley and friendly without a single glance towards her change pot. When washing my hands this tangerine stained girl started shouting at her to sing, slurring as she badly imitated African Blues. “Sing!” she screamed, waving her debit card at the poor woman. This is what really hit me. I looked at the submissive pain of that woman as she withdrew herself from the ‘meaningless’ ignorance. That’s what she said “It means nothing.”

But it doesn’t. I thought of that mothering attendant from my first clubbing experience who sang through the mockery, of the woman risking her job by telling the truth, and then of this stupid child. A foolish drunk who took the native songs of a people oppressed to treat the lady that served her like a performing monkey.

Each of these stories are of black women. Each treated a friendly drunk with empathy whilst taking the abuses of the less savoury members of society. None of them would accept my charity and threw their products at me with professional dignity. It’s no lie that ethnic segregation is alive and stomping minorities down. Though there’s no spoken rule that the rich are white and the poor are not, what difference does that make to the trend? What difference does it make to the orange woman’s attitude in Colchester?

People are so happy to watch films like ‘The Help’ and applaud our progress. I wonder what would happen if perhaps a journalist were to recreate these stories in London’s contemporary clubs? If we were to ask the economic servants of today the same questions as those asked at any point in history… Well, if Lupita Nyong’o acted as a woman defined by her skin in ‘12 years a slave’ after a childhood praying to God each night to be ‘light’ like the girls who bullied her, then nothing’s changed.