Wednesday, December 16, 2009


I have found a seat outside a cafe on a main drag. Buildings are run down or never came up. TukTuks weave between overladen trucks and busses. Rich men own cars and presume on their right of way. Every driver has his hand on the horn. Noise and smog are stupendous.
Four laden camels plod by.
The hoarding on a bookshop proclaims: ALL TYPES OF RARE PERSIAN AND URDU BOOKS.
Earlier in the day I passed a splendid sign: ELECTRIC CREMATORIUM.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Street kids are a solemn subject. Hence I have slotted in the odd BLOG on a different subject.
Here is my take in the changes from the Delhi of the 60s: more cars, less cows and the cabon monoxide smog is thicker.


We climb four flights of stairs. Our guide asks if I wish to rest. I reply that the climb is easy - that I am in training. And I picture, for a moment, Malvern Spa and my almost daily visits to the gym where I bicycled, speed walked and rowed before luxurating by the pool or took a sauna or sat a while in the steam room to aclimatise myself to India's heat. Yeah, yeah...
Our guide lectures again, recounting names of street kids who made good through being rescued. I peak into a classroom. Thirty or more kids sit cross legged on the floor. Why are they here? Why did they run from home?
Hunger, abuse - or chasing a Bollywood dream of the kid made good. And what they get is drugs (Tipex is the drug of choice, cheaper than a can of glue) and more abuse from which Salaam Baalak strives to save them.
Salaam Balaak gives security, education - and, most importantly, the knowledege that someone cares for them - that they matter.
To look at, they are cute kids, ten years old or twelve. I look at them. They look at me. They giggle.
There is always a voice, the class comic, class leader. This one sits in the front row. Good kid, very bright. Give him a chance and he'll transform himself from urchin to plutocrat - or spokesperson for a splendidly corrupt politician (of which India has many).

Monday, December 14, 2009


I was at the Honda factory today outside Delhi. I sat on my bike, a 125 naturally, but what a 125, a new model red Stunner with electic start and fuel injection - 64K to the litre and only 2000Ks on the clock. I started the engine. Brmm Brmm sweet!
OK, so I hear you middle-aged BMW crowd tittering in the back ground. A 125 again! Sad old guy, what can you expect from a septuagenarian?
So let me set you straight: Honda designed the Stunner as a slick kid's cafe racer. It has style!
Though wrecked somewhat once the fat old Blimp takes to the saddle.
Honda are trying to fit panniers to it and find me a suitable helmet plastered with Honda decals. I meant to pack, when leaving home, my Mexican scarlet-and-white Honda racing shirt. I looked everywhere. Maybe my sons burnt it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


We follow our guide down a potter's alley. He lectures the students with statistics. I watch an elderly potter turn tiny bowls that, at home, might be used to serve salt at the table. The potter works with a large tower of clay on the wheel, turning rapidly bowl after tiny bowl, cutting each free with a thread, setting it to dry beside its bretheren. Eighteen seconds - no pause, not even as he looks up briefly to present me with a smile...


The South African is filming two street urchins on the railway platform. The urchins are movie buffs. They understand film. Hands in pockets, they swagger and smile for the camera. And they dream of becoming movie stars. Every slum child dreams. Such is the influence of Bollywood. Without such dreams there would be less disapointment, less heartbreak.


I am invited to accompany a South African woman on a tour of a rescue project for Street Children. We are a party of six. The other four are Indian university students. One, a woman, is studying philosophy. Her mother is a teacher. Her grandmother was a school Principal. Thus she inherited the joy in thinking. The other three students are studying for degrees that will lead to careers. Our tour is geared to these three and they take notes. Our guide (lecturer) is an ex-street child. Our tour begins at Delhi's Central Railway Station where the Project has one of its nine collection centers. The collection point is a small concrete hut. A dozen children not yet into their teens sit at a table. Two good women are attempting to teach them to read and write. The children giggle when I introduce myself. We are at the end of the longest of the railway platforms. Where the platform ends, tiny shacks begin, homes to adult outcasts and their families. The scene is heart wrenching. It should breed fury. Sadly I have seen far worse in South America. I wrote in Peru of puzzlement as to what the poderosas of the country, the powerful,thought as they drove past slum encampments. I remember one such out in the desert. The huts were black plastic sheeting beside an ilegal refuse dump. A truck had dumped a stinking heap shortly before my arrival. Men and women and children hunted through the refuse. Vultures perched on the skeleton of an overturned trailer and waited their turn. Cacti held their arms aloft in surrender to the horror - or in an apeal to God.
So, no, I am not shocked at what we are shown.
But sad? Yes, of course...


0550: In getting out of bed I knock over the water bottle on my bedside table. The top was loose. Water flows into my shoes. Bottled water is symbolic of the developing world. In the Americas the requirement extends from the Rio Grande (Mexico's border with the US) to Bolivia's frontier with Argentina or Chile.
How many tens of thousand of people live from the bottled water industry?
In lands of great unemployment clean water would be an economic disaster for such families.
I am aware, of course, that dirty water is a major cause of infant mortality.
I am also aware that my shoes are wet.
In composing this BLOG I am attempting to go with the flow...

TB and GWB

0530. I have been awake an hour. I click the TV to BBC World News. The Iraq Governerment is auctioning Iraq's oil fields to foreign oil companies. Thank God our invasion of Iraq wasn't fueled by desire to exploit Iraq's oil.
TB is a secret social desease...