I now know why every guide book told me to bring a head torch to India and I feel I must pass on this wisdom to anyone about to embark on a trip to India …. On one memorable occasion during my first few nights at Help in Suffering (HIS), I was unceremoniously plunged into darkness while having a shower and then had to fumble blindly, covered in Shampoo to find my phone for a light source. Apparently electrical surges and power cuts are very common, especially in the monsoon which seems to play havoc with everything. Jack compared it to the UK when we get snow; the cars seem incapable of driving in it and infra structure breaks down, but equally the monsoon in India is greatly celebrated as the bringer of life… but also an abundance of creepy crawlies as we were fast to find out!
I have completely accepted that I am simply going to have to share my room with a number of invertebrate species and it is a case of prioritising the ones you most want to keep out. I do wish I hadn’t seen the ginormous spider on the ceiling before I went to sleep one night though! Jack did say that spiders are friends and don’t pose a threat to us and help to clear up the bugs …. I tried to see it that way but I was still not thrilled with the idea of potentially waking up next to one! There was the mosquitoes which were the key menaces and the Deet we brought with us which seemed to manage to melt sunglasses was seemingly useless against biting insects… I want my money back!. There were monster ants there too that looked like they’d been on steroids which gave a nasty nip. They managed to get everywhere and my legs looked like I’d contracted chicken pocks with the collection of bites I’d sustained by the end of the trip. The most irritating insects though were the lacewings, they just flew into your face repeatedly and had a nasty habit of landing in your dinner, though we made friends with a gecko who helped us to clear up this problem.
The first monsoon rain in Jaipur broke on the second night of our stay which dramatically cooled the air which was such a welcomed relief as the heat was stifling the day before and with the combination of the heat and the noise from the dogs and monkeys and various other creatures at all hours of the night I had really struggled to sleep. However during the rain the dogs sensibly take shelter so the dog catchers returned the following morning empty handed. This meant the ABC neutering and vaccination project which usually operated in the morning was left redundant and so were we.
We made use of the morning by grilling Jack about the things we could do in the local area and on the general running of the charity so we had more of an idea what was going on and what to expect during our time there. He also made some progress in attempting to clear up some our many questions on the Indian culture. Having only been in the country a mere five days at this point we were still incredibly unsure on the etiquette of greetings, tipping and generally getting by. We also had many questions about the cast system, the previous evening the vets we had spoken to had been surprisingly open and honest about the difficulties with the cast system which we so naively thought had been abolished. However old habits die hard and despite the cast system no longer being official, there was still little movement out of the strict social structure it was based on. All the vets at HIS were from the lowest cast, many of which who’s parents were illiterate. They had worked hard to put themselves through vet school, and were all aiming to get into government jobs to further improve their standard of living. The liberal British part of me felt embarrassed and angered by the storied we were being told about so much undue discrimination still being present in the supposedly modernising India and it made us wonder where exactly two white educated women fell into this hierarchy.
After Lunch we decided to help with the rescue casualties. These were street dogs who were brought in and needed medical attention. We saw a number of things, mostly wounds, vomiting and diarrhoea but also mange, distemper and various broken limbs. I have to say it was an interesting but also quite difficult practise to watch. The vets there were crippled by rules which to people from the UK seem nonsensical, for example; a lot of animals no matter how progressive, hopeless of debilitating their condition was, were not able to be put to sleep due to various cultural and religious beliefs. India had a lot of politics and conflicting views around their treatment of animals which although were meant with good intentions, often inadvertently caused more suffering. Thankfully, this attitude has gotten a lot better with certain species, but there is still a lot of educating to do and it’s a slow moving process.
One of the vets, who spoke particularly good English and had taken quite an active role in making us feel welcome showed us some pictures of previous students who’d been to HIS and invited us to do yoga with him the following morning which me and Beth thought would be a laugh so we said yes. He also showed us his thesis which to our surprise was all written in English and was on all things that could go wrong with the bovine rumen in India (which is a lot we found out!) – a large amount of problems were from accidental ingestion of foreign materials, most bizarrely … a spoon! As cows in India are largely left to roam and pick up all sorts from the rubbish on the streets. There have definitely been better diets I think!
It took Goldy, our little adoptive pet all of a day to figure out I was a soft touch and develop the naughty habit of sleeping on the wicker sofa outside my door, though to be honest I didn’t blame her, it was comfier than the floor and a little more out of reach of the biting ants but I don’t really think it was allowed, I guess when you’re a no eyed dog you’re allowed to be a bit of a diva though right?
That evening a MASSIVE SNAKE slithered through my compound!!! I wasn’t sure what species it was at the time (I later found out it was in fact a cobra) but I’m glad it was minding its own business and didn’t come to bother me!!