Sunday, January 30, 2011

Rickshaw Renegade 3

The Third and final installment awaits your viewing....

I am now back at Hebron and awaiting the return of the whole school on Tuesday. Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On the Road Again

I wasn’t in a car/bus/other road going vehicle (so I’m not sure how appropriate it is to say I was on the road again), however I reignited my love affair with Indian trains to venture from Pune (pronounced Poo-Nah) to Coimbatore where I jumped in a taxi for the onward journey to Ooty.

My time in Pune was a refreshing break, as it was the first time during the journey that I have been free to do whatever I pleased. A couple of my uni friends hosted me for the week and it gave me a great insight into how a middle-class indian household operates. India has a huge middle class population and so the thought that India is all slums and poverty stricken families is incredibly misleading - In the words of Mr Yeole ‘Slumdog Millionaire has done this country a great disservice’.

I would love to have spent longer in Pune as it was a time of great fun, however I must head back to Ooty and the Hebron school where plenty of good times a promised to be had. Rickshaw Renegade v3.0 should be posted in the next couple of days.

Prayer Points
Thank God for safe travel
Thank God for the powerful way that he worked at impaKCt (St Pauls Castle Hill's youth camp) this week
Ask God to continue watching over me and protecting me in India

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Goodbye Mumbai

Yesterday I farewelled Bombay for the greener pastures of Pune where I am staying with friends until 25th Jan when I return to Hebron School, Ooty for the new School term. 

When I say greener pastures, I don’t mean to suggest that Mumbai was a poor experience, nor that Pune is farming country, neither of these statements could be further from the truth. The double use of that particular hyperbole in the previous sentence infers that logically, the ‘truth’ must lie halfway in between the two. I therefore conclude that ‘truth’ equals the Mumbai-Pune Express Way.

The Mumbai-Pune Express Way is the first intercity highway that I have travelled on in India and it is certainly a drastically different experience to any of the other roads encountered by yours truly thus far. There are a few distinct qualities that differentiate it from other Indian roads, specifically
  1. The surface allows you to concentrate on driving (as opposed to dodging pot holes)
  2. There are lanes
  3. There are no Rickshaws
  4. There are no pedestrians to hit

This might make the road sound safer to the average lay-Australian* but it is important to consider the response of the locals when confronted with an infrastructure item of such quality. All four points identified previously allow an increase in the forward propulsion that a driver can request of his vehicle.

I phrase it in this way because different machines are capable of travelling at different speeds. Most passenger vehicles are either Suzuki (India goes home in a Maruti Suzuki), Hyundai (first car, first choice) or a Toyota Innova (MPV: Multi Pleasure Vehicle) all of which can comfortably cruise at speeds above 100 Km/h. This in itself does not provide the problem, however when coupled with the presence of trucks which are either broken down in one lane, or moving slower than an Equatorial Guinea swimmer in the overtaking lane, the push for clear road becomes a slalom course. I am not someone who spends much time with gaming consoles (last I heard, a cod was a fish) however the journey reminded me of my one time love affair with the computer game ‘Need for Speed Underground’.

First the Avensis was 'The family sports car' and now their INNOVA is a 'Multi Pleasure Vehicle' I think the Toyota Marketing guys need to get in touch with reality. 
Being a game based on street racing, it was common to be driving down a street on which you would be forced to manoeuvre your car through traffic moving much slower than you wanted to. Adding to the danger, there would be other cars trying to go faster than you whilst having to combat the same traffic. When there are troubles on the road ahead, instead of giving way, it is a matter of getting to the gaps first, swerving across three lanes of highway to find clear traffic is the recommended option. It was this part of the game that the Mumbai-Pune Express Way reminded me of, frequently our car would be swerving between trucks; flashing lights and blowing the horn to alert other users that we meant business.
I guess we were only driving a Suzuki. Perhaps the two aren't that similar

The end result was a safe arrival in Pune and another reason to waste your time through the creation of a blog.

For those eager to hear about my work with Vision Rescue, I am still attempting to work something out with the Mumbai Indians, I have had numerous email contacts which I continue to try, so hopefully something can be worked out. I have one final day in Mumbai before I head back to Australia at the end of February, so it might just be that I am required to wait until then to finalise any agreements.

Even if nothing further does eventuate, there are now many more people in Mumbai who know what God’s faithful servants are doing at Vision Rescue and why they are doing it, so my time here has been anything but wasteful.

For the pray-ers out there, I thank you for your continued prayerful support and for the non-prayers, its nice to know that you are thinking of me.

*Potentially stretching the layman’s term too far.

Prayer Points
Praise God for being faithful
Thank God for my time in Mumbai
Thank God for the people I met
Ask God that progress will continue to be made with the Mumbai Indians
Ask God for a refreshing break in Pune
Ask God for safe travel to Ooty on the 25th 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Another Train Story

You are probably all sick to death of me rabbit on about the trains in this part 
of the world, but I find them rather amusing, so I thought I would tell you of my story from a couple of days ago.

For those familiar with Mumbai’s suburban train network, I was travelling from Jogeshwari to Goregaon. The two stations are about 5 minutes apart and so despite it being 6.30pm (the height of peak hour for commuters) I wasn’t that apprehensive about my journey.

I have learnt by now that it is important to be near the door when you are about to get off the train so that you can in fact get off. It is not uncommon to be asked if you are getting off at the next station by someone behind you so they know if they need to get closer to the door than they are.  Hence, I made sure I was the last one to get into the carriage at Jogeshwari. Much to my surprise, there was actually a small amount of floor space visible, which meant that while still being packed, it was possible to breath. I took up position about a metre away from the door, ready to alight at Goregaon. Now, Goregaon is a fairly popular station, so there are usually a few people who will get out of the train and its always good to have a few people doing the same thing you are in a crowd so I felt relatively safe.

As we rolled in to Goregaon, I was about to step out of the carriage when I was hit by a wave. Not the earthquake tremor startled wall of water sort of wave, but a wave of Indian men who all wanted a spot on my carriage. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to push your way through a crowd of people, but if you want to experience this, then stand just inside David Jones on Boxing Day, as the doors open for the end of year sale, when the clock ticks to opening time, try to get out and see how you go.

The mob of commuters had decided that no-one was getting out, so as the train left Goregaon I was now 5 metres inside the carriage with little prospect of getting out. As the announcer said we were approaching Malad Station, I felt it was time to make my motives clear. I held my backpack above my head and started barging. If any of my Indian counterparts from that journey happen to be reading this, I apologise for the elbows you received in the back of the head, but I was getting out! There were many shouts from disgruntled locals and many voiced their objection, but I pushed, tripped and fell out of the carriage at the platform, dusted myself off, took a video of the train (see below) and crossed the tracks to catch another train back to Goregaon.
The good news is that I got back to my room by about 7pm local time, so I only missed 18 minutes of the socceroos v India game I was watching on the net.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Rickshaw Renegade 2

I hope you enjoy this, the second installment of RR.

I can't promise another one any time soon as I need to find some more footage, but enjoy it for the moment!

As always, the 'Pray for Me' page has all my prayer points to date. I've really appreciated your prayer to date, so keep it up please!! Many Thanks.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Home Comforts

Those who haven’t left Australian shores will find it hard to understand the way that Aussie things can be missed.

Not meaning that they are there and they are ‘missed’ by being unnoticed, but rather that they aren’t there and the fact that I notice their absence cause me to miss them. Confused? So are many Indians when I speak, so I'm used to that.

In the land of curries, chapatis and butter naans; tasty food is easy to find, but for the same reason that I don’t frequent the local Indian restaurant for lunch and dinner every day at home, I occasionally go looking for something else. As I said, this food is good, but having it for every meal means that even those who love the stuff can grow tired of it.

For a westerner used to food which doesn’t use a tremendous amount of spice, there are certain other ‘consequences’ of a diet laden with the subcontinent’s finest powdery produce. I’m sure this doesn’t require too much imagination on your behalf.

Despite this picture making it look like a
600ml bottle it is actually 1.2L.
In the background (top) you can see
the rest of my exemplary diet.
In response to this, I try to find a taste of home. Buying coke and other well known soft drinks is all well and good, but it isn’t quite the same as they are mixed and bottled locally. In case you were wondering, my beverage of choice over here is a Mango flavoured, un-aerated drink called Maaza. My only story of note involving this drink happened at a local restaurant where I grabbed a bottle on my way to the Vision Rescue office one morning. As I later found out, when you purchase a drink in a glass bottle you are required to return the bottle to the store (they then send the empty bottle back to the soft drink company who re-fills it etc. etc.) it took the poor bloke from the restaurant a minute or two to realise that I wasn’t coming back, and then he came after me. I don’t know how he worked out what office I was going to, but he found me about 5 minutes later and didn’t look particularly impressed by my escapade antics.

The point of this blog though was to inform you all that I have found a shop from where I can purchase Australian Cadbury chocolate. It requires a significantly deeper pocket than the local Cadbury produce but the return on investment to my spice-abused taste buds is more than worth the initial outlay. I went for the ‘Crunchie’ variety of the dairy milk block which set me back 325 Rupees ($7.20). This may or may not seem a lot to you, but to put it in perspective, an airtel sim-card holder can phone someone for over 9 hours with that much money or I could purchase 20 return trips to Churchgate station (50 minutes away) and still have change to spare. A dinner at the cafeteria of the place I am staying costs me 50 Rupees, so you should be starting to see that this is an expensive block of chocolate. Nevertheless, I'm sure it won't be the last one I buy.

As an update on my VR work, I have now talked to one of the guys from the Mumbai Indians, so after exchanging email addresses, it is now a case of whether they are interested in what we have to offer. Please keep praying!!!

Prayer Points

  • Thank God for enabling me to speak to MI

  • Ask God that they will be interested in the proposal we have given them

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rickshaw Renegade

I wanted to share with you the joys of Indian roads as these are not a place for the faint hearted. As far as I can work out, if you are a Rickshaw driver, the rules to follow are…

         (1)    Stay away from the middle of the road if possible. Footpaths, gutters and doorsteps are much better passageways.

         (2)    Use the horn at all times. The traffic will move faster from the traffic lights if you join the other 40 vehicles in blasting a monstrous melody from your 3-wheeled taxi.

         (3)    A foreigner is a great chance to make extra cash, always overstate the charge by at least 50% if your passenger is not Indian.

Rather than just posting random snippets of driving, I thought I would spice things up for you and create a non-interactive video game for you to enjoy. Any game reviews are more than welcome, and future episodes are very possible if requested. I hope you enjoy episode 1.

I am still chasing the Mumbai Indians, I have been informed by the BCCI and the Mumbai CA that they have no phone number, so I will push on with my investigative prowess and track them down somehow. Please keep praying for this!