Monday, October 8, 2012

Exploring by Foot and by Tuk-tuk

After the bicycle tour ended, Emma suggested that we could head towards a project that she had heard of from the Lonely Planet guidebook (something I wish I could have justified investing in for my 3-day trip), called the Hope Project and based in the South of the city. This sounded like a good enough excuse to me so, after hailing a tuktuk and bartering a price, we set off across the city towards who-knows-where.

The Hope Project is quite difficult to find. Even using solar navigation and having the GPS on my phone as a back-up, we were wandering down some real back-streets clustered around one of the most significant Mosques in the city. Catering for this were streets full of eateries, flower-sellers (for the temples) and beggars with all sorts of shocking ailments - most either had a limb missing or bent out of recognition - and we were also pestered by many Muslim women dressed in the niqab which was a bit weird. But you can't give in. And this is the situation which the Hope Project was set up to help tackle.

" provide opportunities and resources to people especially the poor and vulnerable to unfold their hidden potentials, so they can realise their aspirations and become contributing members of society."

A noble cause indeed, it had humble beginnings as a milk distribution project set up in 1975 by a Sufi teacher, who was moved by the extreme poverty of the people living near the mausoleum of his father. Now, it provides Creche, girls' school, reproductive healthcare and advice, professional workshops and training (mobile repair, computer use etc), health centre, eye care clinic and so many more projects to enrich the lives of those living nearby. I was very encouraged to see all this great work, especially by donors and volunteers who are working purely to enrich the lives of those at the bottom of the food chain.

One of the money-raising initiatives is to provide tours of the local area in return for a small fee, and so Emma and I embarked upon this while learning about the centre first of all. Being a Sunday we couldn't see much going on in the centre itself, though soon a sound exactly like a leaf blower was heard and we were warned that 'mosquito prevention' was taking place. Soon, the whole world outside the building (and inside as well, except our room which was sealed) was filled with a white smoke which is a government initiative to kill all the mossies. Which did seem to work, I didn't see a single one!

Once this had cleared, we ventured outside and visited the mausoleum of the founder, and that of his father, that had lead to the conception of The Hope Project. We also visited other sights in the area including what had been a grand gate in the 17th century but, with the road level rising over the centuries on each side, is now just about big enough for me to walk through! We also visited a Mughal tomb, an impressive structure which inspired Humayun's tomb which we visited later. From atop a rooftop, we watched a game of cricket and looked down on the market which we had walked through. Eventually, and not before we had asked plenty of questions, we were ejected on to the streets and donated to the project.


Perfume-smelling (strawberry was amazing) and cricket game.


Marketplace and Mughal tomb

 An amazing, inspirational way to spend a couple of hours - and I wouldn't even had known about it if Emma (and her Lonely Planet) had not introduced me to it.

 We then took a tuktuk back to my hotel:

so that I could grab my belongings for the evening, and then took another tuktuk back to the Red Fort to explore (though not without it running out of fuel part way there - I helped push it to a fuel station!). This huge complex is very similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing (whoops!), being an emporer's residence with prayer mosques, meeting halls, market places and public speaking venues all surrounded by some impressive red walls. We queued for tickets until we were taken to the 'foreigners' queue' by a helpful member of staff, but unfortunately we only had about half an hour to explore this interesting complex.


The Red Fort

Upon leaving, we then parted ways and I headed back down Chandni Chowk (which we had visited earlier that day) for the third and final part of my day...

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Colin
    I will eventually manage to leave a comment (technical problems)
    Sounds like you are having a lovely time in India - it brings back fond memories of our trip last year.
    Keep up with the blog writing as its great to hear all the adventures! we are really enjoy reading it.
    Tina and Ian (Sturgeon)