‘L-I-F-E-G-O-E-S-O-N…you’ve got more money than sense my friend’
Seeing the poverty here really makes you think about what we have at home and what we take for granted. Living off RS2400 is not an easy task either, especially at the beginning when we’ve got lots of exciting new Indian clothes to buy! To put into perspective the cost of things I’ll let you know a few things I’ve been buying. (Last time I checked there was RS79 to a pound) A general Salwar (top and pants and scarf) is about RS450 and then another RS160 to get it stitched at the tailors. For 2 ankle bracelets (you’ve got to wear one on each foot, same with bracelets on arms but that’s generally about 100 on each arm) it’s RS250. It was RS10 for a dish of mushroom masala in the village, would be a fairly generous snack but not quite a meal. A pack of pourtu (bhindis) costs RS5.
Also we’ve also just booked our trains for Kerala-there’s about 5 different train journeys and it amounts to something similar to seven pounds! It’s surreal.
When you translate that cost to pounds, it seems nothing. But Caitlin and I have swiftly learnt NOT to do that! Your money disappears instantly if you do, we keep reminding each other we’ve ONLY got RS2400 to last each month and instead buy the plain pourtu rather than the sparkly ones!
The kids are obsessed with all the jewellery and clothes and shoes we have. Most of them don’t wear shoes but are still dripping with beads and bangles. This paranoia about wealth and material objects is ridiculous, so much more so than we’d be at home. Well, they’re so much more open about it here. People always ask how much something costs and what your ‘salary’ is. They’re quite astonished when we say we’re volunteers.
On the other hand, away from all these materialistic attitudes, it’s so rewarding to see the children’s eyes light up when they really enjoy a story we’ve read, or their excitement when you high five them. They love us playing with them in the morning and after school and they always come running shouting ‘Nualaka look at this!.’ This morning Rahoul gave Sarah (his class teacher) an amazing statue of ganesha made out of clay! It was beautiful and must have taken him ages. The twins Mhanibharati and Vishnu Priya, extremely good at English and also some of the poorest kids at the school, constantly make me little cards with envelopes from stuck together paper and after they learnt origami fish in art I got a pile of those. Talking about flowers in science resulted in lots of different drawings of flowers. Everything’s adorned with ‘I like Nualaka, I love Nualaka.’
These kind of things make us really happy and it’s nice to see when the kids appreciate this.