The Ganges, the Whizzkids and More Holy Cows

We woke up very early in Dehra Dun as today’s itinerary took us to Haridwar, which is a good 90 minutes away by car. 
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Haridwar is one of the seven holiest places in India – the River Ganges runs through it – and the town is dedicated to Lord Shiva. I was massively excited as I love all things religious; meanwhile, Iris was counting cows – not your typical working cows, but the Holy cows, and she counted 106 on the way there. Is she obsessed? You decide!
Haridwar certainly did not disappoint. The Ganges is broad, mighty, rather dirty, and lined with temples and ghats (which are a set of steps leading into the river). Saddhus, the Holy men, wandered through the streets. 

View IMG_0086.JPG in slide showOur sightseeing ended when we were whisked off to Whizzkids International School. Imagine our delight when we were greeted by breakfast in the principal’s quarters! We were given home made puris, potato curry and mango pickle – utterly delicious. It was particularly satisfying as this is the traditional food pilgrims eat after they have purified themselves in the Ganges. 
View IMG_0085.JPG in slide showAfter breakfast, it was off to the classrooms with us; each of us had a packed room of over 60 teenagers, keenly waiting for the writing workshops to begin. The fans whirred overhead as the kids wrote some fantastic stuff – and halfway through a boy came in bearing Coca Cola for us! Indian hospitality is the best! We signed autographs, met and spoke to the kids and they showed us their work. All of this has given Iris and I an idea, though we will not be divulging it just yet.
Afterwards we had a brief drive through the centre of Haridwar for photos and I dipped my finger in the Ganges. Gunjan from MMU India also took the opportunity to pay her respects to this awe-inspiring, female river. She told me later at the station that women who are looking for a husband traditionally pray to Lord Shiva, so if any of our readers are lonely hearts, you know what to do!
Our train back to Delhi was a little delayed, but we were served with a meal and the carriage was fully air-conditioned, so even though we didn’t check into our hotel till nearly midnight, we were content.
This morning we had a very exciting meting with Shaguna from the British Council and Rachna from Nivesh, the NGO that has organised the book festival here. We devised plans for continued cooperation and cannot wait to share them back in the UK. In just a couple of hours we’re off again to Chandigarh, a relatively new town that is around four hours by train to the north of Delhi, built to replace Lahore after partition. It was designed by Le Corbusier, the famous architect. We won’t be arriving till late, and then it’s another early start as we carry out more workshops with teenagers, as wel as some with teachers and students. 
As we’ll be going straight from the workshops to the station, and won’t be back in Delhi till late, we won’t have a chance to do more than tweet before our return to the UK.
From there, the fun will really start – there’s MCBF 2014 to think about, and how to carry on this wonderful Indian partnership. Brush up on your Hindi, everyone!


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