One of the grannies remarked to me that it wasn’t like travelling with a group of people you’d never met before – more like friends you’d known for years. At times the bus resembles a raucous out of school trip, with much laughter, leg pulling and tall tales being told.
Everywhere we go we’re bowled over by the warmth of the welcome and the effort that the children, co-ordinators and local communities have gone to. There have been beautiful dancing, origami creations, thoughtful presentations by the local co-ordinators, and even magic tricks!
In Chandrakona we ate the best meal I’d had since coming to India – simple, fresh produce perfectly cooked from vegetables that came from a plot just behind the lab with eggs from the chickens who roamed freely around the buildings.
I also have a feeling there might be a mind reader living near the Korakati SOLE lab. As we bounced along the track I looked up at the huge coconut palms whizzing by and remarked to Mousumi next to me that I would quite possibly give my right arm for some fresh coconut water right now. We were barely past the welcome line when that’s exactly what we were all handed. It was quite possibly the best thing I have ever tasted.
This is no luxury tour of India. Every day we’ve been heading off the beaten track, eating as the locals do and often travelling that way too wherever possible. However, a few hours in a ramshackle bus with fans serving as decoration rather than any practical use made us truly appreciate the luxury of the air-conditioned version!
Korakati was always going to be the most adventurous of all – a bus, boat crossing and then a bumpy ride along a track on a van rickshaw through villages for half an hour to reach the lab.
My (relatively) young bones felt every bump – and there were many, there’s a reason it earned its nickname The Boneshaker, of the van rickshaw as we hurtled along the track to Korakati but all I could see from those in front of us were wide grins as they clung on and enjoyed the ride. Our grannies are made of stern stuff!
Even so, we have had a few treats along the way. The fresh coconuts handed to us just as we stepped into Korakati, for example, was exactly what we needed as temperatures soared to over 30 degrees.
The group ranges in age from 17 (granny Denise Well’s grandaughter who has been allowed to take time out of school for this ‘educational’ visit!) to those in their 70s. We have grannies from Germany, France, Spain, Egypt, USA, UK, India and United Emirates.
The overwhelming feeling I will take from this trip is of seeing first hand just how much the grannies mean to the children. Having them here in person obviously means the world to these children, who have build up strong rapports with their ‘own’ grannies over the last few years.
There have been long, long days on the road where we are all weary and yet I rarely hear more than the odd grumble about aches and pains or the heat. These amazing individuals (not forgetting the wider Granny Cloud who are with us in spirit and living it vivaciously through the social media posts) are an inspiration to us all. I only hope I have half their stamina when I reach my retirement.
This blog post was written in February 2016, during the Granny Cloud Tour, India.