- The worlds longest urinal
- Hygiene. What’s that?
- HOPE school, Champhati
“GOOD MORNING” I shouted loudly, knowing full well that there is nothing good about waking up at 7:30am, let alone 9 o’clock!
We got ready and hurried down stairs where one of the HOPE staff, Madhu was waiting to take us to the train station. After a short walk passing many homeless people and beggars we jumped on a bus with wooden floorboards. The road clearly visible through some of the gaps! We got off the bus and met up with another teacher, Shiboni, who quickly became our Indian mother. She got breakfast from a local street vendor and while we all worried about eating fruit floating in dubious water, it turned out to be the most hygienic thing was saw this morning.
After breakfast we walked the rest of the way to the Railway Station. We just missed the train we were aiming to catch and had to wait another 30 minutes on the platform.
Kolkata Circus. The name of this station and a fitting description of the place we had just arrived at. Getting to the platform involved walking through a mini slum built right next to the station. Once on the platform we noticed people seated all over the tracks, so relaxed it was if that were the purpose of these long shiny pieces of steel. Animals were tied up right next to the rails feeding on rubbish, and the constant hawking of snot and tobacco became a chorus when multiplied by the thousands of people on the platform.
The platform itself was like being in a crowded night club. When new trains arrive it turns into one offering FREE drinks as countless people pour out of the carriages and push their way through non-existent gaps in search of happy-hour* (*This begins when you are off the platform and happy for the next hour)
A few of our crew had colds at this point and with no tissues in sight, Kobby turned to a used chip packet he had in his pocket. Still, this wasn’t the worst of the hygiene we saw as trains would arrive and drop off passengers who would then cross the tracks and take a whiz on the angled slab of concrete right in front of us. It was like being at the MCG at half time, except without privacy or a flush button.
After one train we counted 23 people urinating…I hope they were all urinating!
The stench was bad enough, but then we saw a fist fight break out right in front of us. Like anything remotely entertaining in India a huge crowd gathered and our hosts decided it would be best to stand on the other side of the platform to avoid any unwanted attention. The fight broke up but soon we were approached by a persistent and very drunk person begging, swaying back and forth on his feet as he closed his eyes. At first I thought he might be praying, but after the boys had pointed out the smell of his breath it was obvious he was not. I told him to move on. He ignored me.
Another drunk person was watching and called to us angrily “He’s asking for money” to which I told him “Nay, Chalo” (No, Go away). “No, you Chalo” he yelled back. I told him I happily would…”Just as soon as our train gets here”. He was looking for a fight and at this stage some of us wouldn’t have minded letting out some aggression. Thankfully he moved on and our train arrived.
I have never been happier to jump on a stinky, overcrowded train.
HOPE School Champhati
The day got better as we got to the school, met the other HOPE staff and helped out in the classrooms. Both the school and the children seemed a lot smaller than those in Delhi.
Being in a rural area almost always compounds the issues of poverty and access to even the most basic needs. Having lost their midday meal program and a few teachers due to a lack of funding the kids here were certainly doing it tough. We wouldn’t find out just how tough until the next day.