Saturday, December 3, 2016

India Adventures with Room to Read--Fall 2004

Burkha clad worshippers at Taj Mahal

This trip combines the beauty of North India in the “golden triangle”—Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur, with the inspiration of seeing the newly established Room to Read (R2R) educational programs at work in India.  Included in this trip are visits to Khajuraho, a World Heritage site, consisting of ornate temples festooned with erotic couples and groups, the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, and towns on the route back to Jaipur.

I began the trip in Delhi on October 31st after a Singapore Air roundtrip flight from Bangkok at a cost of $250.  While in Delhi we visited some of the key tourist attractions that include:  the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, the shopping bazaars (Chandni Chowk, Chawri Bazaar, Nehru Bazaar, and the Main Bazaar), India Gate, President’s Palace, the Baha’i Lotus Temple, Gandhi Smriti, Birla Mandir, and the National Museum. During most of my visits to these key tourist spots, I was joined by Ada Lou Keown, the mother of Erin Ganju who is now the CEO of Room to Read. 

We toured the Red Fort.

We approached the Jama Masjid from the bazaars.


Fridays are the most religious days of the mosques throughout the world.

Here is the large bazaar near the Jama Masjid along with various vendors who are selling their wares.

The ever present tuk-tuks provide cheap travel along the clogged roadways.

 Laxminarayan Temple is a Hindu temple open to all religions as directed by Gandhi.

The Presidential Palace grounds.

Mahatma Gandhi Memorial Grounds

Gandhi's Footsteps

Crowds were honoring Gandhi

India Gate by Day and Night.

Bahai Lotus Temple

Bicycle School Bus

I joined up with the India staff of Room to Read along with two 
other US Room to Read sponsors from Chicago, Tina and Alana.  Like me, we all had to raise $3,000 to join these special site visits in Delhi and Jaipur.  I met up with Erin Ganju and her mother Ada Lou for our meetings.

We headed out in the morning to visit two schools we had provided with libraries and library training along with our local partner, Prantham.  The local Room to Read staff included Sunisha Ahuja, the Country Director and her two staff members, Binde and Nita--one was Hindu and the other Muslim.  Here is Sunisha with Erin Ganju.

The school principal met with Erin, and Binde and Sunisha the India Room to Read staff just before we went into the classrooms.

I then left the group to rejoin them in Jaipur on November 7th, by flying to Khajuraho where I stayed for two days to tour the World Heritage site of the well-preserved Hindu monuments, temples, and erotic sculptures dating back to the 9th through the 13th centuries. They were rediscovered hidden under jungle vegetation in 1838 by a British engineer named T.S. Burt.  There were once 85 temples here, but now there are only 25 in varying stages of preservation.

Nearby Jain Temple 

When I left Khajuraho on November 5th, it was by a car with two  drivers instead of the one I had expected, Dimple and Suki I had contracted with when I was in Delhi. Dimple said that since the ride was so long, I had two drivers for no extra cost.  The cost for this 4 day trip was 30,000 Rupees --$689 USD--which included 5 hotel stays, car rides from Khajuraho to Jaipur where I would take trains to Agra and Delhi.

We headed back toward Jaipur and stopped along the way at a number of towns including Jhansi, Orchha, Gwalior, Fatehpur Sikri, and Bharatpur.  At these stops, I often toured the markets or forts.  

Lots of tikka powder for sale here and elsewhere.

At the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, my rickshaw driver showed me many beautiful birds and animals.

In Jaipur after touring the city, I again met up with the India Room to Read staff, and I  and my car and driver went with them south for about two hours to visit three villages. 

Jaipur Fort


Room to Read India, HQ staff, and partners in Jaipur

The last hour of driving was on washed out one-lane dirt roads.  The libraries in each of the villages were the magnet for the children where they read books, were entertained by puppet shows that carried messages of nutrition, public health, reading, and respectful behavior.

Tina, Alana, and Binde are in the village Room to Read library.


The teacher is with his students along with the chairman of the school and library committee.

He is the chairman of the library and school committee and has committed the village to supporting the students education even though he and most of the other committee members are illiterate.

The library committee gathered to meet with the Room to Read officials from Delhi.

We were always surrounded by curious villagers.

I ended my trip to India by visiting Agra and touring the Taj Mahal, a truly beautiful wonder of the world before returning to Delhi and my flight home.

Trip Cost
For 13 days in India, the lodging costs were $207 or $23 per night not including the 4 nights as a part of the driving tour from Khajuraho to Jaipur, food costs were $250 or $19 per day, and travel costs were $975 which included $689 for the four day driving tour from Khajuraho and $250 for the roundtrip Singapore Air flight from Bangkok.  The total cost was $1,432 or $110 per day.

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