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Monday, January 12, 2015

A Ride to Rajupalem

It's the day before New Year's Eve when we drive out for a visit to the PUSHPA center in Rajupalem. Morning rush hour has passed, but streets are still busy as we make our way through town and nearby suburbs that were separate towns when I came here back in the sixties.  There are small shops and homes of every description, and as urban areas give way to rural. We pass several multi-story cold storage buildings near Reddygudem, and, periodically, graduate schools on rural campuses, set back from the road. Perhaps these places shelter produce from this area, the chilly capital of the world, or the next Nobel prize winner in pharmacy or engineering. 

Bordering the road between the towns through which we pass, are dishevelled borders of large thorn bushes punctuated by trees, among which old "Flame of the Forest" trees are the most graceful, flinging branches out on either side to form an umbrella of leaves over field and road.  (This is a file photo of a younger tree in summer. Now, in winter, there is only a thick green canopy of leaves.DSCF2942.jpg - Flamboyan Tree 
(AKA:Fire Tree, Flame of the Forest, Fountain Tree, African Tulip Tree)

Raghava tells us that little boys use the tree's showy flowers for pretend cock fights, which are a popular (males) spectator and betting sport of this, the harvest season.  Although its practice has been banned, we see pictures and articles of cock fights, even some with knives attached to the birds' legs, in the newspaper.
Cock fighting in India
Here and there we slow for 'brake inspectors,' (small groups of water buffalo) or for larger groups of slender, dark brown sheep and goats, tassels of fur jiggling under their chins in counter-rhythm  to their bouncing gait. Their shepherd succeeds somewhat in keeping them moving in a forward direction.  But now and then their numbers flow across the road and we slow in amiable counterpoint to their bobbly rhythm.

The ragpickers' tiny roadside community in Porrapadu shows progress:  Their makeshift huts of  discarded plastic sheeting are neater, stitched together more securely, and arranged in a semblance of rows.  One of the last huts we pass has a shaded "porch," where two woman feed a treadle
sewing machine a diet of the huge blue sheets with a purposefulness worthy of a LWR  quilting group.. A few women sit right on the roadside, sorting what one of them has brought home for consideration. This little community definitely shows a unity of purpose!

Impatient cars and even trucks ("lorries")  weave in and out of the traffic, often driving with impunity into the face of oncoming traffic, with nary a doubt that each bus, car, or auto-rickshaw will return to its own lane in good time. They usually do, although later today, on the wrong side of the road, we will find a broken down truck leaking its bounty of overstuffed gunny bags of freshly picked cotton, goods intended for one of the area's huge cotton ginning mills.  Cotton is the second biggest agro-product of this area.

After an hour and a half, and past our former, rented quarters with another ngo in Rajupalem, we turn off on a tiny dirt road, little more than a path, into the neighborhood of PUSHPA's 'own' rented quarters, a modest house housing our Rajupalem office and sewing center.  A staff member living in the house and the sewing teacher hurry, smiling, down the narrow stairway nestled against the compound wall.  We reciprocate their warm greetings, and grasp hands helping us over uneven ground and up the precarious steps, and enter to a welcoming committee of sewing students about to graduate from their six month course. They are bashful until tea, the conversational prerequisite of  a few matter-of-course questions, and a look at their sample work, after which one of the group initiates a banter among them that broadens to include me (husband and a few men set to work with a discussion group on the front patio) until, one-by-one, they slip away to lunch.

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