A slow November in Ladpur

india with me november satya dhaam

Ladpur in November

Well it’s been a slow month here in Ladpur, Uttar Pradesh. I was expecting to see my daughter to go travelling through the Himalayas for a month. But she couldn’t make it due to dental problems. So Mickey and I got on with more important things, we decided to get on with the hostel.

My friend Madan from Karnataka came up to take part in the project. I first met Madan when Couchsurfing in Faridabad. We got on immediately. He’s the same age as my kids, genius with electronics, micro-processors, C programming and all that kind of thing. Luckily I understand quite a lot of what he’s talking about.

distance ladpur to karnataka
Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka
Karnataka is in the south-west of India, just above Kerala and just below Goa, about 2250km south from here. He doesn’t speak hindi, he speaks Kannada and a couple of other southern languages.

The hostel project had met a few problems, some unforeseen, some unnecessary but seems to be back on track.

Ganges festival

Earlier in the month we had a festival of Ganesha nearby at the river Ganges, or Ganga as it’s called here. People for miles around make a pilgrimage to the holy river to pray for good fortune and work in the coming year. They take a week off from work to do it – which seems a strange logic from my standpoint. The returning folk was a spectacle. Horse, buffalo and ox drawn carts with families and friends aboard. Many of the animals had their winter jackets on as you can see in the photos. You could hear the returning pilgrims passing by all through out the night and see them all day. Tired but happy.

Planting season in Ladpur

It’s a planting season here. Cane is being cut and the now empty fields are being ploughed and resown. The back field under the teak trees at Satya Dhaam has been sown with wheat. The field immediately behind the farmhouse has chickpeas and the big kitchen garden has been laid out with vegetables for us and the visitors to the farm. The field to the side of the farm is having its sugar cane cut now and that field will be sown with peas.

Here in the Ladpur area three crops are cycled through the fields during the course of a year. In some of the adjoining fields mustard is already beginning to flower, a blanket of bright yellow. Over the road from the farm the weighing of sugar cane continues and will continue until March. Daily tractors and ox drawn carts bring mountainous loads of cane to be weighed. Some farmers choose to take their cane directly to the sugar mill and thereby gain a few rupees more because they don’t need to pay for the labour of loading the transport. That said, there are so many vehicles on the road that the traffic comes to a standstill. I makes me wonder if the few rupees gained are worth the time off from the farm duties?

The Ladpur weather has turned cold. The morning temperatures are about 7°C – 8°C (Sorry I don’t do Fahrenheit – it seems an illogical scale to me. You can read why here) but the daytime is a quite pleasant 18° – 25°. It’s got to the time of year that I have to start considering how and where to exit India in order to validate my visa. I was going to drive to Nepal with Mickey to give him some hostel experience, but he’s not available. So I think I’ll fly south with Madan to the jungles of Karnataka and get warm again.

Mickey has some work on the hostel to carry out before my or Madan’s skills are again needed. It seems a shame not to get on with seeing India instead of sitting on a farm in Uttar Pradesh with nothing to do for another couple of months. I’ve been back from Rajasthan two months now and I’ve got a bit side tracked.


Meerut

Meerut header image

Road trip to Meerut

Mickey decided that a visit to his home town was in order. So I packed a few bits and pieces and stuck them in the car and off we went. Meerut is approached from Satya Dhaam Farm on the main roads either by Garhmukteshwar or Hapur, but Mickey chooses to go cross country. We followed a canal which I understand is fed by the Ganges, along whose sides are acres of mango orchards and monkeys who aren’t keen on being photographed. I saw my first snake, from a distance, no chance of photographing it as it crossed the road, but well over a metre in length.

After about an hour and a half driving we reached Meerut. Meerut is a city of about 1.3 million people. It is also a garrison town and the home to many regiments. The air is way cleaner than the air of Delhi but the noise is on par. That said, it does quieten down at night, unlike Delhi.

Janmashtami in Meerut

janmashtami in meerut
Janmashtami celebrations. The birth of Krishna.
I happened to be there during Janmashtami and independence day, so Meerut was ramping up for the festivities. The streets were being lined with stalls, bouncy castles and much the same panoply as in Europe, but from twenty years ago. The only difference was the use of LEDs everywhere. Janmashtami is the birth celebration of Krishna, so that would make it similar to Christmas for us in the west.

kingfisher beer in meerut
Kingfisher beer. Silly strong at 8% by volume.
Mickey and I went out for a beer in the evening. We picked up a friend of his called Pepe, a nice guy with a good command of english. The government alcohol shops are open at the front but heavily barred. You shout your order through the grill and the booze is passed out. Two beers and a small bottle of rum for us. Mickey opted for an import, I wanted to try a local beer so I had Kingfisher. It seems that beer in India is absurdly strong. This was a 750ml bottle at 8% by volume. Twice as strong as Guinness. I had one bottle and a 500ml can and was rewarded with serious motor-coordination problems.

It also seems that you either stand by the side of the road and drink, or you drive and drink? We did the latter. We went up to the Meerut army cantonment. This area covers a huge area, no photos, and, from what i could understand, is the biggest garrison town in India. It was a neatly kept area with captured Pakistani tanks and the likes on display.

Potato snack in Meerut
Potato snack in Meerut
The next day Mickey was hungover 🙂 I was ok 😀 it was also Janmashtami so there was music in the streets and final preparations being made. Mickey and I popped out in the evening to have a look and take some photos. We also ate a potato snack, I’ve no idea what it was called, that was delicious. We decided not to stop out late as he had planned to take his sons to the Independence day festivities the next day. During the day I took the opportunity of sending photos to the web and trying to catch up a bit with the blog. It’s so frustrating not having the speeds to upload anything but text.

Janmashtami display on the road side
Janmashtami display on the road side
Independence day evening we headed off up the road with Mickey’s boys to the street fair. It was already getting dark and taking photos was becoming difficult with available light (I hate flash photography). So I used the video camera set on “low light” and filmed a lot. Again it’s difficult sending this stuff to the net with no speeds but I finally managed and you can see it here. All over there are little displays and shrines to Krishna depicting his birth and points in his life. They are very similar to the Christian nativity scene or crib figures that are displayed at Christmas. This is a photo of a little display on the side of the road, made by an individual that lives in the room behind the display.

I did manage to video two dances. One for a Shiva and one for Krishna. I’ve no idea what the lyrics of the songs say but I presume that they tell a story. These two dances seemed to be put on by school kids. The rest of the video is really street scenes and the colours of the LEDs strung over the road.

Meerut is a nice city, I like it as much as I disliked Delhi.

Photos of Meerut on Janmashtami and Independence day