Thursday January 26 was special. It was India’s Republic Day. School was out and businesses and offices took the day off to celebrate the nation’s constitution.
I’ve been teaching a couple of classes Monday through Friday each week. They were also cancelled. (I didn’t detect any remorse on my students’ faces when I announced we wouldn’t meet on Thursday evening.)
The constitution was actually signed by 308 members of the national assembly on January 24, 1950 but did not take effect until two days later, the day now celebrated as Republic Day. It’s a big deal here. New Delhi’s parade—at least as we watched it on television—rivals the best of parades in the States.
Republic Day isn’t the same as Independence Day. That’s celebrated on August 15. In 1947, after the long struggle for national autonomy led by Mohandas Gandhi, the United Kingdom finally partitioned and granted self-rule to India and Pakistan, one a primarily Hindu and the other a primarily Muslim country.
Because India didn’t yet have a viable constitution, England ruled the new nation a little longer under King George VI with Earl Mountbatten as governor-general. The governing document was eventually ratified in 1950. It was that ratification we celebrated on the 26th.
We joined the Kulpahar Kids Home community for the event. At 9:00 we all stood at attention as the flag was unfurled.
Then all the students favored us with a program of singing and dancing and speechifying, from the littlest up to and including the twelfth graders.
I think India inherited from the British their love of pageantry. They do it well here. We didn’t understand their Hindi, of course, but we did understand that Republic Day is taken seriously.
In the afternoon our hosts Linda and Sharon took us out to Bela Taal (also known as Belasager Lake) to join the hostel boys and others for a picnic at the site of the old fort there.
The lake, about a 10 kilometer (six mile) drive from Kulpahar, is a source of irrigation for the area. It’s also a popular site for fishing and growing water chestnuts.
The group said how good it was to see the lake full. The area has suffered drought conditions for five years. Thanks to bountiful rains this past rainy season, the mission’s eight wells are full and should be able to supply water for the coming couple of years. (During the drought, four of them went completely dry, so this is an excellent forecast.)
It was fun picnicking with the boys. Linda had given them from 30 to 50 rupees apiece (about 60 rupees to the dollar) to shop in the nearby village. They played with their purchases—when the supervising “adults” weren’t doing so with the boys’ toys. Lots of laughter. I couldn’t help musing how readily that laughter comes to children who have so little.
We continue to be impressed with the administration of Kulpahar Kids Home. It’s a complex operation. We observed little things that’d we never have thought of, like keeping shoes polished (and tooth brushes sorted). Everywhere the children walk is in dirt and dust. I’m glad you can’t see my own shoes! On our last Saturday I took advantage of this service.
A picture is missing in this post. That’s because it wasn’t taken. On the day we arrived Linda told us her story of the cobra they killed in the house a few days before we came. That made us feel very secure in our guest quarters. So far, though, we haven’t spotted another one. We’re glad not to have a cobra picture, if it’s all the same to you.
It’s time to bring this report to a close. We’ll leave Kulpahar next week. I’ll prepare one more post before we leave. That one will feature some of our friends here. We want to introduce them to you.