India is one of the few countries where we still feel wealthy. The bill for the doctor’s house call plus four medications was $32. For the express laundering of the clothing I was wearing when my lungs rebelled because of all the dust plus a regular load we paid $15. I slept like a dead person and feel considerably better, but carry my dust mask close, because I have that feeling that I am going into spasm at any moment.
Just as in the southern India tour, OAT includes a day in the schedule when we visit the school that some of our trip fees subsidize and spend some time with the local people. The whole experience felt somewhat different here in the north. There have been 18 OAT groups here over the ten day camel fair and the two schools in the area have been visited numerous times. We have gone from being appreciated to being disruptive. At the time OAT adopted the private school we visited, it had been started by a private individual who saw a need because there was no school at all in the area. These days there also is a public school. That’s not to say the school was lavish, but it did have toilet facilities, electricity, benches, black boards and a few computers - much more than we saw in the south.
We strolled around the village and stopped for tea at a lady’s home. We sat in her courtyard on the family’s beds. They sleep outside there unless the weather gets too cold. We brought our own bottled water for the tea, but she boiled it burning cow dung patties, the go to fuel around here. With the assistance of our guide, we chatted. She had more questions for us than we had for her, especially regarding our relationships. Our group of 13 has three married couples, one with children and all the rest are divorced or never married women. That just blew her mind. She was married when she was nine, although she waited a few years before she moved to live with her husband and his family. She was very concerned about how we would take care of ourselves in our old age.
Then we went to a large women’s craft coop that began about ten years ago. The women need extra income, but while the are raising families they do not have time for a full time job, so this place is perfect for them. Some do their work at home and some come to the facility to work together. Some of their crafts were on the verge of dying out when the coop started. They have learned to make their products with color schemes that appeal to western eyes, not just using the bright oranges, yellows, reds and turquoise that are their go to colors. Many clothing facilities have been criticized for being sweat shops and it appeared that the wages these ladies earned were far below minimum, but they had flexible hours and worked as much as they wished. It goes without saying that the ten ladies in our group made the stop worth their while.
Then we hit the road for a long drive almost to Agra where we arrived at the hotel after dark. They had a BBQ in the back yard and a puppet show for entertainment. A lovely way to end the day.