We made it!

We made it!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Day 26 –Walk from Venkatagirikota to Peranampattu

Today we planned to walk from where we finished up yesterday on to a town called Peranampattu, Raju would drop us off and then take Bec, Mum and Gus on to the next accommodation spot. The first thing we noticed was Raju went in a different direction than the one we took yesterday. At first I assumed it was just a quicker route along the highway but after some time and an enquiry with Raju the issue was that he needed a permit to go to that location and without it we faced a large fine. The permit office ofcourse was quite a way ahead of where we were to start walking from. The drive had been a little hairy in patches with a fair bit of traffic on roads that were not much bigger than one lane. We had also been in the car for over an hour already and the kids were starting with
‘I feel sick’ and ‘how long until we get there?’ After a quick consultation of the map I made the call that we would drive straight to our accommodation and the consider our walk options from there. Our stay wasn’t confirmed and was actually at a rural hospital and development centre not actually a hotel. This is the place where Bec and I went when I did a four month placement as a social work student in 1996. The place is called RUHSA and full of wonderful doctors and development workers doing amazing work. It is also one of the most bureaucratic places I have ever seen. I wanted to be there for checking in as I saw potential for difficulties, I wasn’t disappointed.

RUHSA is at a small town called KV Kuppam, about 15km East of Gudiyatham. We didn’t actually have the address so I was working from memory and hoped I would be able to locate it on the road I remembered it to be off. This worried Raju, but after several assurances that I knew what he was doing he drove on, worried frown in tow. I knew we were getting close and Bec yelled out ‘RUHSA’ as she had spotted a sign that said turn right to RUHSA, we made it. By this stage both Max and Gus were dying to go to the toilet and the rest of the team had a solid dose of cabin fever having driven through a fairly windy and pretty rough section of road to get here. I walk into the office, memories flooding back with every step. I find the office of the reception and am pleased to locate the person I had emailed regarding accommodation and even more pleased he was expecting us. In true RUHSA style I was asked to sit as Vinoth looked for some time at his computer. He then pointed out the accommodation options which consisted of two apartments and a double room which seemed to suit us pretty well on the face of things.

Another staff member who I remember from my previous stays made his way across and he escorted us to view the accommodation. The last two times I have stayed here (the first was 3 months with Bec) I have stayed in a very small room, two small single beds, sheet on each and one pillow and a small bathroom with a toilet, a cold shower and a basin that drained out on to the concrete floor. It was pretty hard going for the 3 month stay but this around I was kind of looking forward to it. We were escorted initially to view the apartments, which they had only two. They were much larger than the old rooms, with a bedroom, a living area, a bathroom (with hot water), a fridge and it even had a kitchen, well a concrete bench and burner on it. Much more comfortable than last time. They would be fine and the two were next to each other. It was then time to view the double room which was intended for Jen and Nick. As we followed our escort it became apparent that the room was a long way away from the two apartments. I heard Jen whisper “Gee, we will need a bike to come and see you guys” and I knew this was not going to be ideal. The room couldn’t have been farther away and whilst the room was quite nice it was not going to work for us. As happens with RUHSA, after room inspection I had to head back to the office and fill in a request for a room form and also wait to speak with the Director. I sat in the reception awaiting a call up. In the meantime the request book could not be found so we had our first problem as both staff members looked at each other asking where the book was. I was called in to meet Dr Rita, the director at RUHSA, who was lovely and very welcoming. As per RUHSA procedures we had a discussion about my plans for the time I am here and I assured Dr Rita this was purely a social visit with no expectations of the staff.

After the meeting there was a second meeting with the receptionist to agree to our accommodation types. We asked if we could have extra beds in the two apartments to enable us to all stay together. The best I could arrange was two additional single beds to be brought in so we ended up with 4 single beds in each apartment with 5 people in each, not a bad outcome all things considered. I could see that Mum was relieved with the outcome and the team stays together which I think we were all happier with.

We do some nesting in our new places and agree that as it was now nearing 2.30pm that there would be no walking today. Walking around the campus I ran into an old friend Mr Stalin who I remembered from previous visits, I think he remembers me too although he is still calling me Patrick! One of the main reasons we wanted to return to RUHSA was to visit a special family here. The family run the hotel out the front of RUHSA, the K Paul hotel. It used to be a galvanised iron shed basically but now has grown to be a concrete open walled establishment. The family is made up of Paul (Dad), Ama (Mum), Subashini, Roubia, Smeeta and Christopher and one other sister who I can’t remember the name of. Both Bec and I have visions of being here in 1996 with Paul standing at the bench with his lunghi on, overseeing operations, Subashini only a young girl with plats in her hair and Christopher a very young boy running around saying Hi. We have kept in touch with Subashini since 1996 contributing to her education as we could and now we see her a grown woman, married and graduated as a nurse. Christopher has completed his bachelor of science, will start his masters and wants to become a lecturer after completing his Phd. Roubia is a teacher working with kindergarten aged children at a nearby school. Paul is still standing at the bench with his lunghi overseeing operations. We were unable to contact Subashini before coming so when we arrived Christopher was on the phone and she was straight on a bus from Vellore a town some 25km away to be here tonight.

The family were all very excited to see us and went to great troubles to offer us special meals for our time here. Despite our assurances that veg would be okay the family was determined to feed us chicken, I was able to curtail the offer of beef. Unfortunately Poppa and Maxy have been feeling unwell so they didn’t join us for dinner and Mum kindly offered to sit with Gus who had fallen asleep just before we left. We joined the family for dinner in their house and Subashini showed us her wedding DVD. We shared two chicken curry dishes and freshly cooked chapatti, one of my favourites. The uncle from two houses up decided he would also cook us a special chicken dish known as chicken 65 which was a type of roasted chicken with special spices, very nice also. The family went to so much trouble for us and we had finally enjoyed a home cooked Indian meal with one of our favourite Indian families. Indy and Maggie ate heartily and we all had a wonderful evening.

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