With the busy schedule we have missed training on the rooftop. This morning, however, Dheer (‘Grasshopper’) began his tai chi journey with Guy and Jet while Charlie and I trained karate.
Here’s Katie’s roof stretch from January. Charlie was keen to work on hers as Katie is her flexibility inspiration.
I was working on kata:
But all too soon it was time to say goodbye to Guy. He chose chocolate and banana pancake as the last meal of the traveller.
And I grabbed a quick group shot with Dheer and Moyee before he took his taxi to the airport to begin the long trek back to the Netherlands.
His contribution to the project has been immense. The skills and attitude he’s taught here are vital for their immediate self defence value as well as the longer-term intrinsic self worth. This has been his first FairFight visit but we hope it is only a beginning.
Here’s a rare sighting of a cat; a beautiful little kitten which rushed off quickly when it saw us looking. Given the density of the dog population and other predators, it’s not surprising that the cats keep a low profile.
The middle of the day took me to lunch with Elisabeth Bernard who started Disha House in response to the need for a safe place for girls in immediate danger. She explained how the project grew; initially she was helping to provide medical attention for sex workers at the railway station. Distressed by the age and vulnerability of these girls, she decided to take action to offer a path out of this dangerous life into a life with safety, stability, and a future. She also described the common practice of abandoning baby girls which I had read about but she has witnessed firsthand. To learn more about her work here please check out https://www.actandhelp.org/home
It was really good to sit together and talk about our goals for the girls and how much they have progressed. Her love for them is very powerful; their health and happiness is testament to the commitment the Ashadiya team has shown.
I didn’t envy this man his job – no helmet, no harness…
And so to our final visit to Disha on this phase of the project.
Here you can see the house at the end of the alley on the left and the Ganges beyond it.
We had left the youngest Disha girls to last for evaluations. They had lots of interesting insights into their training and how it affects them. They firmly agree that karate makes them strong and disciplined. They say their friends wish they could learn karate too.
This group was less jealous of the freedoms boys have, and their career ambitions included pilot, police, doctor, and karate instructor. Not that unlike any 7-11 year old anywhere, although their focus on being able to walk the streets without interference was more poignant.
Downstairs, Susmita had kidnapped Charlie’s phone which now has about 200 selfies on it.
Here’s Susmita with big Kajal:
And a couple of her selfies-here with Bharti, Anju, Neelam and Anita.
And then Rishika took a turn too, pictured here with Moyee our translator:
Then with Pooja and big Kajal.
Rishika also helped organise the girls’ portrait photographs for Fairfight.
We gathered to sum up the aspirational messages of the visit and to present the ‘most improved fighter’ trophy to Pooja. This was decided after a lengthy private discussion with the instructor team yesterday but, somewhat hilariously, my concerns about the others being upset not to be chosen were completely unfounded and the girls had eavesdropped on the discussion anyway so no one was surprised. And once more, the girls’ warmth and support for each other surpassed all expectations.
The next bit was the worst bit and there were too many tears from us all on parting. Some great mixed expressions here but no happy waving this time. I was very glad to see Uday – Ashadiya’s coordinator- as he has been so helpful to us over the last few months. I was also really touched to receive a beautiful representation of Durga/Parvati from Anjali- the girls main house mother. Durga represents female empowerment.
The last emotional goodbye for the evening was with Rinki and Lalita; the girls who have now left Disha as they are over 18. I took them small gifts and their letters from Katie. Bharti is still coaching them for their exams so that they can finish their journey to independence despite their early disadvantages in life.
We loved Katie’s sketch of Susmita training yesterday. She loved it too!
Goodnight from a very tired team here – nearly ready to pack up and ship out. Final blog tomorrow; probably from Delhi – WiFi permitting!