Over night our little shaded area had expanded five fold. It was complete with a backdrop, canopy and a large sound system. With Bollywood tunes filling the air we went and inspected the wall. Once again the villagers had been hard at work after we left yesterday, both on the wall and setting up the ceremony area. While the structure may not yet be complete (as it will take approximately another two weeks before it is finished) it stands at an impressive height of 1.75 meters above ground. We took advantage of the photo op and mingled a bit with the villagers.
With the music cranked it didn't take long for some of the girls, Kim included, to start bustin' a move. There's no question that they love their music and their dancing. Arguably even more impressive was their artistic talent and steady hand at creating henna. Denise, Kim and I were all treated to our own henna hand, each with their own artistic expression.
We were told yesterday that the official ceremony would start at 10:00am. Keeping consistent with Indian Standard Time, things really didn't get underway until about 11:45am. You'd think that we'd be somewhat more accustomed to this by now.
The President, the King and a PhD student were only a few of the many dignitaries present at the ceremony today. Villagers from far and wide came to join in the festivities. There must have been over 300 men, women and children in attendance.
Once officially underway representatives from the village, Sahyog and our team addressed the crowd and spoke about the importance of the work that was being done through the self-help groups and the positive impact that the water harvesting structure would have on the village. One of the things the villagers kept commenting on was our hard work ethic as a group, funny because at times we felt like we were struggling to keep up with them. We were honoured when we were officially welcomed into the brotherhood of the village, complete with traditional wraps for us ladies and turbans for the guys.
Our team also had the opportunity to present the local school teacher with enough books, pencils, sharpeners and erasers for each of the school children. We had also purchased some sporting equipment for the school kids. Between 61 students we are sure that each and every piece will be put to good use.
After our legs had gone numb and our backs began to ache (honestly, that squat position on the hard ground is impossible after about 30 minutes) the ceremony finally ended. We were more than just a little relieved. The large gathering then headed over to one of the villagers homes for a community lunch. You'd think that with such a large amount of people to cater for and then serve, a certain amount of chaos would ensue. However, the organization and the systems that the locals have in place are so interesting, impressive and effective that there was no problem. The men were the ones who were not only cooking but also serving everyone. I'm telling you, I could get used to some of these customs and traditions.
It was a sad farewell as we left the dinner party. There were many waves, photos, and attempts to try and keep us there. After forming such a strong bond with so many of the villagers it's hard to imagine that we won't be working alongside them again. It makes it even more difficult to say goodbye when you know that in all likelihood this may very well be the last time we see them. We left with a feeling of sadness but also a strong sense of happiness knowing how much the village will benefit from the water harvesting structure.
Udaipur, India: October 2014