Breaking the mould – brick making in India

For as long as people can remember bricks in India have been made by hand. You can often see a small brick kiln beside the road where a family will make their own mud bricks and sell to locals. The quality of such bricks is not always good as the kiln is too small.

Close to Lakeside is a much lager commercial brick factory. A visit there is always popular with our guests.

The mud is put into the mould by hand…

…then tipped out.

There are about forty families employed at the factory. Couples often work together and are paid by the number of bricks they make.

The bricks are left to dry in the sun for about one week, being turned two or three times so that they dry evenly.

Then they are taken to the kiln. This is the same shape as the amphitheatres the Romans used for their chariot races.

The sun-dried bricks are carefully stacked in sections, each of which will be sealed off for firing.

Once the section is sealed it is covered with bricks and sand. The metal ‘lids’ cover the holes where the fuel is put in.

The fuel is a combination of thorn wood and cashew nut shells. These nuts have been roasted and the kernals removed. The remaining shell is very oily, this helps to create a fierce, consistent heat which creates a good quality brick.

The chimney is an ingenious design. It is on rails so that it can be moved from section to section as they are fired.

The firing lasts for one day, then the bricks are left for a week as they cool down.

The bricks are then removed by hand…

…loaded onto lorries…

…and taken to Dindigul where they are sold. Local people can buy directly from the factory.

As with all things in India, a new machine has recently been brought in to increase production. In this case, however, it has not meant the loss of jobs. The factory still employs the same number of people but produces twice as many bricks. The machine is still very simple and is labour intensive. It is fascinating to watch.

Some of the bricks are still made by hand, but I wonder how long that will last. Regardless of how the bricks are manufactured, it is a fascinating process and our guests always enjoy their visit.

If you come to stay at Lakeside, I’ll be happy to show you around!

 

Visit Lakeside for Diwali – at discount prices

OK, so this breaks with tradition and is an unashamed advert for our Lakeside Guesthouse. Why? you may ask. The answer is that Diwali is approaching, a time for family, friends and fun. We thought ‘Where better to share such times than at Lakeside?’

If you don’t like adverts then please skip this post. I promise that such adverts will be few and far between, and you will get adequate notice at the beginning (like this one!)

For those who would like to spend their Diwali holiday with us at Lakeside, why not take a look at our offer.

We hope to meet some of you at Lakeside for Diwali, or any other time!

Calls to protect Dindigul’s drinkiing water

During the last year many guests have commented on a large building being erected close to the lake. ‘What is it for?’ has been the main question.

We had only be able to reply that the rumour was that it was to be a water bottling plant. The locals have been worried about this because it will deplete the water table, as well as having a huge impact on the available drinking water for Dindigul.

Well, over the last few weeks it has been revealed that it is a private water bottling plant. The current level of water in the lake is around 7 feet; at capacity it holds 23 feet. Due to this shortage local authorities can currently only provide drinking water to Dindigul every 15 days. People are up in arms that someone can make a profit from this scarce resource, and rightly so.

Complaints have been made to the Collector to stop the plant from extracting water. There are many questions being raised – does the plant have the necessary licenses and permissions? If so who granted them? No doubt it will take time to sort this out, but at least a start has been made. Let us hope that the drinking water in the lake can continue to be preserved for the people of Dindigul – and the local wildlife.

You can read what the Hindu has to say about the issue here.

Visions Global Empowerment – empowering the youth of India

Visions Global Empowerment

We are lucky at Lakeside to meet an amazing variety of people. From former British Cabinet Ministers to families on a round the world tour, from local Indians to people from the other side of the world, from the young to the not so young!

We have recently had a second visit from a group called Visions Global Empowerment. VGE works with projects in India, Sri Lanka and Ethiopia; their vision is to help create ‘a world where all youth, teachers and communities are educated, empowered and uplifted.’ Their aim is to help achieve this by seeking to change patterns of inequality by supporting educational initiatives for youth affected by poverty, conflict, and disability.’

Greg Buie,  who has worked with this organisation since 2004, brought a group of college students from the US, Canada and Switzerland, to work on local projects in India. The Indian projects  aim to empower young people and women to better themselves. The project this group were working with is aimed at helping tribal children from the local hill areas to receive a better education, and so a better life for themselves and their families.

Please do take a look at the Visions Global Empowerment website.  It is uplifting to see young people set up such projects, and other young people spend part of their summer vacation volunteering to help those less fortunate than themselves. We are privileged to meet many such people at Lakeside.

VGE teacher training programme

VGE teacher training programme

Mahadevbhai – celebrating Indian Independence

JaiminiPathak

Jaimini Pathak in a scene from ‘Mahadevbhai’ by ‘Working Title’ on the second day of The Hindu MetroPlus Theatre Fest 2014 at PSG College of Arts and Science, Coimbatore, on Saturday. -PHOTO : K.Ananthan

India will be celebrating Independence later this week. With perfect timing I went to the theatre in Coimbatore last night to see Mahadevbhai. The play is based on the daily diaries of Mahadevbhai Desai who was secretary to Gandhi.

The monologue was performed by Jaimini Pathak, and was an amazing piece of theatre. This talented actor portrayed some of the key characters of the story of Independence – Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr Ambedkar and, of course, Mahadevbhai. There was also a raft of other lesser or unknown characters which fleshed out this stirring period of history. Jaimini Pathak brought the characters alive with his energetic yet sensitive performance. With the minimal set, the imagination of the audience was freed to feel a part of the story.

For me the enjoyment of the evening was two-fold. Firstly, I was held captive by a great stage performance. Jaimini Pathak received a standing ovation, and rightly so. Secondly, I learnt about a character from history who was new to me. Through his diaries, notes and records of speeches by Gandhi I gained a deeper understanding of the thoughts and principles of Gandhi in the areas of non-violence, untouchability and the rights of women during the turbulent years leading to India’s Independence.

If you ever get the chance to see a performance of Mahadevbhai make sure you don’t miss out!

You can find out more about Mahadevbhai Desai and his time with Gandhi here.

The Indian flag – a guide to good politics

indian-flag
On 22 July 1947 the tricolour was approved as the Republic of India’s national flag. Over the years of the fight for independence there had been many suggestions of what the flag of India should look like. The final version incorporated ideas from many sources and was designed by Shri. Pingali Venkayya.

Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who later became India’s second President, described its significance as follows:

“Bhagwa… or the saffron colour denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. Our leaders must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work.

The white in the centre is light, the path of truth to guide our conduct.

The green shows our relation to the soil, our relation to the plant life here, on which all other life depends.

The “Ashoka Chakra” in the centre of the white is the wheel of the law of dharma. Truth or satya, dharma or virtue ought to be the controlling principle of those who work under this flag.

Again, the wheel denotes motion. There is death in stagnation. There is life in movement. India should no more resist change, it must move and go forward. The wheel represents the dynamism of a peaceful change.”

High ideals are embodied in the Indian flag, but how many people remember what it stands for? Perhaps all politicians in India should have to study the flag and pledge that they will dedicate themselves to their work, allow themselves to be guided by truth, be indifferent to material gains, protect the environment and dedicate themselves to dynamic, peaceful change.

A county with such principles not only embodied in its flag but actually living by them would be a force to be reckoned with!

Anbagam – ‘Home of Love’

Many of you know that I first came to India to visit the boy I sponsor through the Joe Homan Charity. It is a charity that I have been involved with for many years. We often get guests who stay with us at Lakeside when they visit the local projects. Earlier this year I went with some of the guests to the local DACS project in Dindigul. This an independent charity which the Joe Homan Charity makes contributions to on a regular basis. The project cares for children with HIV and AIDS.

I have been asked to write the annual report for the Joe Homan Charity regarding this project. You can find the text below. It is quite a humbling, yet uplifting, story.

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I recently visited the new home of the DACS project in Dindigul. It is a
lovely two storey building which contrasts greatly with the home I saw just
3 years ago. That itself was a huge step forward from the small house used
by Mr Thankachan in 2003 to set up his home for children with HIV and AIDS.
Back then there were 17 children, now there are almost 50. In the early
days Thankachan called it an ‘orphanage’ as fear and prejudice of HIV is
rife in India. Of course, he could not keep the purpose of his project a
complete secret, and when the local community found out about the HIV
children they were discouraged from attending the local schools, being
taught instead at the project. Over the years the Government has, to
differing degrees, supported the home and education of these children who are
once again integrated into the local schools. I’m pleased to say that the
children are doing well educationally.

JHC has been involved with this project since 2008. It is sobering to read
the report from that year which said that the children ‘cannot look forward
to more than half a dozen years of life at best’, and the number of deaths
in the early years was evidence of that. The Government provides the drugs
to treat these children, but Thankachan realised that the key to a longer
life was nutrition. His approach of ensuring that the children have a good
healthy diet has shown remarkable results, with only one or two deaths since
2010, and none since early 2013. This has, paradoxically, put more pressure
on Thankachan who wants to be able to provide a home and support for these
children for life.

The atmosphere at this project is uplifting. You receive a true welcome
from the children who are smiling and wanting to hold your hand, just like
any other child in Dindigul. But these children are different. Most have
been abandoned by their parents because of their infection, dumped on the
streets, or left beside an ATM machine. Abandoned children are taken to a
Government Hospital for assessment. The majority of children are then placed
in an orphanage with hopes for adoption, but those who are HIV positive are
sent to DACS, here they are cared for and can be assured of a loving home
for life.

DACS has come a long way from its humble beginnings, and the contributions
by JHC have played an important role in this development. This has included
supporting the daily lives of the children and much needed improvements to
their home. The latest support has been towards a new building which was
officially opened in December 2013. This has cost over £52,000 to complete,
with Thankachan raising much from local donors and family. The improvement
in living conditions here cannot be over-emphasised.

The children now have a clean, well supplied and safe environment in which
to live; they are more accepted by the local population; they can mix more
with children of their own age at the local school. Above all, their life
expectancy has improved immeasurably, as has their quality of life.
Yet we must not be complacent. In the short term DACS is still in need of
funds to improve their home and develop a small area of land into a
playground for the children. And the future? For Thankachan to continue
this excellent work he will need continued support he can rely on, and that
means an on-going commitment from JHC. For me, to see the improvements in
the health and living conditions of these children over the last three years
has been both heart-warming and humbling. As I watch children playing,
children who I had thought would not be alive today, I cannot help but
wonder about their future in a society where people with HIV and AIDS are
still feared and avoided. More and more local people are helping to support
the project in a small way, through donations or volunteering, but the
long-term future is more than they can handle. Thankachan had a dream in
2003 to provide a place where children with HIV and AIDS could live their
short lives in a home full of love. With the life-expectancy of these
children now immeasurably improved his new dream is to provide them with
higher education, work and a home through their adult years. The commitment
to funding which JHC has made just might make this possible.

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Good news…bad news!

First the good news… For those of you who may have missed my previous post, I am happy to tell you that Lakeside received a Certificate of Excellence for 2014 from TripAdvisor. These are not easy to achieve, and it is thanks to the hard work of all of the staff here at Lakeside that the standard of our facilities, hospitality and service have been consistently rated as Excellent by reviewers. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to post a review, they are all very much appreciated. We will continue to work hard to ensure that Lakeside remains a ‘first choice’ place to stay here in Tamil Nadu.

And the bad news?…

Regrettably, we have recently received a poor TripAdvisor review of Lakeside. This is, of course, very disappointing for us, particularly as our records (and those held by the local police) do not show anyone of that reviewer profile, or the other guests they describe, staying at Lakeside when they say they did!! In our reply to the reviewer we asked them to contact us to allow us the opportunity to identify when they stayed to enable us to fully understand any problems. The reviewer has chosen not to contact us and so we have little chance to put right anything that may have gone wrong.

If you are considering a stay at Lakeside, please do take time to read some of the other reviews posted on TripAdvisor, by both Indians and people of other nationalities. Please be assured that we make everyone welcome, and you will see from the reviews that guests have a wonderful stay here, be they from Europe, the rest of the world or, of course, from India. Lakeside is a wonderfully restful place where guests can be assured of a warm welcome, along with high standards of hospitality and service.

On a lighter note, the reviewer described Pete and myself as an ‘old couple’. As we are both several years away from retirement, I think we would prefer the term ‘mature’!  :-)

TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence 2014!

Great news!

Lakeside has been awarded TripAdvisor’s ‘Certificate of Excellence 2014′.

It is good to know that all our hard work is paying off.

We would like to thank our staff who work so hard, and without whom we would not have been able to achieve the high standards that we do.

Also, many thanks to our reviewers for their kind comments, it is these that keep us informed of where we are, and help us to constantly improve our services.

Many thanks,

Dorinda and Peter