A new perspective of Lakeside

First of all, apologies for the length of time since my last post. This is due to a busy season (never a bad thing!) combined with family commitments. I hope the wait has whet your appetite as I have a lovely piece of video for you to enjoy.

This video was shot by one of our guests using a drone – an amazing piece of kit and an amazing piece of video.

Enjoy!

Charcoal makers of India

The poor of rural India can’t always afford gas to cook on, and very few have electricity. Often cooking fires are fed with coconut husks or leaves, sometimes with charcoal.

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There are many thorn trees in this area which have taken over from the indigenous trees. they grow quickly and are a menace. People are allowed to cut these trees where they grow on government land. Some take them home to burn, but others use them to make charcoal, which they then sell as a fuel.

A few days are spent collecting heaps of thorn bush.

They are then piled carefully together in a mound.

The mound is covered with earth, the fire is set by lighting green branches inserted into the mound so that the wood does not burn too quickly. This produces a good quality charcoal.

With no financial outlay necessary, making charcoal can give a huge boost to a poor family’s finances.

Wild visitor at Lakeside

wild boar at LakesideWhile walking in our area of land set aside for wildlife this morning I met a local family.

Mum, Dad and baby wild boar were happily rooting away for breakfast. Although I wondered why they would be hungry after digging up some of the plants in our gardens last night!

Unlike boar that you might find elsewhere, these are not aggressive unless they feel threatened. On seeing (even hearing or smelling!) humans, they take off into the densest vegetation they can find. I always feel privileged to see them, but do wish they would not run away and hide before I can take a photo! Thankfully I have one that I took a few years ago. This photo was taken just after the dry season and before the new growth had come through. As you can see, this animal looked hungry. The boar I saw today were much better fed!

Boar can be a bit of a pest. Once Lakeside has settled for the night and no one is around they will come in and dig up the succulent roots of plants. It is just bad luck that the tastiest roots are those of the plants in our flowerbeds and not weeds!

You may see a lone boar (males tend to be solitary) or a pair. If really lucky you could see mum and dad with a family of little ones! Young boar stay with their mother until they are adult. In some places you can see as many as 20 boar in a group, although in this valley you are more likely to see less than 10.

The wild boar is the ancestor of the domestic pig and the two species will inter-breed. So, any feral pigs you may see on rubbish heaps on the outskirts of villages could well have some boar blood.

 Boars forage mostly at dawn and dusk and into the night so you are unlikely to see them during the heat of the day. They are omnivorous and will eat anything they find – grass, nuts, berries, carrion, roots and tubers, insects and small reptiles. They are also a menace for our ground-nesting birds as they will take both the bird and the eggs.

As the boar is one of the bigger mammals in the valley they don’t have many predators. A fox or local dog may take a piglet, but only the leopard will take on a full grown boar.

The lake is full!

We have had some good rain in the last week or ten days, and the lake is now full once more. It is a wonderful sight, all the more so because of the importance of this water for people in the local towns and villages.

If we are lucky the rains will continue for a few more weeks, the overflow from our lake will go on to fill other small tanks and lakes, and the water table will rise even further, to the delight of the farmers.

When you live in a country like India you realise just how precious a resource water is, and how important it is to preserve what we have.

I have just been out with my camera to record the lake, but then decided not to upload the pictures. After all, the photos I have just taken can never improve on the banner at the top of this blog!

If you want to see the view for yourself then you know where we are, and you will be most welcome!

 

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!