Landing on your feet – The Indian blacksmith

I remember, as a child, cycling from my home in Kettering to the village of Weekly during the summer holidays.  I never told my Mum that was where I was going because she would have forbidden it, but I wanted to go and see the blacksmith at work.  I had always wanted a horse of my own but knew it was impossible so it was my best opportunity to get close to a horse and see how to care for it.

Now I am the proud owner of Raja.  Twice in the first few months since he came to us we had the local smith out to fit shoes.  I wasn’t happy with what I saw being done and so bought a rasp to try to care for his feet myself.  As a first time owner  I had no experience but felt that what I was doing was better for Rajas feet and have been riding him ‘barefoot’ for seven month now.  As I am on a visit to the UK, my friend Lorna has shown me how to keep a horses feet in good condition without shoes, and I’m happy to know that we have been doing things just about right -certainly better than the local smith.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s not a cruel man but his skills are traditional and basic, a far cry from what we find in the western world.

Here in rural India horses are cold shod and the first job is to prepare the nails to be used.

The part of the shoeing which has concerned me most is trimming the hoof.  No hoof knife here, the smith simply uses a chisel to cut off excess hoof.  This can obviously cause pain and bruising to the foot and also damage if not done correctly.

The hoof is finally filed to get the correct shape before the shoe is fitted.

As there is no forge the shoe if roughly shaped by hand and is not a perfect fit.

After my visit with Lorna I now know what I need to do to care for Rajas feet and have the confidence to continue caring for him myself, leaving the smith to continue his usual work with the local ponies.

I suppose you could say that Raja has landed on his feet in finding a home at Lakeside!

A brighter future for the children of India – The Joe Homan Charity

I’m currently back in the UK to visit family and friends – just a short visit for three weeks.  I love the changing colours of the leaves and the fresh green all around – but I do miss the sun and warmth of India!  There have been many changes in the UK since I moved to Tamil Nadu four years ago in regards to the economy, but other than that the country remains the same and it is great to be able to catch up with friends and family.  The highlight?  Meeting my 14 week old grandson for the first time!

Boys supported by the Joe Homan Charity

Last weekend I attended the AGM of the Joe Homan Charity, the first time I have been in the country for this event since 2007.   This charity is close to my heart as I have been sponsoring children through its projects for many years now.  It was also because of my links with the charity that I first visited Lakeside and subsequently bought the property from Joe.   Many of our guests are people who sponsor children through the charity, and many others take the opportunity to visit one of the projects whilst with us.

At one of the projects for girls

Joe first started helping the destitute children of India in 1965 when he took in four small boys, gave them a home and means of support and enabled them to get an education.  Since those early days thousands of children, both boys and girls, have been helped by the Joe Homan Charity and its Indian partner, Boys Town Society.

At one of the Boys Towns

The Boys Towns provide a home for the boys during term time when they attend the local school, they then go home to their families for the holidays.  There are also residential projects for girls and for younger children (under the age of 11).  The charity is also involved in many other projects aimed at improving the lives of the poorest of the poor in southern India.

Accommodation for the children – they sleep on mats on the floor

As with many charities, the last few years have not been easy.  With an economic crisis in the western world many people have been unable to continue their support.  There are also those  who criticise the charity saying that India is now a wealthy country which should be supporting its own while the western countries should be providing help for their own people who have fallen on hard times.

Kitchen for 80+ children

In many ways I would not disagree that help is needed in the west, but the Joe Homan Charity is aware of this, it has been and is still actively seeking help from wealthy Indians for the less fortunate in their community.  The progress in this area is slow but steady with increasing numbers of children being sponsored by locals in India.  But what many westerners fail to understand (through no fault of their own) is that whilst India is an emerging economy there are extreme divisions between the richest and the poorest and there is still extreme poverty.    It will be many years yet before we can withdraw our help from India and leave it to the Indians themselves to help these children.  Just two interesting facts from the AGM:

India is still home to one-third of the world’s population living on less than 80p ($1.29) per day.

There are still states in India the size of Britain where half of all children suffer from malnutrition.

The library

Whilst supporting ‘our own people’ in the west and at the same time raising awareness and funds in India we must try to keep the relative levels of poverty in proportion in our minds.  To sponsor a child in one of the projects, ensuring them and education, further education, and a future life free of poverty, costs just £215 per year.  In 2011 The Guardian newspaper reported that the average price of a pint of beer had reached £3.  So for less than 1.5 pints a week a person could sponsor a child thereby raising him, and his family, out of poverty.

That’s worth thinking about next time you’re out for a drink with friends!

Shower block

Flower power – mountains of marigold

Flowers play an important role in Indian life, from the enormous garlands exchanged by bride and groom at a wedding to the small string of jasmine flowers worn in the hair daily.

 Almost every home has its shrine to their favourite god and flowers are placed before it daily.  Many of the shops we use have pictures of the gods, and also photos of the parents of the current owners.  Again, daily offerings of flowers are made.

And where do all these flowers come from?  They are grown in the countryide, picked in the early hours of the morning, taken by bus to the local town and sold in the flower market.

 Dindigul has a wholesale market where flowers are bought by weight by people who have small stalls where they make garlands, there are also many people making garlands in the market itself.

It is a wonderful place to visit, full of vibarnt colours and scents.  Huge piles of marigolds lay beside smaller piles of jasmine of white or pink or bright orange.  The people are warm and friendly and keen to have their photograph taken.

Dindigul flower market is loved by all of our guests who visit it.

The Brahminy Kite

In Hindu mythology all gods have their special vehicles. Vishnu is carried by Garuda, the white headed Brahminy Kite.  It is considered to be very auspicious to see one of these birds so we are incredibly lucky that they are frequent visitors to the lake and we, and our guests, can sit on the veranda and watch the kites riding the thermals or wheeling and diving when they find something to eat.

This kite has discovered a dead turtle which he is enjoying for breakfast!

Brahminy kite with turtle for breakfast