Having fruitlessly searched for a bar or restaurant last night for a celebratory beer we were resigned to having an early night. Seems that although alcohol isn’t banned in this province it’s tightly controlled and not sold after 9pm. Most hotels and restaurants also don’t serve alcohol so it being 21:30 by the time we were ready for a drink we were shit out of luck. Would have been nice to raise a glass to accomplishing something most friends/family thought was impossible… not to mention most Indians themselves thought downright crazy but in the end we didn’t care all that much. Our thoughts were fixated on what awaited us tomorrow. The months of planning, fundraising, curiousness was about to be over. Today we’d finally get to meet the children we’re supporting with this crazy trip across India. The day had come to put on our last clean shirts… the SOS sh
irts given to us by our new friends Shivang and Sonia in Delhi a few weeks ago and in my case the Kohinoor Khiladis shirt I’ve had stashed away in the only clean compartment of my backpack.
Nervousness was high in the group. Would today be just another day in the village for the kids? Would they be annoyed at having us there? Would they go over-the-top in greeting us? We had no clue how they would react or how we would for that matter!
I have to admit, when we first came up with the crazy idea of driving across one of the most dangerous countries in the world to drive and that in a 9 horsepower tin box it was all about the adventure. When we found out there was a charity aspect to this endeavor our focus shifted completely to that and by the time we left Europe the visit to the Children’s Village in Shillong was our goal and what drove us to never give up. There were times when we didn’t wanna get up at 6am, when we wanted to stay in a special place longer than 30 minutes, when our bodies fought our insistence in driving 10-12 hours, but we couldn’t and wouldn’t allow ourselves to risk not being able to drive up to the village in Lily to see the kids.
Today presented a new challenge, one that we hadn’t expected. Allowing ourselves a rest this morning we got up hoping to leave the hotel at 9am for the hour drive down to the village. Though the morning started off bright the skies darkened quickly and before we knew it Shillong was pummeled by a massive hailstorm. Fortunately we hadn’t left yet, if we had we would have been in serious danger with the almost Ping-Pong sized pieces of ice falling from the sky. The storm was so severe that Lily, being parked on the street, nearly washed away! Fortunately the storm passed as quickly as it appeared so with only a slight delay, and trouble starting a waterlogged Lily we were on our way down the mountain with our German friends providing backup in case Lily decides she’s had enough.
One thing that could have made this caravan complete would have been a special surprise we had arranged for the kids. In Delhi we met with the Skullcandy direct customer in India, Brandeyes, to see if they were interested in getting involved. Beside the financial assistance the village desperately needs to give these underprivileged kids a chance in life they are kids and as kids get much more excited about getting stuff than “just” the knowledge that we’re helping their community financially. Brandeyes was full on board and loved the idea so were super generous in providing a backpack, water bottle and for the older kids a Skullcandy headphone for each of the 144 children in the village. Incredible stuff!!! Unfortunately something we hadn’t thought of was that yesterday was the Hindi New Year’s celebration in this part of India so the shipment from Delhi didn’t arrive in time. Sad but one thing we’ve learned over the past few weeks is to take misfortune with a smile, shack of the head and knowledge that in the end it’ll work out somehow, sometime.
Driving down to the village we were passed by a Mahindra. Not as cool as a Tata but pretty close. Turned out to be our new found friend, Mr. Anoop Singh, the direct of the Children’s Village, who’d come out to escort Lily and her 3 friends up to the village. A sweet gesture that was only the start of their kindness and gratitude. At the entrance was this sign welcoming team Kohinoor Khiladis to the village! I think our German friends were a little jealous about that :-P
It was a steep climb up to the village but in this case there was no stopping Lily. She may be just a tiny Autorickshaw but she’s an extension of us so she was as excited as we were. Waiting for us, lined up on either side of the entrance were the 144 smiling faces of the SOS Children’s Village, Shillong. Flowers in hand their greeting was beyond anything we could have dreamt of. For the last few meters we couldn’t help ourselves and told the kids to jump in the 4 rickshaws, squeezing as many in as possible. Was a magical moment none of us will ever forget!
The sky was beginning to darken yet again so after a few lovely songs sung to us by some incredibly talented young ladies we dashed for the shelter of the common hall where the ceremony with songs, poems, handmade traditional headdresses and necklaces being bestowed on us… and of course a little dance awaited us. Spending those precious few hours with the kids, getting to know a few of them, seeing their happiness, sincere pride of their homes and adopted siblings, and how full of love the mothers of their adopted children are brought tears to our eyes.
After visiting the 12 homes that make up the village and spending some time with the kids we unfortunately had to get Lily rolling again for the trek back up the mountain. We only had 2 hours before the finish line closed and being a 1.5 hour drive we had to move. With high spirits and resolve to continue our fundraising efforts to the last minute (on that note, please keep donating and sharing!!!) we were floating on air. What a day!! What an experience!!! So often we get stuck preoccupied by our own modern “problems”, stress, need for more money, more stuff, better this, bigger that… we’ve lost touch with the most basic joys. Shack your heads and see how lucky, probably too lucky, we are and think about those that have to struggle for their next meal, next place to sleep, a jacket for the upcoming winter, etc. We have too much and wanting more is striping us everything! The joy of doing something for others out of the kindness of your heart is something so profound it stays with you for your entire life.
Ok ok, rant is over but think about it. Think about moments of true happiness you’ve experienced and if they were times when you helped someone, did something nice for someone else than there you go… do it again and keep doing it!
Well, after that visit I really don’t wanna continue with the troubled journey back up to Shillong, the emotional farewell to Lily, the 45 minute drive up to the finishing party, the person who fell out of the bus on the way to the party and sadly was driven over (don’t know the severity of the injury but he survived), or the SWAT team called in to take us out but in the end shared a handshake and smile with us instead. All that pales in comparison to meeting the amazing young people of the SOS Children’s Village in Shillong. A memory that will stay with us forever and one that within minutes of leaving the village had us thinking about coming back next year to continue the race down the eastern side of India conveniently starting in Shillong. Are we crazy enough to risk another 3 weeks on Indian roads in a rickshaw? Hell yeah!!
Thank you all for your interest in not only our journey but also the charity we’re doing it for. Your financial support for the village, wards of encouragement and just overall interest in this crazy ass adventure mean a lot to all three of us! Stay tuned, this is definitely not that last you've heard from Kohinoor Khiladis!