Cumbria North Trefoil Guild Visits Sangam

As members of Cumbria North Trefoil Guild we recently took part in the Celebrating Indian Traditions II event at Sangam along with about 30 other members of Girlguiding. We were joined in our adventure by members from other counties as well as two husbands. The event lasted five days and during that time we learned a lot about life in India and Indian culture as well as facing up to several personal challenges. The first of these we encountered on our first day before the event actually began when we had to go into town to change some money. Armed with an address card written in English and Hindi and directed towards the rickshaw stand with instructions to go by the meter we negotiated a ride into the town centre, holding on tight as the drivers raced to arrive at the destination first, weaving in and out of traffic and hooting their horns at every opportunity. By the end of our stay we were able to do this with confidence, trusting in the ability of the drivers to avoid a collision! Crossing a road was also an interesting experience – we were advised to put our hands up to stop the motorbikes and rickshaws – not something that would work back in the UK!! The Opening Ceremony was really moving and memorable – we were all greeted personally by the staff and volunteers at Sangam who put rice in our hair, made the bindi mark on our foreheads, hung a garland of fresh flowers round our necks and gave us coconut and sugar to eat: a typical Indian welcome. We then all lit a candle. Each morning we got together for the flag ceremony and to hear the Hindi word of the day as well as any notices. The event included sessions on Indian culture, the community work done by Sangam, Wagggs and travel tips for our visit to the Golden Triangle and each day we were spoiled with different Indian food. Most of us bought the Sangam cookbook and will be trying the dishes out on our Trefoil members back home!! During the event we were taken round the local village, visiting a Hindu temple and learning about the Hindu gods. We also went into town to visit the local markets, look round historical buildings and to buy material for a sari or Punjabi which were then made up for us and which we wore on the final night at a Maharashtrian dinner, when sitting cross- legged on the floor we were treated to a feast of traditional food laid out on banana leaf plates, eating with our hands in local fashion. We also learned stick dancing, took part in yoga each morning and tried out warli painting, embroidery and mahendi and learned a few words of Hindi. On the third day we were taken out into the community to visit a couple of Sangam’s community partners: the NFBM Jagriti School for Blind Girls and the Ishwari Women’s Development Centre set up to help young women achieve their potential. Everywhere we went we were greeted with great warmth …..and a cup of chai! One of the highlights of the event was dinner in the home of a local family in Pune, where we were given Indian food and were able to talk about what it is like to live in India and find out about their customs. As the event also formed part of the 50th Anniversary of Sangam we learned a lot about the history of Sangam and took part in the 50th Anniversary Challenge, for which we had to complete 25 tasks
covering the Sangam spirit, the history of Sangam, the World Centre, Indian Culture, the Environment, Wagggs and Wagggs initiatives. Perhaps the most challenging of these was an early morning climb of the 15m high water tower at Sangam – everyone was a little nervous as we looked up the ladder but agreed that it was worth the climb once we got to the top!By the end of the week we felt we had earned the badge!!! In one of the final sessions we were told how we could maintain contact with Sangam through becoming a Friend of Sangam, or a Tare volunteer on one of their community projects -most of us felt that we would like to return again. We felt like part of a big family and were sorry to leave but after all we had learned we felt ready for the next stage of our trip up in the Golden Triangle.