We have now moved from the Banyan Tree at Kulappada to the Special Therapy (special needs) centre in Kulathara. This brings many advantages. One of them is running water - a cold shower is luxury comapred to getting a bucket of water out of the well. And it gives a level of protection for Tom - as it is a special needs school, any visitors can be stopped, and Tom can decide whether to meet them or not. Unfortunately there are some people who are adept at putting psychological pressure onto Tom, something that he is not able to cope with these days. Sadly, there are a couple of Pentecostal pastors who head that list. At Kulappada he is out on his own; here at Kalathara he is safe.
One disadvatage is that Kalathara has no internet connection. So I am typing this from an intenet cafe in Nedumangad whilst the others have gone off to do some shopping. Not shopping for themselves, you understand, but shopping for equipment that will help the disabled children at the Special Therapy centre.
But to return to the subject of this update. Take buying a cow, for instance. I am unwilling to just hand over the money. There are too many things that could go wrong. So I will do it myself.
Prasanna is a poor man who we have helped over the last couple of years. He has a compound fracture of his leg. Whilst he was in hospital Shibu looked after him, and we paid for the implants needed to pin the fracture. We bought him a Zimmer frame so that he could have a degree of mobility, and leave the hospital. I have seen the x-rays of the fracture. and I would be amazed if he is ever able to walk again. The result is that the family - him, his wife, and two sons, have lost their breadwinner and are reduced to destitution. But there is one bright spot: his wife is able bodied, fit and knows how to look after a cow.
So we drive for some way. We pick up Prasanna at a road junction where he has been patiently waiting for us. We drive down a country lane which degenerates into a very rough track. Eventually we can drive no further. The house with a cow for sale is up a long steep footpath. So off we trek, with Prassana hobbling along behind courtesy of his Zimmer frame.
The cow seller is not at home. He has gone off to find cattle food. His wife is there, but she is not authorised to sell the cow. We inspect the beast. It looks to be in good condition as far as a layman can tell. It is on its second pregnancy; after the first it produced ten litres of milk a day, so it looks a good buy at the agreed sale proce of Rs. 43,000 - 500 pounds to you and me. We have that much money from the alternative catalogue.
So we slither back down to the car, and go to Prasanna's house. The same process again, except that the footpath is even steeper and longer. Prasanna abandons his Zimmer (his wife carries it), puts his arm around her neck, picks up what looks like half a tree trunk, and together they make it somehow up the hill. We inspect the house. It does not take long. They have a few pots and pans, and little else. They do have a wood store, though, which could house the cow. There is grass nearby which the family could harvest. Things are looking up a bit.
Back down the path, which has mysteriously become even steeper. Prasanna and wife cope with it OK, I have more problems. Into the car, drive back to the seller's house, up the footpath to the seller's house. Seller is there now, but he sees white man coming. White man equals money. The price has been misunderstood - Rs. 43,000 was the first installment, and a further payment is needed to clinch the deal. Long arguments in Malayalam. Eventually the original sale price is accepted. The rope around the cow is untied and handed over. The cow now belongs to Prasanna.
But Prassana has no cattle feed, and no money to pay for it. Back to the village. Hand over Rs. 200 for feed and another 100 for an autorikshaw back home.
Mission accomplished. But it took all morning.
Notihing happens quickly in India.
We've been pretty busy since we arrived, but we are getting towards the end of our list of things to do. That is just as well - we are also getting through our time here. Yesterday I went off to Asha Kiran Ashram. Our visit was unannounced, but we found everything running well. The children all were very happy and clearly well cared for. One disappointment was that Buelah had gone home for a festival. I had a letter for her from a supporter. I have left it for her on her return. I have neve been there and back in a single day. I don't think that I will try it again!