The Many Faces of India

by Maggie Alexander

In the early morning of Tuesday 30th December, a group of students and staff left Heathrow to fly to Chennai, to begin a tour of some of the Krishnamurti Schools of South India. The trip was organised by Maggie and Andrew Alexander and assisted by staff member Ana Gomes. We travelled many miles in many vehicles and on many roads with students Adele, Anna, Amanda, Bruno, Bindu, Francisca, Lorena and Tejo. We ate many types of meals, slept in many types of bed and interacted with many fascinating people.

We began in the heat and humidity of Vasanta Vihar (the headquarters of the Krishnamurti Foundation of India) which was our base while we were in Chennai. We visited Pathashaala, a fairly new rural school in Tamil Nadu, then spent four days in Chennai at 'The School'. The students were provided with engaging programmes and had opportunities to interact with the students in both schools. With remarkable ease they took to eating their food with their fingers, as is the local practice, whilst sitting cross-legged at low tables.

From Chennai we had a seven hour road trip to Rishi Valley Educational Centre in Andhra Pradesh. This is a large independent school in the dramatic and drought-ridden terrain dominated by the Rishikonda hills. We spent four days there before taking a five hour drive to Bangalore and The Valley School. Whilst there we celebrated the festival of Pongle and the students each spent a night with one of the The Valley students at their homes in the city. The recent sightings of panthers and elephants in the area kept us excited and apprehensive in equal measure; however, we didn’t see either and we were content to watch the  monkeys as they did their daily round of the campus. As it was the weekend when we were there we were taken sightseeing and to do shopping in the city.

Next we visited the Centre for Learning, just under an hour’s drive from Valley School. CFL is a small school on a beautiful campus surrounded by ancient rocks of all sizes. Now, at the time of writing, we are sitting in the grounds of Shibumi school, also near Bangalore, enjoying the late afternoon sunlight and warm breeze before our return home to England and the cold weather.  Tomorrow we take the Shatabdi Express from Bangalore to Chennai and make our way to the airport for our 4am flight. The students are excited about their return to Brockwood Park and will have many stories to share of their Indian adventure.