Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hospitals, IV Needles and 15 minutes of fame

Friday the 25th March. Apologies to those of you who find this date important for whatever reason. I hate it. It's a stupid, stupid day and I want to forget that it ever happened.

Not every 25th March you understand. I'm sure 25th March 2012 will be extremely pleasant. 2010? Doesn't hold any particular bad memories that come to mind. No, my grievance is with March 25th, 2011.

To be honest, I'm doing the day a bit of a dis-service. The first 15hrs were fine. I got up. I went to work. I went home for lunch. Lovely. I was running an introduction to Excel at 4pm and just getting prepared for that – it was about 3.15pm. All very normal, all very uneventful. No real reason to develop a hatred for a date so far. And then....

Hmmmm, this doesn't feel stomach feels a bit weird. Mental check of food consumed today: bananas, bread and jam, biscuits, more fruit. Nothing out of the ordinary. No street food. No Indian food for over 24hrs in fact.

I find in these situations that your body instinctively knows the seriousness of the state that it's in. Is this an “I can hold on for a couple of hours” or is this an “I need the toilet right now”-type scenario? This was DefCon 3. No way was I lasting to the end of the day, but I also had time to get home and avoid the office toilet (significantly lacking in toilet paper).

So, I made my “trip”, felt a bit better for it, went back to the office and gave the training, before heading home, still not feeling great. The evening consisted of lying in bed, eating nothing, a couple more toilet trips and an early (10pm) night. Just a stomach bug, I'll be fine in the morning. Or so I thought....

I wake up. Shit. (Sorry mum!) Literally. I need the toilet. Now! This is a DefCon 5 type situation. I'm also sweating like I just ran a marathon in a sauna from a fever. I rip the mosquito net off of the bed and charge across my flat (did I mention the toilet being out on the balcony – really useful at a time like this.....).

Having done my business, I stand up (as you do) and then promptly proceed to almost pass out. (Side note – having never actually passed out, I'm guessing here, but I think when your eyes go completely black, you become dizzy and light-headed and you need to hold onto the toilet door to avoid your landlady finding you 12hrs later collapsed, lying naked with your head in a squat toilet, it's probably a safe assumption on my part....).

Those of you who read my Nepal “trip” know that I can handle a dodgy stomach. Passing out on my balcony with a raging fever is something new. I decide I need some help so I phone one of my colleagues. Two of them turn up at my flat and take me to hospital.
See - Not joking!

I say hospital – Zadar Hospital is really a doctor's surgery with some wards. There isn't any of the equipment we'd associate with a hospital in the UK. The doctor was great though, very understanding and diagnosed gastroenteritis. I got put in a ward (basically just a big room with 20-odd beds) and hooked up to an IV. I vaguely remember being given an injection in my bum as well. Nice.

I'm in and out of consciousness for the next 6hrs or so. When I finally wake I feel quite a bit better. For about 30 seconds. Then DefCon 4 presents itself. Except no-one seems to know where the toilet is in the hospital. And I'm hooked up to an IV. And the DefCon level is only going in one direction. This isn't good....

After a couple of minutes I finally get directions to the toilet. I grab the IV stand and set off like Linford Christie out of the blocks (sans lunchbox, obviously, the guy's a freak of nature). Of course, this being India and me, it's never going to be simple....

I find the toilets, In my right hand I have an IV stand. The toilet door isn't high enough to get it through straight and then there are steps up to a squat-toilet in a room whose size indicates it was presumably designed either for midgets or children. Imagine trying to navigate all of these obstacles while the impending pant-disaster ratchets up to DefCon 6.

[Further details removed in post-editing to prevent the two remaining readers from shutting down and needing treatment for post-traumatic stress...]

A few hours later, maybe 11am, I'm feeling quite a lot better. By which I mean I can sit up in bed without fainting or having a George Michael-esque desire to visit a toilet. That's about the point I notice the video camera...

My bed is at one end of the room, directly in line with one of the entrances. Through that doorway, out in the main corridor, is a man with a handheld video camera, just like you'd take on holiday, pointing it at me. Great, I'm thinking, some guy came in to video his wife giving birth and thought he'd grab some video of the sick white boy while he was here.

As “the only white boy in the village” this is the kind of attention you get used to. I just turn away and go back to reading my book. Two minutes I look up again. This was when I began to get the suspicion that something else was going on...

I'm pretty observant most of the time. I spot things. I pay attention. So, it didn't take me long to work out that 7 or 8 guys armed with video cameras, SLRs, notepads, tape recorders and microphones asking questions of my colleagues were journalists. It was probably actually about 3.5 seconds after they shoved three of the said tape recorders (complete with fluffy microphone thingy) in my face, pointed all the cameras at me and started asking how I felt. Like I said, I pick up on these things.

Anyway, the “interview” was only a couple of questions. Then they made me have my photo taken. Apparently I was looking too well at this point, so they asked me to lie back down. Sitting up does not equal news in Hazaribag, obviously.

At 2pm, after finishing the third (that I'm aware of) IV, I was told I was being discharged. I felt better, not 100%, not even near it, but better. I was happy to be going home. However, I still had the IV needle in my arm. I asked when it was being taken out.

“No, they leave that in”

Um, what now?!!? When I asked for further details, I was told they were leaving it in in case I needed to come back in. This confused me:

  1. If there's a big enough chance I am coming back in that they can't even be bothered to remove an IV needle, why are they discharging me?
  2. If I come back in, why am I going to be in a state where the (roughly) 10 seconds it takes to insert an IV needle is going to make a significant difference?
  3. Nothing happens fast in India. If 10 seconds is going to make a difference to my health, I'm screwed.
  4. Points 2 and 3 seems to make point 1 even more important....

I will also say that the above scared me. For future reference, scaring people who have shown a recent propensity to move to DefCon 6 on the pant destruction scale is not a recommended action.

"Just in case" - what??????

Anyway, I wasn't really in a state to argue, so home I went, needle in arm. It was around 2pm and had been one of the worst 24hrs of my life (which shows I've been pretty lucky in my life so far I think). Thankfully, since then I've recovered pretty much 100%. I'm heading to Delhi for some VSO work and I'll see the VSO doctor while I'm there to get everything cleared up completely and hopefully move back to DefCon 1 for the foreseeable future.

This weekend I'm visiting a Tiger Reserve, so here's hoping for a post featuring less bodily functions (although if we get attacked I fully reserve the right to wet myself – I'm no hero!)

Stay solid (as a good friend would say)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Holi – Part 2 (The Fluffy Bunnies and Face Painting version)

If you skipped “Holi - Part 1 (X Rated!)” - here's a quick recap.

This weekend was the festival of Holi. Holi is the Hindi equivalent of Easter – it is a resurrection story. To be honest though, from what I've seen the reasons for the festival have kind of been lost in what it has turned into (much like Easter and Christmas in much of the UK) – it is the festival of colour. We'd been on a day trip to SE Jharkhand and gone to a temple.

It's now mid-afternoon and we're back in the car, en route to Satinder's parent's house. When we arrive we walk through into a really nice big courtyard. We sit down and they bring out a plate of Indian finger food. Bhajis are probably the only ones most UK people would recognise, but we also had Pakora, Duska and a load of other things I can't remember! We also all had a beer, apparently this is a big tradition on Holi. Well, I'm not one to deny tradition, am I? ;-)

We sat talking for a while, then someone brought out some plates of coloured powder – Holi time!

Playing Holi is very simple. You take a handful of coloured powder (smells like talc!) and rub it all into a person's face. Done! At first people were drawing lines on faces, etc. but it slowly descended into simply smothering the other person with the stuff :-) No-one was safe, not even the fairly serious looking mother and father of the house!

By this time it's getting a bit dark, probably coming up for 6pm and people are starting to talk about heading back to H.bag as we need to visit Rajesh's house too apparently. However, first we have another visit to make. One of Satinder's brothers has recently been given a grant to open a piggery. Apparently it's very important that we see this, so off we go, down dirt roads and fields, until eventually we pull up outside of a small building.

We go inside the courtyard and for some reason they get the pigs out of the pens. I'm never really sure what to do in these situations. I have no idea about pigs, I have no real interest in piggery. There's only so much you can say in these situations.....awkward!

Back into the car, but now another of Satinder's friends wants us to go to his house. I'm guessing it's rude to say no, because even though we've been told we need to get going for the last hour, off we go again. Another house, more finger food, more beer. Then another house, same deal. And another. And another! I'm not joking – we visited 6 houses in total I think, and were served beer and little fried snacks in all of them!

Finally we seem to be about to leave and while we were waiting I saw a group of people shouting and banging on drums so I went to investigate. They were next to a small outdoor shrine. There was a mixture of percussion instruments. There was no discernible beat / rhythm to their playing, but they seemed happy enough.....

….until they saw me watching – then they got really excited. Next thing I know, I've got a kind of tambourine (imagine if you could flatten a tambourine out – so basically a long stick with mini-cymbals in it) in one hand and I'm dancing in the middle of this group as they smack their drums in what I firmly believe was a completely random manner!

Cue more Holi powder. Yet another beer and snacks. Another bout of dancing and drumming and finally we get in the car and set off. It's now 10pm and we have been talking about needing to leave for four hours! We finally reach Rajesh's place, where we get given....yep, more beer and snacks! I'm pretty knackered now, to be honest!

Eventually we get back to Hazaribag, but the fun hasn't finished yet. After dropping Rajesh and Efren off, I get dropped near to my flat, which I find to be locked – again! It's locked from the inside, but after 10mins of banging on the door I have to admit defeat – no-one is opening it! I have to walk all the way back to Efren's and sleep there – doh!

Next morning, we sit around chatting for a bit, until about 9am and then set out. Efren wants to get me to try some “Bell juice”, which he's been going on about enthusiastically for the last couple of days.

A bit of an aside here. I was a bit worried about Holi in terms of ruining my clothes. But powder comes off easily, so I put a different t-shirt on this morning – not my “ruinable” one.

We start off up Efren's road. There are some kids up ahead. One of them has a water pistol. An alarm starts going off in my head. I edge slightly away from Efren.....

Yep, good move. The kid knows Efren and shoots him. With paint. On his nice white t-shirt! I'm beginning to think this might not be a good day to venture outside! We carry on no more than 10 yards up the road. Up ahead are two slightly older boys. Maybe 13. They're holding what look like tennis balls.....

….and turn out to be paint bombs! We both get caked in paint. My shorts are covered. Efren is even worse! I'm now fairly sure I'm going to get massacred by the kids outside my flat. They're always there, they love trying to talk to me in English, they'll love caking me in paint even more....

….they did. They throw paint, they spray it, they shoot it. They're an inventive lot. If there is something that could be used to propel paint, they've got it. Below is what I looked like when I finally got into my flat. I should have taken some of my back really, that took most of the punishment!

So there you have it. Holi. A pretty bizarre weekend, even by India's standards, I'm sure you'll agree!

Holi - Part 1 (X Rated!)

Ok, this is a serious disclaimer. If you class yourself as any of the following, you may not want to read this post:
  • Vegetarian
  • Animal lover
  • Squemish
This is a serious warning, some of the stuff in this post is not for the faint of have been warned! (you can go straight to the next one - Holi part 2 - Fluffy Bunnies and face painting if you want to)

So, this weekend was the festival of Holi. Holi is the Hindi equivalent of Easter – it is a resurrection story. To be honest though, from what I've seen the reasons for the festival have kind of been lost in what it has turned into (much like Easter and Christmas in much of the UK) – it is the festival of colour.

I was invited by Efren (the other volunteer in Hazaribag) to join him and his colleagues on a day trip on Saturday. I headed to his house around 8am where we were collected in the 4x4 hired for the day. I had no idea where we were going or what the plan was. I was a bit nervous about the whole “colours” bit, so I was wearing clothes I though I could afford to get caked in paint!

The journey was a fairly long one (2hrs) mainly due to a big jam at a bridge. Indian driving is erratic at speed, but just stupid in jams. Rather than letting people through to allow traffic to flow, everyone edges as far forward as they possibly can and then honks their horn to tell the person in front to move! Eventually you inevitably reach a stalemate and then everyone sits there honking horns until some people get out of their vehicles and do a sort of traffic cop impression!

Anyway, we eventually pulled up in this area with lots of touristy shops and stalls. We got out and wondered down past a load more stalls until we reached one by a river. There we had to take our shoes off and wash our feet and hands in the river. This amused me because in the 5m back to my shoes my feet were now dirtier than they had been in the first place, but hey ho!

At this point, Efren's colleagues bought some baskets of offerings for the temple. We each had to hold one of these baskets, with coconuts, sweets, flower necklaces, etc. in them. Then we set off through the stalls again to the temple.

The temple was at the top of a small flight of steps. We walked through a small gate into a courtyard and heard some commotion off to the left. As I turned I saw a goat being used in what looked like a tug of war between two men. One had hold of it's head. The other had it's front legs pulled back in one hand and it's hind legs in another hand. It was stretched out almost perfectly horizontal, resting on a block of concrete or something. Standing behind the goat was a man with a machete.
***CHOP****!!!! Off went the head, blood everywhere! We had to head on into the temple, but I wanted to see more of this!

The temple was bizarre. We queued for about 15mins, then finally got to go inside. It was about 2m square. There were three or four priests (? - possibly not the right word?) and one of them started chanting for our group and taking various bits and pieces out of our baskets. We threw the flower necklace onto a statue and then gave the priest Rs10 each and then left!

Back in the courtyard I wanted to go see the goats again, but first we had to go to the other side where we had to smash the coconut on a stone and then pour the juice onto a statue. Finally, we went back to the goats. Unfortunately all of the sacrifices were done for the day, so no pics :-( The goat body was still lying around though, and there was a woman just walking around with the head of the goat in her hand, like it was a loaf of bread and she was in Tesco!

Then, something I really wasn't expecting happened – one of Efren's colleagues bought one of the goat's heads! Next thing I know, we're walking out of the temple and following goat-man down to the river. There are rocks and platforms everywhere and he makes his way into the middle of the river. Then he takes out a razor and starts shaving the goat!

After watching this for a couple of minutes, I decided to look around. That's when I noticed that there were lots of people cutting up goats in this river. Some were emptying stomachs of all the grass in them, cleaning intestines, slicing up meat, hacking up legs. It was quite a scene!

I spent a bit of time taking pics, then trying to take some of the hawks (?) circling above. Unfortunately, it was pretty windy, which meant they were not exactly staying still. Managed to get a couple of good ones though.

Back to our man. He's chopped up the head pretty good now. They bag it all up and off we go, back to where we washed our feet originally. Here they give the meat to the owner of this stall, who is going to cook it for our lunch! He has some open fires and they discuss which spices etc. we're going to have.

In the meantime, we visit a couple of the other temples in the area. They aren't anything special to be honest. In fact, none of the temples are. The only thing special about the place that I can tell is the goats! Luckily (maybe) at one of the temples, we happen upon another goat sacrifice, so I actually manage to get some photos. Just missed the actual moment of cutting though – sorry all you gore fans!

Eventually we head back to have our lunch. Mutton curry. It was pretty good actually. Interestingly, they leave the skin on (hence the shaving earlier), which is pretty chewy. Not sure I'd go out of my way to have it again, but it was ok.

To see all the other pics - check out the Flickr stream

After lunch it was back into the car and off we went. You can read about the rest of the day in “Holi – Part 2 (The Fluffy Bunnies and Face Painting version)”

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Where are you going?

Don't worry - this isn't one of my deep rambling posts that descend into some sort of discussion on existentialism (had to check spelling on that one - right first time, phew!). No, I'd like to describe one of the more bizarre behaviours I've seen out here in India....

Imagine the scene: you're walking along, minding your own business, down the road. Coming from the opposite direction is a moped or motorbike. This isn't unusual - you're in India after all. It's got somewhere between two and ninety-seven (roughly) people crammed onto it. Again, not unusual. You don't know a single person on the fact, it's so completely regular that you've hardly even noticed it.

"Where are you going?"

You hear someone shout. It's in English, which means it's probably aimed at you. You look up, in the direction of the shout. Except there's no-one there. Not any more anyway. That's the funny thing about motorbikes, they tend to not defy the law of physics and stop the instant they pass an Englishman. Generally, most people agree this is not a design flaw.

Which makes me wonder - why do so many people yell this question at me as they drive past at speeds of 20mph or more....?

Firstly, I have absolutely no chance of answering in time. I should point out that the shout never happens before they get to me. It's always as they pass me. So you have to add in my time to hear the shout, realise it's aimed at me, look around, turn behind me and see the bike. It's now 10-15 metres at least down the road. Shouting "The office", or "Home" at a random stranger on a bike as it drives away from me isn't currently one of my past-times in India (you can see my actual list of past-times here).

Secondly, do they really care? I mean really? No-one ever turns around to come back and get the answer. Which makes me wonder if they ever really wanted the answer in the first place.... Frankly I'm beginning to wonder if all they teach people in English classes in India is "Where are you going?", which, let's face it, is going to have limited use in most everyday situations. If that's the case, then I can kind of understand people's excitement at having a valid opportunity to use it.

I'd love to be able to tell you that this frankly bizarre behaviour is limited to people on bikes. Potentially indicating a lack of blood-flow to the brain from excessively tight helmets. This theory would obviously fall down due to the lack of said helmets, but regardless. It is obviously wrong as people ask me on foot as well. What's more - they ask me when it is perfectly obvious where I'm going!!!

If you bumped into me at home on my road, with some groceries in a bag, roughly 10 metres from my house, walking in the direction of my house, I'm pretty sure your thought process would be fairly similar to the following:

"I wonder where Tim is going, maybe I should ask him"
"Whoa there, let's not rush - see if we can work it out first...."
"Ok, well he's got some groceries in his bag"
"Hmmmm.....probably been to the shops"
"And he's roughly 10m from his house"
"Likely to be either coming or going, at a guess"
"Well he's walking towards it"
"Maybe, and I'm just putting it out there, he's been to the shops and is taking his groceries home?"
"Excellent Holmes, you're a genius!"
"Elementary dear Watson....."

I guess Arthur Conan Doyle just isn't that big in India.....

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What's a Volunteer (Meant) To Do?

So what am I actually doing in India?

It's been pointed out to me that I've not actually spoken much about what work it is that I'm doing out here, so I'm going to try and give a bit of an overview of my role at Srijan Foundation....

The company itself is still very young. 10 years old this year, it was started by a group of friends who used to work for other social development agencies (UNICEF, etc). The structure is pretty simple – there is a small (2/3 people) management team, then project managers who are responsible for the projects in the various areas of Jharkhand in which Srijan operate. These PM's work with the local field workers to implement the projects.

My official title is “MIS Officer” and my role was to help Srijan to set-up an MIS system. For those of you not in the Consultancy industry, I guess I'd better give a quick overview of MIS now ;-)

MIS (Management Information Systems) basically means using data to help you make better decisions. For example, stock control systems help you to make better purchasing decisions, finance systems enable better budgeting, etc. Generally we use computers to do these tasks as they can automatically crunch the numbers much faster. In bigger companies, MIS has evolved to mean linking all of these systems together to help get an even clearer picture of the organisation – stock is linked to sales data, to the finances, etc.

Which is all great, but what does that mean for my placement? To be honest, a whole lot of nothing! Srijan are just not in a position to make much use of this stuff at the moment. Their processes are just not in place to be able to do this – forgetting running before you can walk, this is trying to do an ultra-marathon before you're out of nappies...

So my focus has shifted. I'm working on basic project management principles, trying to add some rigour and strategy to the organisation (I just realised how badly I sound like a consultant! Apologies....). For example, we now have a project register – it lists all of the current projects and potential new projects. Sounds obvious, right? Sounds not particularly useful? Well, when you've identified over 15 potential new projects and don't have any plan for approaching them, it helps to have it written down and in one place! We've now identified the top three of these projects and will develop proposals for them over the coming weeks. It will hopefully stop the "scatter-gun" approach they've tended to take in the past and give a bit of focus!

Communications is a major problem for Srijan too. They may be based in Hazaribag, but the vast majority of the work happens in the field offices, which are all over the state of Jharkhand. They didn't have email, so all of the communications took place during field visits and by phone calls. Need a copy of a document? You had to wait for a physical meeting. Even better, the management team were all using the same email addresses! They had individual emails, but also three or four “Srijan” emails, which they all had the passwords for. Chaos ensued!

Now we have our own domain – There's a website, very basic, at, and we're giving all of the PM's their own emails. This should make sharing information much easier. There's also an internal website, private to Srijan employees, where we are starting to store all of the important documents, so everyone can access them, wherever they are.

I've also been working on Strategy documents. Some of this is just documentation – getting the HR Policy actually into one document and making it available to everyone for example. I've written a Project Management, MIS and Procurement documents too.

IT skills in general is not a strong point among the employees. Basic MS Word and Excel skills are missing, so I've developed a short course to try and get everyone to a basic level. It's hard going as my Hindi is poor and their English isn't always much better!

Finally, my spoken and written English is a big bonus to Srijan. I spend a fair amount of time re-writing letters, emails and other documents. The Management team's English is very good, but there are sometimes some amusing typos that need correcting and minor changes to grammar. It's really just the benefits of having a native speaker able to check the documents!

So that kind of covers it all. Over the coming months (less than 9 left!), I'll be trying to strengthen the skills of their PM's – getting them to do more planning / scheduling, regular reporting, etc. and to start using previous project data to produce stronger budgets. We're also working on a more structured approach to proposals, so they don't have to start from scratch each time.

The really great thing about all of this is how receptive the organisation are to my ideas. They are really keen to take all my thoughts on board and I don't have to fight to convince them of anything (so far!). I'm very lucky in that respect, as I know other volunteers often meet a lot of resistance to their proposals.

It's definitely a challenge – I'm used to trying to improve Project Management practices, but not used to working at such a basic level! For example, at the moment I'm just trying to get people to say what they will be working on at the start of each week....planning isn't exactly top priority here! The thing is, when you're out in the field, seeing the impact that they make in people's lives, it really drives it home why I'm here. If I can help them save 1% on their budgets, or speed up their reporting so they have more time in the field, that directly impacts on people's lives....and that can only be a good thing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Jharkhand Games

So unbelievably I've been in India now for over 3 months - I'm a quarter of the way through. In some people this would probably result in some boring naval gazing blog post. But not me - I've got sport on my mind!

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been a sporting event in India – The 34th National Games – which has been held in my state, Jharkhand. Now, if there's one thing I love, it's sport, so I was keen to take the opportunity to go and see one of the events. We'd originally intended to go as a bit of a group from work, but that didn't work out, so I ended up getting a day off work to go – nice!

Anyway, the majority of the events were in Ranchi, so I got up fairly early for a run to get in the mood and then jumped on a bus for the 3hr journey. I got to Ranchi around 11, then proceeded to have a bit of trouble finding the stadium.

Now, I realise most people's knowledge of Ranchi won't be great, so I'll try and explain this. The day before I was online and I went to the site of the games. It mentioned the “Mega Sports Complex” but nothing beyond that. No location or anything. So I went on Google Maps and searched for that. Nothing. I asked the guys I work with – they hadn't heard of it....hmmmm.

Now, on the way into Ranchi, on the outskirts is a huge stadium. That's not on Google either, but I know it's there. But the events that are still on (wrestling, handball, table tennis) aren't going to be in a huge stadium, so I figure it must be somewhere else. I decide to ride the bus all the way into central Ranchi and ask. It can't be that difficult, right? has heard of this Mega Sports Complex. People look at me blankly. They put me on auto-rickshaws that tell me I have to get off in places that are quite obviously not a stadium. Eventually I decide to head back to the main stadium on the outskirts – at least I know where that is! So I get on another rickshaw....which then stops way before it and tells me this is where I need to be! I look out, there's two stadiums in front of me – nice!

But, it's never quite that easy is it? I'm not actually at the entrance. I'm round the back of the stadiums. Although there's quite a lot of people trying to get in that way anyway, climbing walls etc. Now normally I'm all for that kind of thing, but I have actually got to do some work this weekend, so I've got a laptop and my camera in my bag – scaling walls isn't really a good idea!

So I walk the long way round. I walk past an athletics stadium that no-one is going into and walk over to a much smaller venue (think Wimbledon Court 2 size) which is heaving. Kind of. There are people all around it. There are people perched at the top of the walls, climbing the walls, hanging off the walls.....yet I can see the far stand has loads of empty seats. Maybe the people hanging around don't want to pay for seats – maybe I can buy one.....?

I can see from the murals on the walls it's the hockey stadium. Now, you might think cricket is the national sport of India. You're wrong. It's hockey. Cricket in India is like cricket in England. Played by the minority. Hockey is like football. It's huge!

As I get closer there is a big gate with people crowding round it and armed guards stopping people getting in. It's not jammed though, so I decide to try my luck. I walk up to a guard and ask if I can go in – he just waves me through....result! So I walk up to the main steps. Uh I'm being asked for my pass, which obviously I don't have. I say I don't have one. They ask if I'm an “Important Person”? Not really, unless you ask my mum I guess?

They decide they need to check my bag, so now I'm trying to explain why I have a laptop, a camera with a telephoto lens and some spare pants, socks and t-shirts with me to watch a game of hockey. They seem to think I must be a professional photographer (I wish!). Anyway, they won't let me in at first, no-one seems quite sure what to do....they ask me to sit for a bit next to this army guy, who was very pleasant.

Then some senior army man turns up. His English is excellent and on his way in he has a brief chat with me. I explain why I'm in India and he turns to the people I've been talking to so far and tells them I should be let in and found a seat!

So 5minutes later I'm sat in the VIP area of the stadium, to watch Jharkhand ladies in the final of the hockey :-) People have apparently been queuing since 6am to get in (tickets are free – they don't put them on the web as that would be elitist) and I just turn up and walk in! For once, being white is an advantage!

Unfortunately Jharkhand lose the game 3-1. They actually go 2-0 down after only 3 minutes, which kind of put a dampener on the whole thing, but it was an amazing experience. The crowd were bonkers – everytime Jharkhand got into the opposition half they just went crazy!

I was a bit nervous about using the camera in the end. No-one else seemed to be using cameras and when I asked if I was allowed the answer wasn't as confident as I'd have hoped! So I left it until half-time before taking any (after all this I didn't need to get chucked out 5mins into the game!). Hopefully you can get some sort of idea of the way people were literally climbing over the walls to get in!

On another sporting note – I hope everyone enjoyed the England-India game in the cricket world cup? I take full responsibility for that being as good a game as it was. I left Ranchi at 11am to try and get back to H.bag for the 2.30 start. At 5.30 I finally walked through my front door, shattered from a terrible journey, so I decided not to bother heading out to try and find somewhere to watch the game (pubs don't exist here, you have to find a restaurant with the game on!). Had I stayed in Ranchi and watched there, I guarantee England would have collapsed to 170 all 

For those of you who are interested.....there are a few more pics on my Flickr stream from the games, along with some pictures from a field trip to Gumla and a couple of a Puja festival with the kids of my landlords