I’m sitting on the veranda of one of the bungalows at Joe Homan’s place up in the Western Ghats which is fairly close to Kodikanal. Kodikanal is a hill station where people come to escape the searing heat and dust of the southern plains, it was originally developed during the British Raj and we will be visiting later. We left Dindigul, dry and 38 c., drove across the plains, visited another boys residence and then further up into the mountains. It has been raining since midday yesterday and the temperature is a very temperate 20/22 c. I’m actually chilly – my clothes are geared for much higher temperatures and much lower humidity. I slept under a duvet last night! The vegetation is thick, verdant and varied. The gardens, a riot of pepper vines climbing up every tree and post – they produce over three thousand pounds of peppercorns every year – and fantastical flowers festooned with hundreds of silvery blue butterflies. The wildlife is equally interesting, I have a small gang of common babblers at the foot of the steps – a kind of long legged greyish robin – but they act rather more like a bunch of teenaged boys. They actually squabble, knock each other over, jump up and down and generally make a fearful racket – kinda cute though – just like teenagers! There is a bull gaur calling sweetly to his girls – more like a hoarse bellow which echoes down the valley – haven’t seen him but maybe later….
As the day awakens, this bucolic scene is increasingly punctured by the tootling horns of the traffic building up on the only road which traverses the top of this little valley. The road is narrow and the horns are very necessary on these twisty hairpin turns but drivers here say “in order to drive in India, you have to have good brakes, good luck and a good horn!” One honks for intersections, pedestrians, passing, pot holes, miss-placed enthusiasm & exuberance, animals, bikes and bicycles, tuk tuks, dogs and chickens and oh I suppose, just about anything else that takes your fancy!
I have to tell you a bit about Joe Homan – he is a giant of a man, tallish in truth, with full white hair and age is whittling him down but a giant in his accomplishments in life. The charity he founded is getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary! Unfortunately his doctor has advised against him travelling back to the UK for the celebrations, so I sat with him this morning and video tapped about half an hour of his stories, recollections and hopes for the future. That will be edited (but certainly NOT by me) into a short presentation to be shown at the AGM, parties and fund raising events in August.
He came to India as part of a church initiative but after a few years broke with them partly because he was unhappy with the way the finances were being managed and partly because he felt that the help he could give should not be predicated on conversion to Christianity. In my books that was a highly enlightened stance to take, especially in the mid-sixties!
He started with 5 boys he found living unattended at the local train station and over the years has built many Boys and Girls Towns, developed farming programs, reforestation planting – over 1 million trees were planted by his kids – higher education plans, apprenticeship certifications, environmental education systems and a phenomenal sponsorship arrangement which has seen literally thousands of children benefit from his assistance. The proof in the pudding in my estimation is how many of those kids have come back to the Charity in their adult lives to give back or perhaps pay forward the leg up they were given when they needed it most.
His energy and dedication is awe inspiring and very, very humbling. The little I or any other volunteer contributes is absolutely minuscule by comparison. Have a look if you like……