Tag Archives: death

Trafficking, tourism, and death penalties


A brief update on the week for you.

Last Friday saw me attending a workshop on the prevention of trafficking, at the Indian Social Institute in Bangalore. It was good to learn a bit more about trafficking in general, and it highlighted lots of things I never knew. Karnataka it turns out is the second highest source region for trafficking in India, and a lot of girls are tricked away from Bangalore itself, at one of the major bus stations. Most shockingly, I learnt that the vast, vast majority of street beggars, especially those under the age of 12, have been trafficked (often from the other end of the country), and forced to beg under a person who holds them captive under threat or sedative drugs. More information on the institute can be found here.

Following this, I went to my first Hindi lesson the next day, where the domineering but very efficient teacher gave me a crash course in the alphabet and naming body parts. Classic beginner’s first lesson! Having spent the last week completing the homework she set me, I’m a little nervous for tomorrow’s second installment  I’d like to learn the second half of the alphabet though, so I can’t really find an excuse to run away!

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Jama Masjid

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Gateway at the fort

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Hanuman statue at a temple










Sunday became an unashamedly touristy day. I made a beeline for the Sri Kanteerava Stadium near Cubbon Park, where I eventually found what I was looking for after spending half an hour walking around the entire thing. The climbing wall was a stand-alone, outdoor facility with three sides – maybe 15 feet tall. It was totally abandoned though, and I didn’t have any ropes or quickdraws with which to climb, so I set to some low-level bouldering. My pumps were poorly suited to it however, and I soon had to give up, meaning to return for their climbing league in the near future.

Next on the list was a visit to the Jama Masjid about two kilometres southwest, where, after eventually finding the right entrance, unknowingly parked myself right where the 1’o’clock prayers would commence. Stupid, uncultured westerner. I even tried to be sensitive beforehand by finding my way up to the women’s quarters, but the room was filled with women crashed out asleep in the dark. After the Imam very gently directed me to shift my bum to a more suitable location, I made my way out to the nearby KR Market for some retail therapy.

It was a huge, stinking place, but full of activity and traders calling out. Between the cowpats and mud streaked by tyre treads, everything from shabji to sarees to books was on sale. Finding myself drawn to a fixed-price pile of saris on the pavement, I became part of a horde of women vying to get the best piece. In the end I settled for a dark green cotton blend sari, strangely embroidered in places with a baby’s face, and a second in red and gold satin sheen. Very pleased with my bargain purchases at 200 rupees each, I trotted off up the street, only to walk past several more stalls and shops selling the very same for only 150!

I carried on to Bangalore’s fort, Tipu Sultan’s Palace, the Bull Temple and Dodda Ganesha Temple. By the time I was finished, the opening night of the art exhibition in which my work was being displayed was about to begin.

There I met Emma, as the inauguration began. Various members of the small gathering added their taper to the large diya stood in the room’s centre, before a few individuals said some words about the One Billion Rising movement. Then we all had chai – obviously the most important part of the evening! I found my own painting in a corner, and was astounded at the price the gallery had placed on it. Prices on different canvases there ranged from 5000/- to 18,000/-. My own picture was up for 8000/-! Even in pound sterling that rounds to £100! And it’s not a painting I’m particularly proud of, given that I had only a few hours to produce it. Does this mean I can officially call myself an artist now?

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My painting on the theme of One Billion Rising

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Astounded by the price tag!

I didn’t think the week could get more exciting, but Mathews asked me on Tuesday morning to draft an emergency memorandum on the need to abolish the death penalty. Four men had been sentenced to death the day before, and SICHREM was desperately trying to halt the hangings.

He called me and Chithra – a hilarious, bossy and exceedingly kind lady – to the court where most of SICHREM’s staff were that day. They had been arrested for protesting in January on a different issue, and whilst the hearing continued Mathews finalised the document with me. It became a petition, which various individuals and civil society members signed at a protest later that day, and was given to the governor of Bangalore.

I’m pleased to say that the whole process had the desired result, staying the men’s deaths by six weeks. Some semblance of democracy has been restored in Bangalore, and SICHREM has been doing its job excellently once again! I feel proud to be part of this organisation.




Well the date is nearly here, and I keep swinging between extreme excitement and not wanting to go at all. I know that will pass once I get there though.

I’m all packed (my poor suitcase was pleading with me not to stuff anything else in), and I only have to pick my visa up tomorrow. Last minute I know, but I had to go home for Christmas, and the visa office is in central London. I’m very certain it’ll be fine though, so I only have to collect it. *fingers crossed*

I went on a final shopping trip for drug supplies – read plenty of diarrhoea tablets and suncream – and thought I better try on the shalwar kameez suits I had had made during my last trip to India before packing them. Turns out this was a wise move, as I am no longer tiny, meaning 2 of my outfits would have just been for decoration!

I started reading the British government’s travel advice pages earlier today as well, which made me a little more nervous than I really needed to be:

Around 700,000 British nationals visit India every year. Between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012, 322 British nationals required consular assistance for the following types of incidents: 107 deaths; 67 hospitalisations; and 39 arrests for a variety of offences.

And also:

There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India. Terrorists have targeted places in the past which westerners are known to visit including public places such as restaurants, hotels, railway stations, markets, places of worship and sporting venues.

Now that is something which I already knew, but it’s a little disconcerting when they give you all of the graphic statistics. The site then goes on to mention specific areas, which for South India focuses thus:

Female travellers should observe and respect local dress and customs. There has been a series of high-profile incidents in Goa of alleged rape against foreign nationals, including Britons. See our Rape and sexual assault abroad and Your trip pages.

Oh yay. Still, the advice on what to do if caught in a tropical storm or earthquake was quite helpful. At least I can feel prepared in the face of a natural disaster, even if I am in danger of mugging/sexual assault/violent political protests/bombings at all other times.

It makes me smile though – I’d really like to read other country’s perspectives on the British threats to foreign travellers. As far as I’m concerned, India is a safe country if you’re streetwise and sensible about where and how you travel around. No less dangerous than a night out in Nottingham. And to be honest, they’re far more polite about it in India.

So despite this little bit of scaremongering, I’m feeling very geared up to go, which I always take as a good sign. I just want the day of my flight to be here. I’m killing time learning how to use my camera before I go, as I’ve never actually looked at the manual, and always find it frustrating to be in the perfect set-up for a good photograph only to be foiled by my ignorance of what the aperture button does. Here’s to a day of learning!

Fear of Falling


Today was the day of my dreaded ordeal – the bungee jump!

After several problems in trying to reach Bray Lake via public transport, and having to be rescued by my friend with a car, we arrived to see a huge crane where people were already jumping off. There were queues of people who had jumped/were waiting to jump/watching people jump, so there was quite a good atmosphere building.

In the run-up this week I’d been getting so nervous, and my rising trepidation didn’t ease as I walked toward the crane. However, after seeing several others jump, and gradually losing the feeling in more and more of my cold toes (we had to take our shoes off), I just wanted to get it over with. I was almost slightly excited as I was helped into my waist and ankle harnesses, and stepped into the crane basket.

When we rose up to the top though I looked down and started to become afraid. The guy up there with me opened the gate of the basket and told me to step toward the edge. I tried to step back and began to realise I might not be able to go through with it. He was having none of it though, and made me cross my arms over my chest before tipping me out into the open air below before I even knew it was happening.

I think I probably screamed the whole way down, with my eyes screwed tight shut. I don’t think you realise quite how fast the ground comes toward you when there’s nothing but air in front of you. It’s one thing to enjoy free-fall at Thorpe Park when you’re strapped into a chair, but incomparable to the absolute fear of dropping with no rope beneath you, and no cushion of hydraulics. Once the rope caught me, it was actually quite enjoyable, but I don’t think I’ll ever be doing it again. One experience is enough!

Here are some photos from before and after my jump, and a very short video taken just before the camera batteries ran out.




See the video here.

Please, please, please, don’t let me have become mentally scarred for no reason – if you have yet to sponsor me, go to donatetoabigail.blogspot.co.uk. Everything that is fund-raised goes toward helping cover accommodation and visa costs for the duration of my stay. This volunteer placement is entirely self-funded, and I need your help in order to carry out vital research for the fantastic charity SICHREM.

Thank you for all your help, and I hope you enjoyed witnessing my pain!