January 11th, 2017
Jaipur & Barefoot College
It is colder in Jaipur, further north in Rajasthan. The marble floors in our hotel suck the heat from my feet as I stumble to the bathroom in the morning. Layers of fleece keep me warm in the shade, but are shed when we step into the light that falls warmly to the ground outside.
Our hotel is breathtaking. Hand paintings cover the walls and ceiling; it is hard to feel worthy of such beauty.
Jaipur, the Pink City, is equally stunning. Though our time here is short, it is quickly apparent that it isn’t much at all like Udaipur; the two cities breath differently. The walls and buildings of the old city are dull browns, oranges, pinks and reds, with white details lining the arches and intricate screens of the windows. The streets are wider and busier, without sewage running alongside.
Outside of Jaipur (2 hours on a bus that shakes at every joint), lies Barefoot College.
Barefoot College is on a small, clean campus with columns of pictures along the walkways: young children at school, the Dalai Lama visiting over dinner, elderly women cleaning patients’ teeth and lots of puppet shows.
Barefoot College believes everyone has knowledge, skills and wisdom. With this belief, they have created an amazing community.
Barefoot College holds night school for rural children who are responsible for their families’ animals during the day (they also train the teachers who teach at the school). They train illiterate women as dentists and solar engineers. They have doctors and health services for families on the campus. They maintain an heirloom tree nursery, and make reusable sanitary napkins.
The campus is full of humanity, in a way that my words simply fail to describe.
Perhaps the most amazing part of Barefoot College is the puppets. Yes, the puppets.
Barefoot College has a variety of puppets. There are traditional puppets with strings, to paper mâché and plastic bottle puppets that require three fingers to operate. There are small puppets, life size puppets, and giant puppets that require ladders to bring to life.
These puppets travel to villages in Rajasthan to educate communities through storytelling.
Puppets and story telling are a huge part of Indian culture, and can be understood regardless of literacy level; in this way, crucial information is available to all, and not manipulated or hoarded by those with a formal education. Often, the puppets are satirically made from the papers of the World Bank report, taking knowledge available to a select few and redistributing to the people whom it effects the most.
The puppets teach about health, the environment, and combat the prejudice of the caste system.
The puppets also cover history and current events with Gandhi, Obama and Einstein puppets.
They use local characters, too: village men and academics.
Everyone has knowledge, skills, and wisdom.