India trip inspires a new outlook on life at home
It’s 10 in the morning and the elephants in Jaipur, India are on their way home from work.
The streets, which are already crowded with cars, bikes, donkeys and camels, somehow make room for the torrent of heavy footsteps.
Steady traffic continues to flow, in no apparent order, and tourists watch on curiously as around 100 elephants amble by.
It is Matamata businessman Graeme Guilford’s first day in Jaipur and not one that he is likely to forget.
The Paper Plus owner spent four weeks on an intrepid trip through the mountain ranges of Nepal to the cities of India.
Starting in Kathmandu, he went on a 14-day cycle trip through the Himalayas with a group of English and Australian travellers.
‘‘ It was
most amazing experience,’’ said Mr Guilford. ‘‘The scenery was just stunning, absolutely beautiful. We would bike around every corner and there would be a wow.’’
Following the ride, he spent an extra few days in Nepal where he visited a school that his club Matamata Rotary supports.
‘‘We came on a public holiday, so we weren’t sure if anyone was going to show up,’’ said Mr Guilford.
‘‘So we came driving along this bumpy road and about 40 children and all of the teachers were there waiting for us.
‘‘ They all lined up along a wall and as I walked past they placed flowers around my neck.
‘‘ It was quite whelming.’’
Recent Rotary projects at the school meant they now had running water and brand new toilet facilities.
Mr Guilford also gave the children a box full of stationery
over- including pens, pencils, pencil sharpeners, coloured pencils and rulers.
From Nepal, he continued into India where he paired up with a local driver in Dehli for his eight-day trip.
They travelled to the cities of Agra, Radhan- pur and Jaipur, visiting the Taj Majal and the national park.
On their arrival back in Dehli, Mr Guilford was invited to the driver’s house for a cup of tea, which he said was the most eyeopening experience of the trip.
‘‘We go up to the first floor and the entire apartment is about half the size of my office, maybe five- metresquared.
‘‘He was living there with his wife and two kids and that was their whole world.
‘‘It wasn’t until I was sitting there that I really appreciated how people live in countries like India. It really made me rethink a lot of things.’’
On his arrival back in New Zealand, Mr Guilford made a pact with his five daughters that instead of buying each other Christmas gifts at the end of the year, they would each donate money towards a new eye clinic being built outside Kathmandu.
‘‘ We are going to have cataracts for Christmas this year,’’ he said. ‘‘ A cataract operation costs about 20 American dollars so there is an opportunity to help a lot of people.’’
He hopes to get Rotary and the Matamata community involved in the drive.
Intrepid: Matamata’s Graeme Guilford takes an elephant ride to a hilltop palace in Jaipur, India.