our first workshops
February 2006

We travelled north from Trivandrum and ran our first workshops in Thodupuzha - our base for most of a month.

The first AVP Basic workshop took place at a college called Al Azhar, with a lovely group of students.
I could see the workshops I ran in South Africa in a completely different context.

exploring communication and co-operation

We stayed at the impressively grotty Public Works Department Resthouse.

This didn't have bins, so visiting Civil Servants threw their rubbish out of the windows. Somewhat depressing, given what the Public Works Department is meant to do! However, the Resthouse did provide a constant stream of fantastic old Hindustan Motors Ambassadors (based on the Morris Oxford Series III).

The jury is still out on whether the continuing sale of this 1940's vehicle is a damning indictment on Indian protectionism (see a comparison between HM and its contemporary, Toyota) or a success story (see the official site, whose 10 reasons to buy rather lamely include that its the first 'Indian' car, it is tough (reasons 5 and 6) and is used by the Indian army).

Most locals I've spoken to appreciate it as a rugged vehicle, appropriate for India's roads and maintenance technology.

During the course of the workshop we celebrated India's National Day.

It was very moving to see the genuine pride this created - especially at a Muslim college.

Indians take their country seriously. The national anthem is sung at the beginning of cinema showings, and without any of the cynicism this would be greeted with in the West.

The sense of being a nation has really come together in the past few decades, and its difficult to understand how close India was to completely breaking up - Partition and the creation of Pakistan and Bangladesh aside.

I've read analysis suggesting television, Bollywood and commercial brands have done more to establish this than the explicit post-independence political projects.

The ceremony was also full of speeches! Hierarchy and deference are still very ingrained, and it was interesting to contrast this approach with more participatory and egalitarian structures which non-violence seems to require.

Our second workshop took place straight after the first ended. Unlike Al Azhar, which is Muslim funded, Newman College is Christian, with a beautiful church building in the middle of the grounds. We often heard lovely singing, of hymns with Malayalam words and music, coming from here in the mornings.


construction exercises and drama tools exploring conflict, and the whole group

One aim of these workshops was to give our Indian facilitation team more experience, and it was good to see their skills and confidence grow over this intense week. However it was quite exhausting for me, to be mentoring at the same time as running a large chunk of many activities. I was therefore glad to have a break in the programme.

Something quite special in Kerala is the focus on healthy living and food. This is an basic ayurveda-style meal, although in Trivandrum you can get 'King's food' which runs to a dozen or so small courses of tasty and unusual preparations, that should be eaten in a specific order. This is a meal we had in Ernaukulum, as we travelled north.