Day 15 of my walk with Max; my last day, and we walk for a couple of hours in contemplative silence. I am thinking about how on earth to process this all, alone in Delhi, and how to pitch this blog without getting overly sentimental. I can tell Max is totally exhausted, and I don’t know how the final push to Delhi will fare for him. We stop at a fancy hotel for lunch, with confused looking staff and slow service, surrounded by naff Christmas decorations! Max immediately checks his facebook account, as it’s a true lifeline for him to see potential supporters out there, beyond his highway world. He says it’s a good measure to see how people regard his updates and his work, and fills him with encouragement when he can see people are taking an interest. It is such a solitary and endless journey, with no other way of communicating, sharing, and receiving support, so I quite understand, and I leave him to it! We have chai and aloo parotha, and a whole day of walking ahead of us. It feels strange, as it is my final day, and it feels sad, as I realise Max will have to carry onto Delhi alone
It’s a more interesting walk, as we edge closer to Jaipur, with many new housing sites being constructed, and different kinds of drivers on the road towards the city. We stop at a site being constructed, and I can’t wait to take my shoes and socks off and walk around bare foot in the grass. There is a gardener nearby, shearing shapes into hedges, topiary style. He acknowledges us from afar, with an inquisitive smile, and leaves us to rest. Max collapses on the grass and we sit as if staring out to sea (the highway!), while gaining the momentum to hit the road again soon.
Heading into Jaipur, there is so much work going on, with shanty areas full of people banging, shaping, soldering and melting huge nails. There is an intense walk past an endless gathering of men, with my scarf firmly over my face, while also trying to look out where I’m going! I’m feeling encouraged, walking past a road sign confirming to me that I have 10 km’s to go!!
We head onto the flyover into central Jaipur, with hardly space to walk, and the atmosphere full of noise, pollution and traffic. Onto a bridge and under us, are a collection of tin roofed huts, loads of washing hanging wherever there is space, and a whole family sitting on one bed. I am guessing it is probably too hot and cramped to sit indoors, and all life is displayed before my very eyes. They are all living there while doing construction work for the multi- story department store we approach from the bridge. The place is brimming with life and work, of children and babies, and women in elegant saris carrying cement in baskets on top of their heads. It makes me think about this kind of way of life- a life determined by where they can find work. Whole families move towards places they can find daily work, and live their lives each day as it comes. And with each day that comes, all the people never have any kind of access to healthcare, education or services that can provide a safer and more stable existence. This leaves them extremely vulnerable and without any rights; living on the margins of society and left with few choices.
Max has seen that there is a café coffee day close by so we head towards this to gear up for whatever may or may not be at the statue at 4pm. I decide to ditch my tintin trousers, and change into a nice long purple kurta I bought in Pushkar, with blue trousers (the dye making my legs blue for days!). We have no idea what to expect, as we haven’t heard personally from the press officer today, only from his friend who will meet us. It’s already a bit of an anti- climax, me knowing that I have just completed quite an epic journey personally, but it being overshadowed by a possible disappointment for Max at 4pm. I still feel very proud of myself nonetheless! We walk towards the statue, a long walk with both of us feeling nervous and exhausted, and wandering what on earth will hit us upon arrival. He makes me laugh again, by exclaiming ‘My beard’s got more life than me! I should have just sent the beard along!’ My last day brought another 28 km’s under my walking belt, and a total of 365 km’s altogether, which is 226 miles. This is like walking from Aberdeen- Shetland!!!
Nothing happened at the statue, as we reached it, walked around it, and no- one batted an eyelid! Just as we turned away, a man patted Max on the back, and introduced himself as the guy’s friend. They shook hands and had a brief conversation, which I video recorded just for prosperity. Another friend appeared, and a stilted conversation was had, Max patiently trying to divert the talk into his walk and his foundation.
It was a waste of time and a real downer, so we left, and went to where we were staying that night.
I am so thankful to have been able to step onto the highway with Max, and to get such an immense insight into him and his work. I feel that in some ways, my life is changing, and that there is so much to get involved with and be a real part of at last. My travels and work overseas this past decade has taken me on my own personal journey of research and discovery, mixed with a lot of frustration and disenchanted feelings at times. Finally, I have managed to tap into something I firmly believe in, and can commit myself to.
I am also really thankful to have been able to express this to all of you, and provide my insights and experiences. My aim is that this can be used as a tool, among other things, to expand ‘One Step’s’ momentum and focus, taking Max’s mission one step further and beyond. I invite anyone who feels moved to become involved in any way they feel.
Helen’s email: email@example.com
As part of the global awareness campaign of ‘One Step’ I am holding the first ever ‘Walk with Max’ sponsored walk in Scotland on June 22nd. This is an independent initiative, where funds raised will be taken back by myself in September, to go directly into the ‘Friends of our Highways’ Project in Rajasthan. Having walked through and interacted with many many incredible people, families and children living on the edges of society, who showed me nothing but love, and generosity, I cannot wait to return and spread some of the same later this year.
My funding page: http://www.gofundme.com/2chcoc