We’ve had a busy couple of days here, but a lot of fun!

Tuesday was started with a typical Indian experience of a Bollywood movie, except for some of us who did the money exchange challenge Part 2. The film is ‘Guru’, a drama based on a true story, but with all your normal Bollywood elements. It’s also very long- despite a break, we still haven’t seen the end! Tuesday afternoon was a little more sedate – we learnt about two different forms of Indian art. One was very intricate embroidery with mirrors, the other was a native art form known as Wali art. The results for both were very impressive.  In the evening, we had a very special treat, in that we were able to visit the home of an Indian family. All the families had children who had come to visit us on Saturday for the Sangam Cup. We were all welcomed in different ways, and they showed us all about their lives. Some of us even got the chance to do something a little different, such as visit a light and water show, visit a temple or even the shops! We shared a meal with them, and it was very interesting to compare what we got. My family, for example, served chicken, but most were vegetarian. However, it was all excellent, and very different to the Indian food you get back home. Having had a lovely evening, it was made even more special when we got back to Sangam and there was a board announcing the birthday surprise – namely Laxmi the elephant! Many of us woke up early to watch her have her bath on Wednesday morning and some of us even got to wash her. She was lovely, very calm and enjoyed her bath.

Wednesday morning was very sedate, as we prepared for the birthday celebrations. We also got to leave our mark on Sangam, by either painting a mural for the ‘Stop the Violence’ campaign, planting flowers or washing clothes for uniforms. We all queued up to have a ride on Laxmi, which was an amazing experience. It was a challenge for some people to get up onto her (made even harder if you tried to do it wearing a sari…), but it was worth it in the end. It was a very smooth ride, a bit like being on a boat.

We got into our party gear – saris or Punjabi suits – with some of us needing a bit more help to tie our saris than others! The party then kicked off, with lots of different activities. These included party games such as pinata, elephant crafts, having menidi (henna) done and looking through Sangam’s vast archives. Of course there was party food, which was authentic Mumbai street food. It was hot, but very tasty and was like nothing we had tried before.

After the obligatory group photo (see above), it was time for the raffle and the auction to help pay for the party. Many of us had brought items from home and could bid on them. The most interesting thing was the prices bid for some items – 300 Rupees (about £3) for a bottle of ketchup and the same for a packet of shortbread, so you could tell what people were missing from home! Some of items were more special though, like a bag donated by one of the African countries. After the raffle, it was time for the cake, which was of course in the shape of an elephant. We all enjoyed a slice, with a cup of chai.

But the party didn’t end there! Much later that evening, we had the chance to join in with a unique event – a webinar linking all of the World Centres. Pax Lodge (London), Our Chalet (Switzerland) and Our Cabana (Mexico) all came online and sang their song. Then we chatted to the pilot project of the 5th World Centre. This is currently being run in Kenya, but will be a mobile site around Africa. It is being trialled at the moment, so it was very special to be able to talk to all of the Centres at once. We then sang our song, and, despite it being after midnight here, we made the most noise! The webinar was then joined by some of the speakers at the ArtsexChange event, which takes place here next year. If you want to listen to the webinar, including an interesting talk from an Indian photojournalist about her work in promoting social change, you can find links on the Sangam website or Facebook page.

This morning is a little more calm – we have just said goodbye to Laxmi and our new friends from Scotland. Time now to chill and then hit the shops later today!