So after yet another massive 26 km walk, the blisters on my feet had won the day. I reached a hotel and never in my life had I needed a hotel as much. I had to stop, my feet were no longer allowing me to continue. Reaching the hotel, I would have taken any room, whatever it was like, whatever the price. I checked in and followed the attendant to my chosen room. Unluckily for me, it was nearly a 5 minute walk to the room and on the top floor. Oh no, I thought, couldn’t I just have this room near the reception?
I needed to get my boots off and investigate the damage. Four massive blisters. I was expecting this to happen, but not so soon into the trip. My biggest worry was that one looked infected. After advice from back home, I decided they needed treating, and the sterilised needle I was carrying needed to be used. So Doctor John went to work, and as you can just imagine, it was just a little bit painful. I wasn’t stupid and I knew this would mean walking any large distance in the next few days would be impossible.
I never been a person that can just sit and wait for things to get better, so I decided I would do some sight-seeing. I couldn’t stay cooped up in my room, waiting for my blisters to heal. But even strolling around looking at temples was painful, and really I wasn’t that interested. I was here to walk and walk seriously.
I hobbled out of the small town I was staying in, called Shriampur, and walked through a small community, with water buffaloes living around, and sometimes in, the people’s houses. The people were friendly and soon I had a crowd following me. [Shrimapur is city and a municipal council in Ahmednagar district situated in western Maharashtra].
It was selfie time and I am not joking when I say that I must have had 40 selfies in a half an hour. It seems only the young guys have mobiles that are capable of taking selfies and phones were passed around through the crowd.
With all this attention, I took the opportunity to ask where the local school was.
I walked down several alleys and found my first school. I was invited in and was shocked how small the classroom was. The children were still using slate boards; no pens, no paper, no desks, and no chairs. I sat with the children for a bit and tried to help them with their work. Only maths seemed the way forward. No one spoke any English.
I left the school and made my way back to the hotel for something to eat. This is when I met Satis.
I walked into a restaurant and looked around. Everyone stopped and looked up. A white person here was rarer than pure gold. That line from Sting’s English Man in New York song came to mind: ‘I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien’. But this certainly wasn’t New York! Then a guy said in English ‘please sit here’. Wow, someone that can speak English. I joined him and he told me his name is Satis.
I looked at the menu.
What would you order?
Within seconds, the guy started talking in broken English and there was no stopping him. First, he named all the counties in England: Derbyshire, Lancashire, Somerset etc… Then he started naming all the English cricket players from years past: Vaughan, Gough, Botham etc. I just looked at him and asked what he was eating and ordered the same. He then said ‘could you offer me a soft drink?’
I said ‘it doesn’t work like that’, but I bought him a Sprite anyway.
He then asked me so many question about England – I can’t remember them all – but the strangest was what brands of ice cream do you get in England?
We exchanged numbers, and I thought ‘what an unusual guy’. I said goodbye and hit the hotel for sleep. Later, Satis phoned me. I explained I needed to sleep as I was walking tomorrow.
The next morning, on further examination, I decided the blisters were so bad that I needed to rest up for another day. I also realised that the blister I was worrying about wasn’t infected, but I still wasn’t up to walking. So I paid for another night’s accommodation.
I was bored and a bit down. Were these blisters going to get any better and allow me to carry on my mission?
In the evening, Satis phoned again and was over-joyed that I was still in his town. I met him in the evening and the same list of names and question were fired at me. After another meal and me buying him more Spite, he asked if I would like to jump on his bike and see his church and some other churches in the area. Not really, I thought, but how could I say no, I wanted an early night, but yet again found myself on the back of a motor bike. First the Catholic Church.
Here I met the priest who blessed me and my journey. We then went on to Satis’ church and were surrounded, yet again, by people who wanted to see a white man.
He was persistent and kept riding around town, pointing out all the churches. He thought that me being an English man, we had something in common and that was churches. He is a good guy.
We returned to the hotel and I bought him a snack and a cup of chai this time. He started the questions and lists again. I thought this was really strange.
He then told his me his secret: he had been on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and he’d won a crore! [A crore is ten million rupees (or one hundred lacs)]. That’s around £107,700.00 to us.
The money was in the bank and he was going to use it to travel to England. The penny suddenly dropped for me; that’s why he knew so many lists of names, and never stopped asking general knowledge questions.
We parted, back to walking tomorrow. As I walked back to my hotel, I asked myself why, if he has just won that amount of money on Who Wants to be a Millionaire, was I the one buying the Sprites?