The “Rice bowl of India”

The Godavari Express
The Godavari Express

Note to self: if you ever go snorkelling again, remember that the sun can still scorch your back even though it is underwater and cool. I had arrived in Indonesia to spend a day or two with our friends Chuck and Angela Shelton. By the time I reached India my back was really red and painful. I was on the overnight train from Madras (Chennai) to Andhra Pradesh with Sagar to visit a work amongst disabled children. Sleeping on the bunk bed on the train was virtually impossible and anyway I needed to keep an eye on my suitcase.

We got off the train at Eluru and continued our journey by car to Maruteru on the Godavari Delta. The Godavari river is over 1400 kilometres long, and is the second longest river in India (after the Ganges). Maruteru is on the floodplain, and the whole area is known as the rice bowl of India. At harvest time the rice plants would be cut and spread out on the roads to a depth of 30 centimetres, leaving passing cars to thresh the grain!

A barrage was built on the river by Sir Arthur Cotton in 1852 to provide irrigation for the rice growing area. It was damaged in 1987 a year before my visit by severe floods which effected the whole region. Even before Kingscare was formed, the King’s Church was able to provide some funds for flood relief.

Kaarunya Kuteer Trust
“Kaarunya Kuteer Trust”, Note the different spelling of Karuna meaning “compassion”.

Cottage of Compassion

Pastor Vidyasagar, known to his friend as Sagar was a leader of a group of churches in Andhra Pradesh. He was my guide to the area and was involved with a work amongst disabled children. They had a centre in Maruteru called the “cottage of compassion” where they looked after the disabled children. They also provided a temporary home in term time to children in remote areas enabling them to attend school in the town.

It is quite remarkable that 24 years later when we re-named Kingscare into Karuna Action, this photograph came to light and this was evidence that the word Karuna, meaning compassion, was in general use in India.

Three wheeler
Three wheeler modified for disabled child shown off by Sagar and his wife.

Disabled children are not treated well in India. When I first visited, children who could not walk could only get around by shuffling along on their bottoms. They needed funds for some three-wheeler bicycles, modified to be powered by hand, rather than by pedalling.

Apparently, May is the hottest time of the year in Southern India and I had arrived in May. I had a room in the centre, but with no fan, and certainly no air-conditioning, and this coupled with my sun-burned back meant I could not sleep at all. The second night they carried my bed, along with mosquito net up onto the roof where I slept peacefully under the stars.

Later visit

A year or two later I visited the project again, the time with Bill Rice. This time, we flew in by a light aeroplane from Hyderabad.  We came to visit the home for disabled children and for a conference where Bill was the main speaker and I also spoke. By then, we had supplied funds for several three-wheelers and we were proudly shown the new additions.

Some Photographs

A Canal taking irrigated water to the rice fields
Bill Rice
Three wheeler taxi for Bill
Shops in Maruteru
Indian Girl
Indian Girl
Street scene with communal well
Children swimming in the canal
Children swimming in the canal
The Catch
Fishing Boat
Fishing Boat

Author: George Dowdell

I was the founder of Karuna Action (formerly Kingscare) and was the director for 24 years. I have now handed control over to younger people but continue as an advisor and trustee. My passion is to see extreme poverty eliminated and to see justice for the powerless.

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