We meandered through rice paddies on rutted paths, clinging onto circus equipment as the autorickshaws bumped and jolted us to our destination. Past the jewel colours of sari clad women carrying pots atop their heads, past laughing children, lotus flowers and wandering buffalo we sped, ever more distanced from the chaos and smog of Kolkata.

We were embarking on a very special trip arranged by Abani, a schoolteacher from Kolkata, to his home village of Fulbari. Racing against the setting sun, we arrived just in time to perform our fire show to an eager crowd of villagers. Nightfall brought impromptu circus workshops and dancing with the impeccably behaved children, illuminated by the light from Fulbari’s Christian church – one of the few electric lights in the village.

After a delicious dinner cooked by the women in ovens of moulded clay and eaten in traditional style with the right hand, we bedded down in earthen huts on mats of woven palm leaves, lulled into sleep by the sound of cicadas and softly muttered Bengali prayers.

And so our magical adventure came to an end. The serenity of Fulbari was no more and the return to Kolkata hit us like the swirling dust, the blaring horns and the tangy aroma as we stepped off the train and into a different reality, just as thousands of Indias do for the first time every day.

The last few days in Kolkata were spent teaching last workshops and distributing equipment to the homes we had been working at for the past three weeks with the Hope Foundation – the boys’ and girls’ orphanages, boys’ rehabilitation centre and various Nabadeeshas (day care centres for street children). Our last day saw us performing our show one last time for a special day out at the Hope Foundation Cafe, before heading out for a group meal to celebrate the completion of the project. And so a chapter ends, and a new one – in the holy city of Varanasi – begins. Bidaya Kolkata, we’ll miss you!

By Ashley

Children running, en route to Fulbari Village, West Benal

Children running, en route to Fulbari Village, West Benal

Tea time in Fulbari Village

Tea time in Fulbari Village

8am is circus time! Children in Fulbari village.

8am is circus time! Children in Fulbari village.

PWB volunteer Ashley with Abani's mother.

PWB volunteer Ashley with Abani’s mother.

PWB coordinator Abi with schoolteacher Abani.

PWB coordinator Abi with schoolteacher Abani.

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