Our Ulster VI Blind Tennis Team (Thanks to Belfast City Council and Dan Maskell Trust)

Day 1 - From Belfast to Delhi

That's me all packed up ready to leave. The hardest bit is leaving these two behind but I will be back in a jiffy. 

Rachel and Myla in their Ireland Rugby Tops

Myla sitting on top of Daddy's suitcase

Although someone tried to come with me in my hand luggage!!!!

George Best City Airport

Checked in on time,snowing it down outside,we have a cuppa at Costa and off I go. Flight delayed by about 20mins as it had to get de-iced!!!! Then another 30mins delay in the air above Heathrow because no landing slot but all good,lots of time until my next flight. Through security, watch the scots beat the frogs and then saints get stuffed by the old saints(football fans will get what I mean there). Make my way over to Gate B48 and my flight to Delhi is delayed an hour and a half as well! No problem I thought as I had to wait for Davinder in Delhi Airport for 2hrs as his flight was due to arrive after mine. Finally take off at 9pm for a 6.55pm flight, another de-ice session (should really have just brought some myself I am now thinking), and off we go. Decide to try to sleep on the plane given that it is now 2.30am Delhi time but my long legs, the slightly large man beside me and the food trolley banging into my legs have other ideas. Free scotch and Coke later (well played BA), although the large Indian man beside me somehow sweet talked himself into getting 2 off the steward. I then ask him has he had Irish whiskey to which he replied, "yes Guinness!!".

Pint of Guinness beside a Glass of Jameson whiskey

Anyway, after a mixture of stop and start sleep, Battle of the Sexes movie (never knew she was married), and the Fawlty Towers Waldorf Salad episode coupled with severe turbulence from thunderstorms, the plane arrives in sunny Delhi where the mass amount of people already shows at the line for passport control. Turn my phone on and there's a text from Davinder, 

"I am at Heathrow. Missed connecting flight to Delhi due to delay in Belfast. Next flight to Delhi is leaving Heathrow Monday 12th 8.40pm arriving Tuesday 11am. I suggest that you take ubar taxi to your accommodation at D block, Defence colony. My driver Omprakash will collect you at 8.45am on Tuesday, and take you to Delhi Lawn Tennis Association to meet David/ Col Chauhan. I will see you later during the day. Davinder"

 

Macauley Culkin with both hands on his face in Home Alone

Two thoughts strike me straight away, am I now in Delhi all alone without my dads credit card and no Donald Trump to help me with directions (Home Alone 2 fans). And the other thought is Uber taxi in Delhi, how do I know this isn't going to end up like the first Taken movie. I get through immigration easily, although the man wasn't a big fan of my passport cover, pick up my bag and hedge my bets by getting a pre paid taxi from a kiosk in the airport,at least I know that's safe. 1200rupees exchange hands (£13.46) and off I go on a 1hr taxi drive to the Defence Colony where I have a room with an Indian family. 

Driving, Driving, Driving!!!!

Delhi traffic at a complete standstill

Now I know why the car rental place at the airport had no one outside it. Not in a million years would I try and drive in this country, we beep our horn in Belfast to tell people we are extremely annoyed at their driving, this sound only takes me back to the IRA ceasefire in 1994 when every car was beeping everywhere. No indicators, no hands, no understanding of lanes, every car has a bash in it somewhere. Jagbir the taxi driver tells me all about his family (he has boy and a girl), and how there's 2 sides of Delhi, the "Delhi" side which I can just about gather is the richer side, and the "Other" side which he comes from. He tells me he does 24hrs on, 24hrs off shifts. Wow.

i arrive at my accommodation which is great,has a lovely terrace where I can sit and plan my sessions 

 

Garden terrace with chairs and garden beside

The lady of the house is called Anjana, I give her the present of Wheaten Bread from which she asks, "is this vegetarian?". I stumble, I'm thinking yes but then I'm thinking vegan and thinking no. Either way we agree to have it at breakfast. I tell her I'm leaving to go to the tennis club at 8.45am, she then tells me breakfast is at 9am. Well played Anjana!! But not to worry, Rachel had planned incase of this.....

Rice Krispies Breakfast Bar

With breakfast sorted and session plans done,I decide to get an early kip to catch up on that sleep. Write again tomorrow!!

DAY 2 - Training the Coaches

First of all thankyou so much for reading my blog and spreading the word of Blind Tennis around, it is important to all involved.

Today is the day I train the coaches in Blind Tennis so they can coach the Blind students tomorrow and Thursday. After the excitement of travelling yesterday I expect a much nicer calm day.

Omprakash picks me up at 8.45 after I had my nutritious Rice Krispie Bar and a couple of Wine Gums and takes me on the journey to the Tennis Club. This journey only takes 15mins so traffic not too bad, only strange sight is the glimpse of Marks and Spencer. I'm thinking £10 Meal Deal with Red Wine tonight!!!

Marks and Spencer's in Delhi,these two look like they are returning unwanted Christmas gifts!!

We arrive at the Tennis Club early so with no one in sight and me sticking out like a neon flashing light (non Indian with shorts on roasted while everyone else looks cold),I decide to look around the complex. I find the swimming pool followed by the main stadium court.......

The main Stadium court at the Tennis Club

This tennis club held the Fed Cup Asia/Oceania Group 1 playoffs that only finished 2 days ago,im well impressed. India survived relegation thanks to a tight win over Chinese Taipei in the Relegation Play off while Japan won the event getting promoted with a win over Kazakhstan in the Final.

There are 13 courts in total and I finally run into David, the man who runs the Delhi Blind Sports Association.

Me and David (Delhi Blind Sports Association)

When we get to the court, they need me to tell them the size of the court for Blind Tennis so they can put the tactile lines down. For anyone interested, B1 (completely blind) tennis is played in the service boxes more or less. I turn around and am met by a large banner.....

The amazing banner. (How many times can you get trained into a sentence!)

Fantastic. David tells me 8 coaches have signed up and then in walks 15 coaches!! Oops!! Two have come from Mumbai which is a huge journey and the rest from Delhi and the North of the Country. I explain to them all how important they will be in developing Blind Tennis in this country. There are currently no Blind Tennis Programmes with a Blind Population of 15million. I tell them this is a huge opportunity to dominate the sport. My good friend Ramdash translates into Hindi my first words as some coaches getting used to my fast Northern Irish accent.

 

 

All the coaches trying to understand my fast paced Northern Irish accent!

Ramdash is a very unique individual. As an inquisitive completely Blind B1 player, he travelled to Japan alone a couple of years ago to learn the sports of Blind Tennis and Blind Table Tennis and has a big hunger for the sport.

We spend the first morning explaining the rules of Blind Tennis and how it differs and I get the coaches to realise first hand what being Blind on the court feels like. 

Video of the coaches blindfolded walking about tactile lines on B1 court.

Lunchtime arrives and after requests for selfies from nearly every coach (everyone loves the Irish), I finally get to the restaurant where I am polite and try and eat everything. I still don't know what I have eaten but to me it was some sort of chicken curry and small potatoes with rice. Spicy but not too spicy!! 

We go back to the courts and we learn how to teach the hitting and throwing progressions with and without rackets and for the rest of the day I get everyone to be a coach or a Blind Player with the blindfolds on. 

Selfie time. I will let him off for not listening this time

Most of you are probably thinking....where is Davinder in all of this..well the truth is I haven't a clue yet, it's now 3.30pm Delhi time and i haven't heard from him yet. We take a massive group photo and my driver Omprakash takes me back to my residence.

 

The whole group

After a quick nap and a slice of Wheaten bread (my nighttime sleep was hampered by the size of my bed,both feet out the side,not used to tall people in this country!! And now i have decided to keep the Wheaten Bread as my host wasn't too keen on it and I ain't giving her a second chance after the Breakfast swindle of this morning!!), Dr Davinder shows up out of nowhere like Lieutenant Columbo when he knows a murder has just happened.....

Lieutenant Colombo!! No Dick Van Dyke though

He talks to the lady owner about the importance of meditation (seems like this Anjana gave up her job to basically concentrate on meditation) and long story short Davinder is still here but his luggage is still in Belfast. When he missed his flight it seems they took out his cases but never put them into the next plane....oh oh. Davinder has been to the shops and got an outfit and a pair of trainers for tomorrow (India TV coming tomorrow,big day!!), and he takes me to where he is staying to enjoy our evening meal. 

We meet his host and have a chat, her husband is from Kashmir, or as he calls it Pakistan occupied Kashmir (sounding a lot like home again here!!),i learn about the fighting there and what it is all about,I find it quite interesting! We have a great vegetarian dinner, Tomato soup with croutons, spaghetti, dough balls filled with goats cheese and potatoes and peas all finished off with some sort of carrot dessert called Gajar Halva.... basically Sweet Carrot Pudding. 

Gajar Halva Dish,very sweet

So off home to finish my lesson plans for tomorrow. We have 20 Blind Students coming in to get taught by the newly trained coaches as well as the TV cameras so need my beauty sleep. Write again tomorrow. 

DAY 3 - Training the Players

Keep spreading the news of Blind Tennis in India and also of our own Blind Tennis at Windsor Tennis Club. We want to make this sport accessible to all those that are blind and partially sighted. 

Day 3 started with the famous Anjana breakfast that she has tried to hide from me. I called her bluff last night and said I don't have to leave until 9.15am so I have a quick 15mins for breakfast. I head down at 9am armed with my Rice Krispie Bar in my pocket just in case the rumours that Curry is served at Breakfast are true but I'm ok, she meets me with some fruit first and chats to me about her husband that used to be in the Army. It seems that he also does some work for the Blind here and that Anjana used to read the weather on the news channel before they basically swapped her for someone younger!!(wouldn't get away with that back home, you could sue for discrimination and then get a job in B+Q!!)

 

 

Oldest ever worker in Britain,retired at 96!!

Anyway,no B+Q over here so I tell her about the Marksies I passed yesterday but she's not interested,happy with the meditation for now. A fact I heard from the pilot on the way over is that over 50% of India's 1.3 billion population is under the age of 25, I find that a crazy statistic. So to breakfast again,after the fruit and the talking (I start to think shes slowing me down so it gets to 9.15 and I have to leave!!), out comes the main dish, I have named it 'Spicy Ricey' but she tells me the real name is Poha....

Poha, famous Indian breakfast dish!!

For 9ish in the morning, it's a bit too much so now I use the time to my advantage and say I have to leave and grab my stuff and when I get to the car with Omprakash, I sneak my Rice Krispie Bar and a snack size Dairy Milk down me! An athlete I am!!!

The journey is short again which is great and we arrive at the courts which should have been marked out by 10am but still seems to have 4 gentleman having what looks to be a Game of Doubles but with no net player in sight!! I tell them I have classes on Friday mornings in Belfast if they want to learn how to play proper doubles but they're good for now,I don't even think they understood my accent!

Today is the big day as the newly trained coaches get to take 17 students in Blind Tennis. I have a quick debrief with them reminding them about their progressions and off we go all in our lovely new tops donated by the Delhi Blind Tennis Association......

Our new shirts for coaches and players

The coaches are doing great, full of energy and the players are taking everything in and learning very quickly.....

Great photo through the fence of our players. We had 17 players on two courts!!!

B1 player returning a rolling ball with racket working on their tracking skills

B1 returning ball thrown to them after one bounce

B1 player returning ball thrown to them after 3 bounces

Players and coaches both doing great and lunchtime about to happen, the TV lady arrives to do our Interviews, one with me and one with the famous Davinder whose suitcases eventually arrived this evening...

Dr Davinder Kapur MBE, the man that set up the whole trip

Extract from my Interview with car horns for background noise

Please excuse my slightly Swedish/German/Indian/Welsh accent. I have a habit which my Wife finds extremely hilarious on holidays that I seem to answer back in a mixture of accents as I feel they understand me better,it definitely works!!! We are to be on main TV channel 9.30pm tonight. I have no TV, so i find out tomorrow if I am now big celebrity!!

We have a super lunch that I honestly have no idea what I ate, some sort of curry made in a hurry with rice and potatoey things and back to the tennis courts to learn the serves!!

Serving time

B1 player working on developing more height on the serve

B1 player serving to B1 returner

Two B1 players serving to each other

Given that none of these blind students had ever played tennis, they had a fantastic fun and productive day and we finished off with a competitive game between the two courts with which team could get more serves in the correct area.....

The winning penalty!!

Followed off by a team chat and a massive group photo.....

Selfie man is at it again!! I'm coming for you!!

Full group photo. 17 players, 15 coaches and a handful of VIP's

A great day had by all. Dinner was slightly later tonight as Davinder,his wife and their hosts went to a lecture on Hindu culture so we ate around 9pm an array of lovely Vegetarian dishes, one called vegetable cutlet, one I named creamy pasta and some sort of vegetables cooked in milk and peas!! All very nice and topped off with ice cream and chocolate sauce. I tell them if this food was available back home it wouldn't be tough to be a Vegetarian at all.

Tomorrow another big day. We have training for Blind Players in the morning followed by a news conference and a trip to some local Blind schools folllwed by dinner out with the head of the Delhi Blind Sports Association. Speak tomorrow!!

DAY 4 - Final Day with Coaches

Sorry for the delay on Day 4 Update. There has been many power outages in my street so that along with the wifi tripping out made it impossible to do last night. The problems we don't have at home!! Imagine if we didn't have internet for a few hours,people would have to start talking to each other!!!

Anyway,Day 4 started with a good simple breakfast of apple and toast,Anjana must be reading my blog because the Spicy Ricey didn't make an appearance. We make a quick journey down to the club and straight into the coaches coaching the blind students by themselves. Today is all about competition, we have set up the session so everyone can try serving and returning. Bearing in mind these guys have only been training for one full day,it's important to show the coaches and players the end goal. 

B1 server to B1 returner followed by Coach server to B1 returner

Coach serving to B1 returner

Coach server to B1 returner

B1 server to B1 returner

We made the game competitive between each team. The B1 player would serve and get 5pts if the serve landed in the correct service area, if the returner contacted the ball they would receive 5pts, if they contacted the ball and it went back over the net would get 10pts and if it went in they would get 1million points. If the B1 server missed the serve,the coach would serve a 2nd serve to the returner. The B1 game is all about serve and return whereas the B2 and B3 game develops longer rallies because they still have some eyesight. Here's a clip from the World championships last year in B2 category.....

B2 rally from World Championships 2017

We played this for around 30/40mins and the players (and coaches) got very competitive. The score on Court 2 finished 65-60 and the score on Court 1 finished 70-2,000,060. It's a crazy fact that we managed to get them playing where 2 returns actually went in when at World Championships this only happens 20% of the time. We had another group photo and headed inside to the press conference and awards ceremony. 

The whole Gang,players and coaches in white and the members of the Indian Blind Sports Association in other colours

The press conference started with an introduction from all the dignitaries with Ramdash on compere duty. 

Press Conference Line Up

I spoke about the whole project and how it was important now for the coaches to continue to expand the sport with their high energy instructing style. My goal is for India to have a National Blind Tennis Association by the end of March and then for them to join the International Blind Tennis Association. There are currently 16 countries (Mauritius, GB, Ireland, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Australia, Mexico, Argentina, USA and France) and to be a Paralympic sport there must be 33. The chairperson of IBSA presents me with some flowers (present for Anjana sorted) and a lovely Plaque.  

Chairperson of IBSA presenting me with the plaque

And with Anjana's new flowers

Closeup of my plaque

Then a few of the players spoke about their experiences of the last couple of days which was great and I awarded a prize to the best coach of the Week.

One of the players talking about their experience

Anjeeli, top coach

With the press conference over,we had some food and I went round and chatted with all the coaches and players and told them  I expect to see them at World Championships 2019. This took so long that school had finished so we rescheduled for tomorrow morning to visit the Blind School. There are 8 Government run blind schools in Delhi and a further 5 resource centres for the young Blind. Quick change and it's out for dinner with the IBSA secretary David.

Dinner we had out at a restaurant called Barbecue Nation. The first thing the waiter asked David was did we want lighter spice or very spice,we deffo went for lighter spice. Even with this, the starter of Cajun potatoes, chicken drumsticks,cottage cheese and veggie cutlets were burning the roof of my mouth.....

Mouth on fire!!!

Onto the main courses, there was a hot barbecue built into our table that was barbecuing chicken, fish and shrimp which all tasted heavenly. For dessert there was ice cream and an Indian dessert named Kolfi...

Kolfi,even after eating it I have no idea what it is

Our Indian TV appearance did not happen last night, we are due on next week now. India beat South Africa and it took over the whole news bulletin,they breathe cricket here. In fact India won the Blind Cricket World Cup last year also. At dinner Ramdas was telling me when he was in Japan he also learnt Blind Table Tennis. Basically it is the same table but you must go under the net instead of over the net....nuts. 

Blind Table Tennis Table

That's the end for Day 4, I return home and give Anjana her flowers. She asks about the Wheaten Bread (thought she had forgotten) but I say it's gone stale (I gave to IBSA and the lady that cooks me dinner every night..haha). See you tomorrow for Day 5,keep sharing the sport of Blind Tennis!!!

DAY 5 - Blind School Visit

A wee bit of a lie in this morning,breakfast at 9.15am and Anjana is definitely reading my blog, out comes the Poha (Spicy Ricey) straight away,also no apples in sight and no toast offered. Yesterday's dream breakfast has been completely replaced by Spicy Ricey and some grapes. More company at breakfast though,Martin who is at the London School of Economics and is doing some sort of research into 1920's Delhi banking chats about life in Gloucestershire and how he's not addicted to coffee whilst drinking a cup of coffee. He talks about the amazing national archives situated in Delhi......Snoozefest!!!!

Are the English always this boring????

Yes I hear you answer. Anyway to save myself from falling into deep meditation myself (Anjana would be proud) I decide to wonder round to the corner shops and buy myself a Coke for the day ahead. I excuse myself telling Anjana and Martin that I need my regular morning walk not letting them know this is in fact my first morning walk. About a 700m walk,this was lovely in the morning heat, not too many people staring at me,I arrive at the corner shops. Martin at breakfast told me there was an array of shops and that I would find a drinks shop easily. I find a bank, loads of really derelict shops with carpets and dogs sleeping outside (never did take that Rabes jab!!!), and a random Domino pizza shop. I start to think am i in the right place? I see what looks like what I would call a newsagents and walk in to be met with a copier and printing machine. I ask him has he any drinks? He says I speak no English, I say Coca Cola,he says Pepsi and I say OK. He charges me 35rupees (39p) for a bottle. Legend. I take 3. He says 105rupees,his English numbers are obviously very good and I get a free bag,don't get service like this back home!! Lovely walk back and the driver picks me up to go visit the Blind School. 

The Blind School was built in 1956 and houses nearly 400 blind students from age 6 to 24. The students can study higher education and a number of vocational studies also. We walk in and are met by a sign...

Quote from the founder of the School

We walk around and meet Mr David who takes us on a tour,showing us where the students make candles, stitch bags, make audible cassettes,lots of great things. We go into a room with Computers and he explains how these older children are sponsored by Vodafone to take live call centre chats with real customers.....

Blind man answering and dealing with Vodafone customer enquiry with Braille script

Blind man dealing with Vodafone customer phone call

They have their script in Braille and read according to answer from customer...mind blowing!

We move on to the younger section of the school and meet the 6year olds class....

Class of 6year old boys

They are adorably cute. The rest of the school is in the hall listening to the TV, Prime Minister Modi is about to speak. Modi came from being a Teaboy to Prime Minister and is idolised by the poorer people as one of their own making their dreams come true. We find out from the doctor that most of these children have been born blind because of neo-natal diseases picked up from their pregnant mothers living in appalling conditions,hard to imagine in our country. 

It's playtime outside and their faces light up...

Blind children playing Blind Cricket in playground

Blind children playing Blind cricket in playground

Blind children on slides and playing around

These two blind children having a fun time on this rocker machine

There is a new unit under construction to house girls for the first time. This is good to see as girls have been treated very poorly in India society. In my research I read that high class parents have been known to have gender specific abortions so they don't have a female as they will lose their wealth to the husbands family so they would rather keep aborting the babies until a male heir is born. They will be able to house 150girls which is great. The children leave their parents at a young age to come to this school where they are well looked after and rarely see their parents again. They have a chance here to get a full education and maybe a vocational post somewhere after. I feel the money we raised will be well used here and they will also get Blind Tennis for free.

In the afternoon, we go shopping via McDonald's for lunch to the Cottage Emporium, imagine House of Fraser Indian style but set in the 1960's. It's lavish products from fabrics to jewellery to bookshops to children's all in one place. I buy a few Silk and Cotton scarfs and a lovely top for Myla. Also thinking about this dolphin but decide against...

Two brass dolphins

On the way home I decide to record a roundabout junction Indian style,not a traffic light in sight..

Roundabout Indian Style

Off to dinner where Davinder is staying and Abadidi has cooked a treat tonight...Frank is with us who comes out from Enniskillen every year to train the doctors and paramedics in first response work. It seems that here ambulances aren't used often and that relatives will bring the patients to the hospital and choose which hospital they want as some are known to give you MRI's and other expensive care when you don't need it and many families refuse their relatives care as they simply can't afford it. It's a whole different world we live in!!

Abadidi has cooked us home made chips, peas with cottage cheese in them, sweet and sour vegetables and toast. It is utterly delightful and I would say if I lived over here I would have no problems being vegetarian. Out comes dessert, I think its Ice Cream then bite into it, I ask what it is....its called Rava Ladoo

Rava Ladoo

It doesnt give away what it is,I still have no idea what it was,even Google struggles to find out, I can only liken it to biting into a sweet coconut washing sponge.

Thats Day 5 over,last day tomorrow,it's an early start,7am to visit Taj Mahal, I believe a 3hr drive. Then dinner when we get home followed by my flight home at 3am. If I have wifi in airport I will write then but if not it will be from heathrow. Keep spreading the word of Blind Tennis to all your friends. 

Day 6 - Taj Mahal to Heathrow

Day 6 started early, up at 6am to shower and finish my suitcase and picked up at 7am to go to the Taj Mahal. The great thing about being this early is there is next to no traffic as it's also all toll roads to Agra. Driver's who can't afford the toll have to use small road instead. 

Bit of smog here this morning,that's the sun somewhere over there

The road is a fantastic road, we travel past Jaypee Sports City, which has the F1 track as well as a Cricket Stadium and a Golf Course,nice place to live. 

Buddh International Circuit

They only ever held 3 F1 races here, ending in 2013. Disputes over tax with the Indian Government as well as the major funder going bankrupt and fleeing to London didn't help. There seems to be a lot of corruption in India at the higher levels. 

After stopping at a very nice service station halfway to have sandwiches made by Abididi which I have no idea what was in them still, three and a half hours or so later we arrive in the town of Agra. This is where the Taj is located. We pick up our guide, Saegar, who has shown Frank round a number of times and head to the mass of people. 

Outside Gates of the Taj.

Saegar tells us all the facts. It took 22 years to make, everything was done by hand and chisel and it was commissioned in 1632 by the Mughal Empire Shah Jahan to house the tomb of his favourite wife (he has a few) after she died giving birth to their 14th child. (Wow). Then we enter through the gates.....

View from the gate

Inside the Gate

We walk around, visit the tomb inside which is as hectic as Indian road traffic and Saegar knows all the right photos.....

Frank,myself and Davinder in front of Taj

Me keeping the Taj in place

Great photo through window slot at back door of Taj

Nameste

The Moghul emperor also wanted to make an exact replica on the other side of the River which only the foundations were finished as his son arrested him for already wasting too much public money. The Taj cost by modern equivalent of 827million US dollars. 

Video from Taj looking outwards

The other big myth is that the Emperor cut off the hands of all the labourers after work had finished so they could not design anything of a similar nature around the World. The truth is they all signed a contract saying they would not build anything similar. 20,000 people visited the site on Saturday alone.

Great morning followed by a super lunch at the ITC hotel in Agra. We had the vegetarian option, Paneer which is cottage cheese and Dal which tastes great but looks a bit worse for wear. It had been slow cooked for 24hrs!!(wonder how they knew we were coming!).

Paneer with Dal beside

Butter Naan and Tandoori Naan

The ITC hotel that we ate lunch. Restaurant called Pashawari

Had a wee doze on the 4hr jouney home, in anticipation for my late flight tonight and we hit the Delhi traffic pretty hard. Chilled out for a couple of hours at Anjana's where she already had two Japanese tourists moved into my room. They didn't speak English but were trying to decipher the Wifi code. All in all,it was good cheap accommodation close to where Davinder was staying. My only complaint being the length of the bed but they obviously aren't used to such strapping young men from Ireland! I solved that problem by pushing both single beds together and sleeping diagonally across them. 

I say my goodbyes to Anjana and her crew and head to Abididi's for dinner before the airport. 

Dinner is another array of dishes that I have already forgot but all tasted splendid. There was cauliflower cooked with coriander and ginger as well as huge veggie cutlets, they have been my favourite thing since I have been here. Out of the 12 meals I have had in India, 8 have been vegetarian and I have enjoyed them very much. 

We stay around the table and learn about each other's families. Davinder's wife Neelam and Davinder himself were born in Lahore which was part of India before partition in 1947. It is now part of Pakistan. It seems like the British are to blame again. The British after World War 2 under Mountbatten, left India very quickly leaving behind the Hindi and Muslim population to argue out and split the country into two which they still house bad sentiment about. Overnight, the Hindi and Muslim population went to war with many slaughtered. Abbididi tells us a story about her mother who was a strong minded leader. Her mother was a child when this all happened and her best friend was a Muslim whilst she was Hindi. She woke up in the middle of the night to find her best friend with a dagger in her hands above her. Abbididi's mother asks her what on earth she is doing. The best friend replies by saying that every Muslim child has been told to go and find their best Hindu friend and put a dagger through their heart. Abbididi's mum replies saying well if you are going to do it you best put it through my back because I am lying back down. She turned over but the friend disappeared. It's stories like this that make you realise why communities hate each other for generations but I am told Gandhi sorted it out with his wise words. 

Off to the airport where corruption is strife once more where the soldier won't let me in departures without a printout of my boarding pass. 100rupees later he changes his mind.  All checked in, bags going the whole way to Belfast fingers crossed (no repeat of Davinder) and flight leaves on time and 9hrs later I'm at Heathrow!!!!

DAY 7 - Heathrow to Home

Land in Heathrow on time, change terminal and sit waiting for my final flight to Belfast. What a week it has been. I sift through my phone looking at the pictures and videos of the last week and one video sums up what I wanted the players to get out of this trip.....(P.S. They called me the Chief,still don't know why!!)

One of the players talking about their experience

When you hear those sorts of experiences, it makes everything worthwhile. The Indians have surprised me already at how quick they want to develop the sport. I am writing this Day 7 Blog on Thursday which is actually Day 11 (jet lag,family life and work to blame) and already they have set up the IBLTA, the Indian Blind Lawn Tennis Association. I hope to help them affiliate to the International Blind Tennis Association by the end of March. With the competitive side of things seemingly sorted for now, my other main objective is to make sure that the three Blind Schools associated with the project receive their free coaching for the year ahead. The deal we made with the IBSA and DLTA is that if we provided the training free of charge to the coaches then the coaches would in turn take the schools. Before I went to India I was anxious that this would not follow through but i am very happy that Mr David from IBSA and Col Chauan from DLTA alongside Ramdas will fight hard to continue this on all sides. 

When I returned home and was met by this face.....

Me and Myla on car trip home from airport

.....it make you realise how lucky you are in this country to have healthcare and school provided to our children no matter their wealth or status or where you live in the country. The rest of the money that we raised before I left for India will be used to fund a year's expenses for education, healthcare, food, clothing, boarding, sports and overall development for three blind children, one from each of the schools in the project. These are the faces that we will make happy.....

Smiling faces of the Blind children in school

If you have not already made a donation and would still like to, please get in contact with me +447851282210 or email me simon@windsortennis.co.uk, maybe we could get a 4th,5th or even 6th child sponsored. 

The sporting team and culture i respect the most in life is the New Zealand rugby team,the All Blacks, they have a belief like no other that they portray through the Haka, the warrior dance they perform at the start of each match.....

The New Zealand Haka

The main section of the Haka translates as ''Tis death, tis death,I might die,I might die. Tis life,tis life,i might live,I might live." The Haka reminds us of the inherent fragility of life,how little time is given to each of us,and how much we still have to do. I have done a small thing to get this sorted,1% of the work is done,99% to go. My goal is for Blind Tennis to make it to the Paralympics in my lifetime and I want all you guys to help by reading and sharing and promoting the sport. The line I will leave you with is the line an Irish Blind Player said to me early on in my involvement,

"The only disability in life is a bad attitude!!"

For more info, join the Facebook groups, "International Blind Tennis Association" and "VI Tennis UK". 

Simon McFarland

Windsor Lawn tennis club

Belfast, Northern Ireland