I have been very fortunate over the years to work with some prestigious clients in the cleaning and restoration industry. The WoolSafe Organisation is one of them. I have been involved with WoolSafe since 2001 and became an instructor and carpet inspector for them in 2006.
In the first few days of the this year, I was greatly honoured when Paul Bakker, Founder and Chairman and Dr. Ágnes Zsednai, Managing Director of The WoolSafe Organisation asked me to collaborate with them in providing a one-off training course for The Indian Institute of Carpet Technology on all aspects of cleaning and maintenance of carpets. The course was to be delivered over a total of 7 days and the IICT in Bhadohi had to spend the grant money before the end of the financial year (end of March 2015). No pressure!!
The only way we could meet all the personnel availability criteria was to run a course for seven consecutive days ending on Saturday 4th April, the day before Easter Sunday. We were prepared to meet the timescale in that manner and the IICT agreed, but we were not going to be home with our families for Easter. I was lucky though, I managed to obtain an invitation for my wife and co-director, Alicja to come along and assist us in our work. Ágnes was not so lucky, her husband was unable to come and she was facing the Easter festival separated from family. Such is the fate of those with responsibilities.
The preparation work (for both the logistics and the syllabus) was significant but was completed in time, although by the narrowest of margins. All the training material was delivered to IICT in Bhadohi (Uttar Pradesh province) with only a week to spare.
Our journey to Bhadohi was via a connecting flight from Delhi to the holy city of Varanasi. We left the UK on Thursday morning but arrived at our journey’s end on Friday afternoon, our base for the next week, our hotel in Varanasi.
After a relaxing Saturday morning of sightseeing on the Ganges and after lunch, we completed the day by visiting the IICT in Bhadohi to begin our own preparations for the start of the course on Sunday morning. Not everything was ready at the point of our impromptu visit but the place was a hive of activity to prepare the classroom for an estimated 40 students and invited guests!!
Our hosts spared no effort. Not only had they put us up in the most prestigious hotel in Varanasi, arranged our transport to the IICT every day, provided a guide for our entire stay, but also arranged for an official opening ceremony with a traditional welcome, songs, speeches and press coverage!!
On Sunday, the course started immediately after the opening ceremony and lunch.
The subjects we covered included cleaning fundamentals, cleaning equipment, stain removal, mechanisms of soiling, carpet repair, carpet colour repair, rug cleaning, maintenance and cleaning specifications, decontamination, principles of drying and sales and marketing. The best part of 7 days’ worth of material!!
The students attending were year 3 and 4 students who were taking what we believe to be BTech or HND equivalent studies at the IICT. A number of visitors from local carpet manufacturers attended as well as a number of cleaning systems suppliers and one cleaning company from Bahrain. The total number of students averaged about 40 per day.
There were some cultural bridges to cross but many were anticipated and managed by advance planning. Others were resolved as we went along as best we could with the help of an enthusiastic group of students only too happy to help us so we could help them. This was the most challenging teaching assignment I had ever undertaken and it was probably the most rewarding to date. I learnt a great deal.
Although we still had some minor teaching responsibilities to fulfil on the last scheduled day, Saturday, the official closing and award ceremony took place on the preceding Friday evening. Among those present were some of the institute’s governors, principles, students from all four year groups, local business representative’s and the local press. The speeches were heartfelt, the awards were greeted with enthusiastic applause, gifts were exchanged and the rapidly closing darkness of the evening enabled a light show finale with singing and dancing put on by the students themselves. It was colourful and fun. A mini-Bollywood for seemingly put on just for us!! When all the official closing programme was finished, the “kids” then had a disco while we made our way back to our hotel.
We had only been there a week but we had made a lot of friends. As is usual with these things. It was sad when we had to say goodbye.
Our return trip was more leisurely. We weren’t going to get home in time for the Easter break anyway, so we had planned a stop-over in Delhi for a couple of days so we could explore Delhi itself and take a day trip to Agra to see the Taj Mahal. A feast of treats for the eyes and the soul despite our levels of exhaustion!!
Back in the UK on Tuesday 7th April. No long bank holiday weekend off!! I was back in class on Wednesday 8th April at Prochem to deliver a hard floor course. No peace for the wicked!!