A candid description of my trip from NYC to rural India and finally to U. of Michigan, Ross School of Business. Go Blue!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Bombings and Rugs- 2 crazy weeks ın Jaıpur

The Tuesday before last, 8 bombs went off throughout the old cıty markets ın Jaıpur. The cıty had never been the vıctım of terrorıst attacks before and thıs was shockıng. 80 people dıed. There's lots of speculatıon regardıng who ıs responsıble at thıs poınt. The bombs were ın bags attached to bıcycles that were strategıcally placed throughout the old cıty.

Luckıly, we were out of town vısıtıng Bıkaner a desert town 5 hours northwest of Jaıpur and the maın place where Jaıpur Rugs Company buys and spools ıts wool. We were wıth Mr. Chaudhary, the founder and CEO of the company, and hıs wıfe. Apparently Mrs. C vısıts the Hındu temple that was one of the bomb targets every sıngle day. In fact, because she was out of town she was tryıng to call her youngest son, Nıtesh, to tell hım to go to the temple ın her place. Luckıly, we were out of cell phone range because ıf she had gotten through he lıterally would have gotten to the temple around the tıme of the blasts.

Anyway, we were all safe and fınd ıncludıng all the employees of Jaıpur Rugs.

Regardıng the company, ıt really ıs a cool operatıon. We spent a ton of tıme learnıng learnıng as much as possıble about theır operatıons and I thınk we dıd a good job overall. The company ıs an example of BOP (base of the pyramıd) as producers. Basıcally they employ a vast network f weavers around Indıa, and by employıng these vıllagers dırectly they are able to cut out the mıddle men and pass through a better salary to theır workers. They claım to pay the hıghest salarıes of any rug company ın Indıa- we need to verıfy thıs.

So we vısıted we vısıted the vıllage where they source the wool and spool ıt, and also vısıted a couple of vıllages where they weave (whıch ıs cool to see)

The company ıs run by Mr. Chaudhary (Mr. C as we lıke to call hım), who ıs truly amazıng. He ıs adorable; one of those people that has an amazıngly powerful presence backed up by genuıne sıncerıty. Hıs passıon for the organızatıon ıs so ınfectıous that ıts trıckled down to all 5 of hıs chıldren. Hıs 2 eldest daughters frun the U.S. operatıons ın Atlanta, the next daughter, Kavıta, went to desıgn school ın Chıcago and now heads the company's desıgn team ın Jaıpur. Yogesh, the oldest son, ıs gettıng groomed to one day take over the company. He ıs just 21 but absolutely mature beyond hıs years and he coordınated all the logıstıcs for our trıp. He went to school at Boston College for 2 years before droppıng out to return home and help hıs father. Nıtesh ıs the youngest kıd at 17 and he was just fınıshıng up hıghschool whıle we were there. He has been accepted to Babson College ın the U.S. but plans to take a year off and work for the company. He wıll lead a lot of the socıal ınıtıatıves of the Jaıpur Rugs Foundatıon and Mr. C also wants hım to spend a year lıvıng ın a vıllage so he can better understand that kınd of lıfe (As Mr. C says- he started from nothıng and worked hıs way up...but hıs kıds have started at the top so now they need to go back and understand what that lıfe ıs lıke ıf they ever want to be good at runnıng thıs busıness).

I must admıt I was quıte skeptıcal coıng ınto thıs. Does thıs guy really have a successful faır trade type copany and how could he possıbly be makıng money wıthout exploıtıng the vıllage weavers? Nowö I can see that the wages he pays are at least on par wıth everyone elses, and I can say wıth certaınty that he truly cares about all hıs employees. He's bıg on self ımprovement and says "From Good to Great" ıs hıs favorıte book. He's up at 5:30 every mornıng doıng yoga followed by a phone call wıth hıs best frıend who runs the Jaıpur Rugs operatıons ın another part of the country. Could thıs guy be more adorable?
Here ıs a pıc of Mr. C and hıs daughter Kavıta:

As someone who used to be a bıg belıever ın mıcrofınance and has sınce become a bıt of a skeptıc, ıt was a breathe of fresh aır learnıng about thıs man and hıs company. Fınally, a socıal enterprıse model that really does work.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

India....3 times a charm!

Welcome! This is my old blog from before business school (during my first trip to India) that I decided to relaunch. So much has happened since August 2006 but that’s a whole other story. The reason I am back in India (my love and my nemesis) for the 3rd year in a row is to research a company called Jaipur Rugs for Dr. CK Prahalad. The ultimate goal is to publish a case study on the company in some sort of reputable publication such as Harvard Business Review. As mentioned in my first blog entry ever, I mentioned CK Prahalad’s book and he was actually one of the biggest factors in my decision to attend Michigan for my MBA. Now 2 years later after taking a class with him, I was given the fortunate opportunity to work on this case for CK alongside three of my classmates: Nina Henning, Marion Ntiru and Shara Senior. This is an amazing opportunity and we are working hard right now to learn as much as possible about the company. We are meeting with the family and all other executives, going out to the rural villages to understand the Jaipur Rugs supply chain, and even videotaping everything which we’ll edit later into a really cool PBS-style piece (I knew all that time spent making Follies videos would pay off someday!). But more on Jaipur Rugs later…..

So I arrived in India late Sunday night. After collecting my luggage I took a cab right to Gurgaon, also known as the sprawling call center/mall city that is located just outside Delhi. We decided to stay there for the night since it is right off the Jaipur-Delhi highway and we were leaving for Jaipur first thing in the morning. Driving into Gurgaon brought back a ton of memories, as I lived there for a few weeks just last year during my Michigan MAP consulting project. The whole city is like a wild wild west of sorts- it is developing at rapid speed with fortune 500 businesses setting up shop and a dozen malls all next to eachother lining the main strip. Those friendly Indian voices you hear whenever you call American Express Customer Service are based in Gurgaon, and IBM, Intel, PriceWaterhouse and countless others are too. The city has grown so fast that the infrastructure can’t keep up- the roads still suck and there are blackouts all the time- so all these gigantic malls run on generators most of the time! The biggest mall I have ever seen in my entire life opened up there right off the highway recently. I remember taking the bus into Delhi from Jaipur 2 years ago and seeing the newly broken ground for this mall. Then I was there last year when men were working 24/7 on it, and this time it looks like Ambience Mall has finally opened. The Indians certainly do like to do things to excess.

At the hotel I met up with the other girls, and we attempted to sleep off our jet lag in preparation for the 4 hour ride to Jaipur, Rajasthan in the morning. The next day, I of course got my usual “welcome to India” with a nice accidental nut ingestion at breakfast. I have no idea what I ate but my lips swelled to Jolie size and I had to shoot myself with an Epipen then spend the morning in a bumby car ride to Jaipur. Nice, huh?

We reached Jaipur in the late afternoon and checked into our hotel which is by far the nicest I’ve ever stayed at in Delhi. The company we are studying made all the hotel arrangements and they did an amazing job! A CK Prahalad project certainly comes with a much better budget than a non-profit MAP! It’s great to be back in Jaipur and to stay in luxury, particularly since the last time I was here I managed to bring a hotel cockroach hiding in my luggage all the way back to America with me (it was still alive too!).

I think this is enough for a first entry and I am way behind already- we are traveling quite a bit and I also had a bout with Delhi Belly that took me a few days to recover from. But I really can’t say enough good things about Jaipur Rugs. The company was founded and is currently run by Mr. N.K. Chaudhary, a sweet, caring man who is big on self-reflection, self-improvement and who is rapidly creating a world class carpet production company that is really profitable yet also extensively socially responsible. I have never seen anything like it before. Now I understand why CK really wanted us to focus our case study on Jaipur Rugs and get out to the villages to see each piece of this impressive operation. More to come……


Monday, August 28, 2006

Home and Away

Well, I've been back in the states for nearly a week and a half now, and I am still adjusting. I've gone from a culture where people my age are married with 5 kids, don't eat meat and don't show their knees in public, to a place full of binge drinking, mini skirts and constant networking. It has been quite overwhelming to say the least, but I am enjoying every minute of it. Here's a recap of what's been going on:

Saying my goodbyes in Udaipur was incredibly hard. I had really gotten to know my Udaipur host family in those last few weeks and will miss them greatly. They are such a cute family and took such good care of me. I plan to keep in touch with them, especially about the marble importing.

The hardest goodbye by far was with Namrata. I know that if we were in the same country she would be a best friend and she is such an amazing person. Luckily my mom has a ton of calling cards left over so I plan to chat with Namrata as much as possible. I miss her so much already.

The last week in India I stayed in Jaipur for three days and did some sightseeing. I was pretty much on my own the whole time (aside from the lovely cockroaches that visited me in my hotel room, and one even somehow accompanied me back to Jersey- however he died shortly thereafter from culture shock and turnpike pollution). Jaipur is the biggest city in Rajasthan and kind of nice but not nearly as nice as my beloved Udaipur. It's really crowded and I got bothered a lot by men- rickshaw drivers, random beggars, etc. Men would quite frequently basically walk into me in order to bump into my chest. Didn't appreciate that so much.

On Wednesday I took a bus back to Delhi where my host brother from Dungarpur, Chickoo, met me. He took me to his Architecture School campus where I freshened up and then we did a little Delhi sightseeing- non-tourist style. It was a holiday that day which was great because the streets, particularly Connaught Place were empty. We did a lot of shopping and bargaining which was so fun although I didn't have much room left in my suitcase to buy as much as I would have liked. We went to a coffee shop and Huka bar that was right across the street from the famous IIT. Then we said our goodbyes and I hopped a rickshaw to the airport. The flight back was pretty uneventful once I got past security.

I was back in New Jersey on thursday August 17th and then went for a fun happy hour in NYC that night to say goodbye to my friends. Then bright and early Monday morning I headed out to Ann Arbor for the next adventure of my life: Business School!

It's been so much fun so far but classes don't start until tomorrow- when reality will set in. I've met so many cool people, lots of people from India and even a good group of people who are also interested in microfinance. As of right now I've decided to continue focusing on microfinance and have already signed up for a Bottom of the Pyramid class based on CK Prahalad's book. Saturday was also the first football game, which was very cool. I have never experienced anything like that before, especially since my undergrad wasn't a big football school. 109,000 people were in the stadium that day!

Anyway, just to finish up my blog (for now at least) here's a little bit of reflection on my trip:

Greatest Moment- Completing my case study book for PEDO

Scariest Moment- Probably waiting in the dark at the Mathura train station that night I took the overnight train to Delhi.

Craziest Moment- Getting surrounded by violent barking dogs in Jaisalmer.

Coolest Moment- Monsoon palace in Udaipur at Sunset

Funnest moment- bargain shopping with Jon, Liz, YeYe, and Ryan in Pushkar

What I'll miss most- the people, the people, the people!!! Particularly Namrata, Baby, Shweta, the Mehtas

Anyway, thanks so much for reading along over these last few months and feel free to email me should you have any questions or comments. I may continue updating off and on in the future as I continue to get involved in the field of Microfinance.
thanks again and Namaste.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

My bedroom in Dungarpur

My bedroom in Dungarpur
Originally uploaded by jennif102.

Me in a Sari w/ Mr. Vyas

Me in a Sari w/ Mr. Vyas
Originally uploaded by jennif102.

Sweta and I play dress up on the last night

My host mom in Udaipur and I at Fateh Sagar lake

My bathroom in Dungarpur, told you I was roughing it!

My bathroom in Dungarpur, told you I was roughing it!

Goodbye Udaipur!

Wow, I can't believe the internship has come to an end. I just submitted my final report to my supervisor at PEDO, an impact assessment about women from the Self-Help Groups selling Hindustan Limited Products through a program called Shakti. Hindustan Limited is owned by Unilever, and they make stuff like soap, shampoo, toothepaste, etc. Anyway, I don't have much time to write so here's a quick recap of what's going on:

I said goodbye to everyone at PEDO on Tuesday. The week before, Mr. Vyas' mother passed away. She was living with us and was a sweet lady, but she was in great pain ever since her husband died earlier in the year and she had a paralyzing stroke from the shock. As a result, Mr. Vyas, his brother and their wives had to go to this mother's village for a two week mourning period. So unfortunately I didn't get to see much of him toward the end of my internship but he kept me busy nonetheless. After a week, all the men in the family had to shave their heads as it's traidition amongst the Brahmins after a death. For the last week in Dungarpur Baby, my host sister, had to go to a microfinance conference in Chennai, which is in western India. So with my supervisor and his wife gone, the only people in the house were me, Sweta, my host brother Atikool (back from Russia), and my two little host cousins, Hillary and Maggie. On Tuesday we went to Mr. Vyas' birth village where the family has to stay until August 15th when the mourning period ends. It was good to see everyone one last time and say goodbye properly. Even my servant was there helping out so I got to thank him in person. As rough as adjusting to life in Dungarpur was for me, it was such an amazing experience and the family was so wonderful in how they opened up their home and hearts to me. Specifically, I will miss Sweta (host sister-in-law) and Baby (host sister) the most. On my last night, Sweta dressed me up in a Sari, which I'll post a picture of.

Back in Udaipur, it's been one last week of hanging out with the interns and friends I've made here. We had a fancy goodbye dinner, where I unfortunately had allergic reaction number 5 (apparently fancy dining is a culprit for nut allergies). I took a meeting with a guy from one of the NGOs who is setting up a new microfinance group within his organization, and I am hoping to help out remotely and maybe return for a project over my christmas break or next summer. I've also spent a bunch of time with the weekend host family and getting to know them better has been great. My host father owns a marble mine, and myself and the other Capitalistic Intern, Olen, are going to hopefully work with him on setting up a nice marble importing business in America.

Today, most of the interns left for a flight to Delhi where they all will scatter and return to their various parts of the world. We had one last slumber party at Namrata's two nights ago, and saying goodbye was tough. We had such a great group of people and everyone got along. They are all wonderful people and I feel priveleged to have gotten to know them. I only hope we all stay in touch.

Now today, there are a few of us left behind and hanging around. I had to scratch my Goa trip because between flight costs, monsoon season, and India Independence Day, it just got too difficult and expensive given the short time frame I have for travel. Instead, I am staying here until tomorrow night when I'll take a bus to Jaipur, the biggest city in Rajasthan. I'm excited to see it because it's obviously a not to be missed destination. Hopefully I'll meet some interesting people there to keep me company. Then on Wednesday morning, I'll take a bus to Delhi. My host brother Chickoo from my Dungarpur family is studying Architecture in Delhi and we plan to meet up at the bus station and hang out all day. Then, ta 10:45 PM I catch hoepfully what will be a high security and safe flight home to the big NJ. I get in at 4:35 in the morning and plan to be out on the town in NYC by happy hour that evening.....so if you want to meet up you know my number.

I'll try posting again from Jaipur to reflect more on my internship experience and will load some pictures up above.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Dirty American

It's hard to believe that I have just 2 weeks left in my itenrnship! The time has really flown by and I feel like I've learned more in 2 months here than I have in the last 6 years of my life!

Weekly Recap
Yesterday, there was no electricity at the office due to a bad storm all morning, and the UNDP guys took the laptop for a presentation in Banswara. So Baby (host sister), Sweta (host sister-in law), Chickoo (baby's middle brother who is visiting from Delhi) and I went for a drive to see this really cool house that Chickoo designed for a family in a nearby village. Chickoo is getting his masters at the best Architectural school in India. He also does a lot of work with PEDO on the side, helping to design rural homes and towns. This house was really nice because it was made of slate rock rather than mud. He also showed me the house where the family used to live....or describing it as a tiny room would be more accurate. It was so small and only about 4 feet high. The roof had caved in because it was so poorly built. I can't imagine what it must be like for that to be the place someone calls home.
After seeing the house, we drove further out to visit a communal plantation that the villagers have been planting in since 1987. Then we walked through the plantation and eventually came to a beautiful lake and stream. It was so picturesque; I can't believe I forgot my camera! Definitely it was Dungarpur at it's finest. While hiking, Chickoo told me some interesting facts, like only 23% of the population of Dungarpur have electricity and only 8% have access to toilet facilities!

Today, I kind of skipped out of work to come back to Udaipur because early tomorrow morning I am going with some of the other interns to Pushkar, a town in northeastern Rajasthan. It's supposed to have a bunch of temples and also be a total hippy/tourist spot, so it should be interesting. Particularly, lonely planet says Israeli hippes (whatever that means) flock there.
I've been staying at Namrata's (the FSD Family Coordinator) house because she had an empty room for a few days and invited me to come hang out in her oasis! What a different way of life it is there! I sleep on a king size bed, internet and electricity are readily available, and the food is scrumptious! Total kid in the candy store syndrom.
I think my weekend host family is missing me but I'll be back to stay with them on Sunday night.

Jain Religion
Speaking of that family, I've been learning a lot about them lately. They are of the Jain religion, which is a sect within Hinduism....I guess I can best liken it to the Orthodox sect within Judaism, although you really can't liken 2 different religions to eachother can you? Anyway, learning about Jainism has helped me to understand why my weekend family are anal clean freaks. Apparently it's traditional to the religion. Hardcore Jains walk with a broom that they constantly sweep in front of them so as to not kill any living insects in their path. Some also keep a cloth covering their mouths at all times so that they aren't exposed to impurities. And they aren't supposed to eat anything that grows out of the earth either, like potatoes or carrots. Thank goodness my weekend family are modified Jains!

They are really great people, but they tell Shivani and I quite consistently that we are dirty and they won't let us get our own water from the water jug. It could've been worse; Namrata told me my host mom initially asked if we would tell her when we were having our periods so that she could warn the rest of the house (her sons, husband, mother and servants) so that we didn't touch or handle anything! I used to take offense everytime she called me dirty but now I can just attribute it to some religious fanaticism.

Work wise things are good albeit a bit slower. My supervisor, Mr. Vyas, has been working like crazy on a million different things. He says he will give me an interesting project for my last 2 weeks but he hasn't had any time to sit down with me yet. Also, his mother who is around 80 and lives with us, is suffering from health problems and Sweta thinks she will die in the next month. So obviously he is preoccupied.
I finished the Case Study book and it is on Mr. Vyas' desk to review before we move to the next stage of printing it up. It is 50 pages long and turned out really well! I've very proud of it and excited to get my copy to utilize in pursuing future opportunities.

Right now I'm working on combining 6 years worth of 6 month progress reports that PEDO submitted to a foundation that funded 245 of the microfinance Self-Help Groups. The 6 month reports are filled with English grammatical errors, and it seems like this is where I can truly add the most value for PEDO so I am happy to oblige. Plus, I'm learning a ton about the structure of the microfinance program.

Travel Plans
Right now I'm at the Reliance internet cafe in Udaipur putting some charts together for the summary report. I'm also trying to figure out where I should go for the 5 free days that I have before I head back to the states. I'm having trouble deciding between Goa (tourist/party central- the Ibiza of India) or Kerala, an elected communist state on the southwest coast. They have a famous boat race in August and these amazing backwaters that you can ride through on a houseboat. It's supposed to be beautiful and less touristy than Goa. I'm pretty sure I'm traveling solo to either location, so hopefully I'll meet some cool people when I get there. If the flights are too expensive, then most likely I'll just head up to Jaipur, which is the biggest city in Rajasthan, on my way back to grimy Delhi.

Other than that, I can't believe it's all ending so soon! What an experience. Now, back to the real world and researching which loan to take out for the MBA. If anyone reading has any views on the Government Plus loan vs. Citiassit, or short/long- term views on interest rates (is it better to take a variable rate loan or fixed rate loan), then PLEASE do share.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Baby's cutest cousin- Gurlo

Baby's cutest cousin- Gurlo
Originally uploaded by jennif102.
Taken at a Puja ceremony in Dungarpur

Camel in Kumbagarh

Camel in Kumbagarh
Originally uploaded by jennif102.
This is a quick snap of a camel Olen, Kristen and I had to run past during our little Indiana Jones trek at Kumbalgarh

Sweta getting tested for Malaria

Sweta got Malaria, Baby got some sort of parasite after drinking the village water, the Dutch girl got some sort of whooping cough....suddenly I was the picture of health. Don't worry it didn't last long and I got sick (bad cold) through most of last week!

Little Boy in the village

Little Boy in the village
Originally uploaded by jennif102.
He was too cute and the only child below age 4 that didn't scream bloody murder the minute I tried to hold him.

Sunset ahhhh

Sunset ahhhh
Originally uploaded by jennif102.

Jon and Pretheep

Jon and Pretheep
Originally uploaded by jennif102.
Jon and Namrata's husband dressed for YeYe's party

The girls

The girls
Originally uploaded by jennif102.
This is a picture of everyone dressed up in sarees (and me in traditional Rajasthani attire) for YeYe's suprise birthday party. From left to right: Diana, Namrata, Kara, Me, Kristen, Liz, Reena, Payal


Originally uploaded by jennif102.
This is a picture of the extensive wall of Kumbalgarh Fort, which is 2 hours from Udaipur. It's absolutely amazing! The fort wall is so think that 6 horses can ride along it side by side.
Also, as a famous Rajasthani story goes, one of the Kings of Rajasthan was asassinated by his enemies and then they went after the King's son and only heir. When the son's servant heard they were coming, she removed the heir from his cradle and replaced him with her own baby. Then she took the heir to this fort for safe hiding.

Baby Monsoon Dancing

Baby Monsoon Dancing
Originally uploaded by jennif102.
My Host Sister, Baby, dances in the rain

Eggplant Parmesan Indian Style

So let me first start this entry by saying that the Indian government blocked my access to my blog! Check out this article which made the NYTimes. I feel like such a revolutionary. So there's my excuse for not updating in over a week!


In other news....life has been pretty good in India, now that I am finally over a pretty nasty cold. Last weekend, I made eggplant parmesan as a show of appreciation to my new favorite friend Namrata. She has been absolutely wonderful to me so I wanted to do a little something. You can't get bottled tomatoe sauce here, so Olen, YeYe and I made it from scratch! The dish turned out REALLY well and it was so nice to have Italian food for once that didn't taste of ketchup.


Work wise, things are also going really well. I finally finished all my field visits to the women I am interviewing for the Microfinance Case Studies. I interviewed 13 women total and wrote up all their stories and then combined them into one document with pictures, a 3 page Introduction and a table of contents. It still has formatting issues but as of right now it's 50 pages long!
As I said before, Mr. Vyas didn't like my initial writings becauase he wanted more of the life story of each woman. As a reference he gave me a copy of a book Mohammed Unis published 20 years ago detailing case studies of the Grameen Bank project. Those stories are really detail-oriented and I tried my best to write in a similar way but found it difficult to pull life stories out of these women when I am meeting them for the first time and only for 2-3 hours each. Nonetheless, I'm very proud of what I wrote and when I head back to Dungarpur tomorrow I'll find out what Mr. Vyas thinks.


Now that the case studies are winding down, I'm not sure what my next project will be. My grant proposal got turned down my FSD (my program). They said, among other reasons, that they didn't think Bamboo trees could grow in Dungarpur. I'm a little bitter about this, because I'm not quite sure how a bunch of people in San Francisco are qualified to speak to the growing ability of bamboo in rural Dungarpur. But who's bitter? I did write them back to appeal but they responded and basically told me I was out-written by the other interns. Which could be since I wrote the whole thing in one night but still, I don't like losing and especially losing on such a worthwhile project. I think FSD's whole grant competition is seriously flawed. During the proposal process all of us got so excited by our projects and spent a lot of effort researching and writing our 7 page proposals, and then when some of us got denied, it was kind of like pulling the carpet out from under us. Okay, now what are we supposed to do with the rest of our internships?

Anyway, Mr. Vyas wasn't too upset by not getting the money and although he hasn't told me what I will be doing next, so far he has yet to disappoint me. I think if I have an open conversation with him regarding what I am looking to get involved with, then he will make it happen.


In other news.....last week one of the guys working for the UNDP briefly introduced me to a woman who was visiting our campus. Coincidentally, not only was she the first American I had met at PEDO or Dungarpur for that matter, but she was also a rising second year MBA student at Columbia! We had a short conversation about my whole waitlist issue, and I can't determine if that was meant to be a sign- running into her like that.

Finally, last weekend while in Udaipur I went to talk with a man name Manish Jain, the founder of an organization in Udaipur called Shikshanter. I had been hearing so much about him from the other interns. Born and bred American but of Indian descent, Manish had an ivy league education through grad school, and then went to work as an I-banker in M&A at none other than.....you guessed it....Morgan Stanley! He spent a few unhappy years there feeling totally greedy and immoral, so then he left to work on consulting projects with the usual suspects: Unesco, USAID, World Bank. However, at those jobs he found the situation to be just as immoral and greedy, except in these cases, as he described it to me, the people working at these organizations actually believe they are doing good for humanity. So they are in fact worse than the typical investment banker, who fully acknowledges his immorality.

Anyway, we had a long interesting discussion about his organization and what they believe. It's very grassroots and hippy-ish as they are anti-globalization and anti-the traditional education system that they claim is plaguing the world and raping us of our creativity. Basically, they hate ideas like "civilizing" the people of rural areas and calling these people uneducated just because they haven't reformed to the norms that society puts upon us. He spoke of a time when he went to speak to a 70 year old man in a village to learn about something (I forget what) and the man said "Why are you talking to me, you should speak with my grandson as he passed 12th standard". Manish couldn't understand why the man would say this. Afterall, why would he want to talk to some teenage kid? The man had wisdom, knowledge and experience from years of living.

Shikshanter is also anti-waste and believes that everything has more than one use. Basically you can just go in, hang out and talk to Manish, read a book from their extensive library, and do all sorts of hippy arts and crafts like mosaics and stuff. It's pretty cool but a little too intense for me. I don't agree with everything they have to say, particularly their negative views towards microfinance. Still, I'm going to go back again to argue about microfinance with Manish and also have a good conversation with him about corporate America before I go ahead and sign my life away with that MBA loan.

Oh yeah, here's a good story. Yesterday I went to Shikshanter to see a movie they were showing as part of a film festival. However, I got into trouble within 2 minutes of setting foot inside. I walked in carrying a diet pepsi and a bag of kukare chips (the Indian version of Cheetos) as I was starving and thirsty and didn't think much about it. Manish's 4 year old daughter immediately grabbed my hand and dragged me to a back room to play with her. So I offered her a chip, because kids like that stuff right? Then I took a swig of my diet pepsi. Then her mom came in and said "We actually don't like to have processed food full of chemicals in Shikshanter, especially around my daughter". Uh oh...I sooooo could never be a hippy. So I consent and willingly get up to finish my pepsi outside (because Diet Pepsis are hard to come by in Udaipur and one must enjoy every ounce of it when one finds it), where I start talking with 2 guys working on a tile mosaic. I finish my pepsi and ask them if there's a garbage can to throw it out in. They look at me like I have five heads and one says, "We actually try to avoid waste here. Everything has it's use. You can just leave it here and we'll find a use for it." So I put the can on the ground and head back inside, wondering if they are silently cursing me for making them find a use for a diet pepsi can.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Another top ten list- pro America!

Here's the things I now most appreciate about America (all fairly shallow of course...)

1. 24/7 electricity!
2. Steak
3. Toilets that accept toilet paper and flush (the way I flush my toilet in Dungarpur is by filling a bucket with water and tossing it in!)
4. A fuctioning garbage collection system
5. Garbage cans
6. Being able to wear clothing that shows my knees without feeling like everyone's thinking I'm a whore
7. Being able to eat eggs, chicken, or drink beer without feeling like everyone's thinking I'm a heathen.
8. napkins
9. Hot water
10. Quality italian food