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

Sunday, July 23, 2006

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.


At 4:18 AM, Blogger Sanju said...

I'm sorry to know that your proposal for grants was turn down by FSD. Think again how you can convince them. My best wishes are with you.
Ye Ye’s (Ee Ee) surprise B’day party pics are nice. I’ve seen them before on someone else’s blog too. All you girls looks so beautiful in Indian outfits.

At 5:36 PM, Blogger MBA Cutie said...

lol... the indians love their ketchup!


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