2 Weeks of Observations
Now that I have been in Pune (pronounced Pu-na or Pu-nay depending on where your from) for a little bit over two weeks, I can confidently say that this place is a hybrid of urban and pseudo-suburban life. In other words, Pune is a visitor’s delight; you can potentially experience urban, suburban and even, rural life. I have been blessed to see all three.
The heat marked the transition from New Delhi to Pune. In Delhi, you are basically in a microwave. Pune is a bit more forgiving. The winds are soothing and now that we are in monsoon season, we have had some 70-degree days and some refreshing rain. Pune, however, is less developed than Delhi. In just about every corner, there is a dirt road or a building being constructed. In terms of the economy, one could tell it is rapidly growing by the type of consumerism that takes place. One can go shopping in the more upper-level/formal shops or enjoy a stroll in the flea markets. It’s interesting. The flea markets here are more organized than the ones we saw at Delhi. Traffic is predictable. Typically, there are major jams in the morning and around 6pm, when people get back from work. Overall, it is safe to say that in 5 years, this place will not look the same.
Alex and I are blessed to live in a peaceful area. We live in an apartment complex with probably some of the more well-off people in the city (you can tell by the cars that come in and out.) With a room to spare, we have moved into what can be considered a bachelor’s dream. We have a kitchen, three bathrooms, a living room, a small laundry room and dinner room. If that is not enough, we have a balcony! We have a beautiful sight into what seems like a parking area/ ranch. At night, you can see people riding a horse carriage. During the day, you see a pack of ducks.
If it isn’t obvious by now, our living space is a blessing and for me at least, a source of guilt. I feel disappointed that I can’t step into the shoes of the “common person.” Living, relatively, a life of luxury is not my idea of understanding what life in India really is about (as impossible as that goal may be.) I see this as an impediment but nevertheless, a means to an end. People don’t want bachelor/college students in their apartments. And, just to clarify, I am not complaining- just being honest.
With general observations aside, I am happy to say that our transition into Lend-A-Hand India (LAHI) has been phenomenal. I could not have asked for a better crew to work with or a better time to come into the organization. For those who don’t know, LAHI is a nonprofit organization that helps provide technical training to students in rural schools. Their philosophy is “learning by doing.” At its core, LAHI aims to reverse the trend of rural poverty by supplementing formal education with hands-on training that can be implemented throughout the lives of students. By working with school administrators, local businesses, and other nonprofits, LAHI delivers a state-recognized curriculum called Introduction to Basic Technology (IBT). Again, this is a rough description. Their model is more complicated but overall, the organization has really delivered on its promise. I am not just saying this; I am seeing it.
As the new interns in town, we have both already taken a role that is both productive and meaningful. Let me take a step back, they have allowed us to fill in our roles. The organization, so far, has been more than open-minded by allowing us to really define our contributions to it. Like a pair of good sponges, Alex and I spent the first couple days interviewing everyone in the organization. We learned slowly but surely, how the organization functions. Who does what, what does this mean, what does that mean, why does this happen, why doesn’t this happen and more importantly, how did people find themselves here? After having many questions answered, we found areas where LAHI could improve and have thus dedicated our time to making such changes/improvements in the organization.
More specifically, the majority of our work has consisted of improving LAHI’s monitoring and communication systems. Alex has focused particularly in assessments. In short, he is revamping some their student assessment forms, making them more efficient and effective. I have been working on what I like to call the “5 Point Plan.” Basically, I have found different component of LAHI’s communication system and have set out to proposing something better. I have also introduced some new ideas for the organization. This has been quite the process. Sometimes you have good ideas but it turns out not feasible. Sometimes you have something very feasible but simply not enough time to fully implement it. Consequently, I have proposed new accountability measures for LAHI and its partner schools to have. In short, I am trying to make LAHI’s relationship to independent schools more reciprocal/personal by re-establishing expectations and monthly visits. The idea has been approved and now, a formal part of our training!
I will close by saying that we have some of the nicest co-workers. We have the most kind-hearted and funny boss named Chikita. She has been supervising the majority our work…while making sure that we are alive whenever we are outside of the office. She has provided some amazing perspective into India culture/life as someone who lived in the US for 8 years. Our trusty friend, Prya, has made our transition into Pune a safe and comfortable one. On our first day at Pune, she welcomed us in 100-degree weather. Little did we know, she would be our most loyal and interesting friends. Not to forget, we made some handy friends around the office. We are virtually well acquainted with just about everyone now.
As a foreigner, I have never felt -so quickly- a sense of trust and belonging as I have now.