Hello from Bangalore! We’re just finishing up our first week here, which has been a whirlwind of learning more about factories and garment production, devouring mangos, figuring out how to cross the street, and trying to develop our meager tolerance for spicy foods.
As soon as we landed in the city, we noticed two things: less heat and more green. After a few days of 110˚-115˚ in Delhi, a mild 85˚ was a treat. Because Bangalore has such a cool climate, we’ve luckily escaped the heat waves that have been coming through India. We’ve also been enjoying Bangalore’s tropical gardens and palm trees, as it lives up to its reputation as the “Garden City”.
On Monday morning, we all hopped in the car for first day at Shahi’s factory units 7 and 17. Our supervisor picked us up for the 30-second commute from our hotel (but saved us from some intense road crossing), and we began part two of our orientation. Over the past 5 days we’ve gotten a full introduction to these two units and we’ve enjoyed visits to a couple others in the area, including unit 12 where many of the migrant workers are stationed. We’ve learned the ins and outs of Shahi’s worker engagement and empowerment programs, including PACE, which stands for Personal Advancement and Career Enhancement and is implemented by GAP. We’ve been given the opportunity to talk to women who have gone through many of these programs, as well as some who have recently migrated from the more rural Orissa state in order to get a brief introduction to their challenges, victories, and hopes for the future. We’ve been given the opportunity to sit in on both technical and soft skill training sessions, chat with the environmental sustainability team, and pick the brains of the IT department to see what data will be available for our research. One of my favorite details that I’ve learned about Shahi is that they’ve recently had an issue where monkeys have been sneaking their way into the factory. They hired a service that walks a more aggressive type of monkey (the langur) on leashes around the building to scare the other monkeys away and keep them from entering the factory and offices. However, India has recently outlawed this practice. To adapt, the firm apparently attempted to hire a man to dress up as a langur.
(image of langur from wikimedia)
I don’t think I’ve begun to realize how much I’ve learned in this last week, but it’s been a wonderful experience so far. The other Shahi employees have been incredibly welcoming and they’ve helped us in everything from deciding what projects we want to pursue, to handling the spicy curries, to scheduling dance classes. We’ve also been treated to lots of sweet Indian tea and coffee breaks to chat with them. I think that we are all worried about hating our first post-graduation job because our work environment this summer is so pleasant.
They also provide us with free lunch, while the hotel we’re staying at gives complimentary breakfast and dinner. All the food is great, and our coworkers graciously explain all the different foods to us. Usually we have dosas, or “Indian pancakes,” rice, some sort of veggie combination, a small bowl of curry, and a more unusual option like a deep fried pepper or dessert (still figuring this out—bready dough ball in syrup, very tasty). We’ve been loving the Indian food, but we’ve also explored some other popular options in Bangalore. Their pub-style restaurants are very posh, and the food is incredible. We are still talking about a restaurant we went to last week where we got chocolate walnut tarts and warm figgy pudding. We’ve also had the Dominoes experience here in Bangalore (surprisingly good, but no pepperoni on the menu), and yesterday we tried some awesome Mexican food.
Today was our first real day off. We also experienced one of our first Indian thunderstorms. Bangalore has gone from a city of one million to ten million in the last ten years, and can often seem like a wonderful whirlwind of chaos. But, the storm brought a much needed afternoon of calm and relaxation that I think we were all grateful for.