What made it worth it

This week marks a midway point for Judy and me. Although we’re more than halfway through our time in India, we are just finishing up our first project and starting a second one. After spending more than a month in the lush, cool greenery of Araku Valley, we’re back to the loud, dusty, bumper-to-bumper lifestyle of Hyderabad. We were excited about it at first. After all, we go to school in Philadelphia, so being in the city holds a sense of familiarity with it, however minimal. We were excited to eat new food and go shopping and be able to explore a city on our own two legs. That lasted about two days.

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Us on our first day in the Coffee Processing Unit, and me on our last day, right before leaving

At school, I’m always anxious that I’m not doing enough. Here, that’s translated to wondering if I’m taking enough advantage of all of the opportunities available, whether its cities to visit or restaurants to eat at or sights to see. The result is a host of detailed Google docs and spreadsheets as Judy and I attempt to maximize our next couple of weeks here. What we’re missing from the first leg of our internship is the contented feeling of satisfaction, of doing enough, of doing everything we want to and can.

With this post, I wanted to make a list of moments so far that have made the summer “worth it,” even if we don’t hit every city on our spreadsheet by the end of it. These were never on a checklist of things we had to hit before our 10 weeks ran out, but they were highlights of each day.

1. The daily commute: taking an open-air auto rickshaw to work everyday here is one of the most pleasant parts of the day. We cruise through the city while getting more and more familiar with the main streets and side streets, and scope out shops and places to eat along the way. Best Uber ever.

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This picture was actually taken by Judy in Jaipur but I love the light coming in through the window

2. Lunchtime with the office: Everyday, strictly at 1, some of our colleagues take their lunch break, and we sit around a table outside and dig in. Judy and I had mentioned that we wanted to try momos–a South Asian version of dumplings–now that we were back in the city, so one of our coworkers, Imsen, brought in homemade ones for us this week! On other days, Kaush, kind of the mother figure of the office, brings in several courses just to share with everyone else and even makes a plate for me and Judy to make sure we try everything.

3. The mangoes: Your office might have a Keurig, but mine has a never-ending supply of mangoes. As you’ve read, Naandi has created a coffee market, and they’re working on doing that for mangoes next. This year is a testing year, which for us means tasting hundreds of mangoes, and calling it part of the job.

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Judy’s mango-cutting skills showcased during mango procurement week when we tasted everything

4. The pomegranates: They’re also in the testing phase for a pomegranate project, which is focused in the Warda district of Maharashtra. This area has seen a string of farmer suicides due to lack of sufficient harvest and the cycle of debt over the past couple of decades. Naandi’s plan to address these insurmountable debts involves introducing pomegranate, which was chosen through a cost-benefit analysis and an environmental analysis of the region. The fruits that came through the corporate office in Hyderabad this month were distributed to employees, and we even got to take them to give out at an N-Star center, a skill-building and educational center for college-aged girls. Of course, being able to taste the fruits is a pretty sweet perk, but I also love how they’ve shown how related all of the projects of Naandi are. As an intern, I’ve valued how I’ve been able to learn about so many different projects and have a small hand in several of them, and I’ve also enjoyed seeing how people are involved with different projects and how they all relate. It has helped remind us of the relevance of the work we are doing and how our work fits into the bigger picture.

5. The occasional gem of an auto driver: This past weekend, Judy and I went to Jaipur, and we spent one day in the nearby towns of Pushkar and Ajmer. We took the train to Ajmer with a list of places to see but very little idea of how we were going to get around efficiently and how we were going to find anything at all. After seeing a couple things in Ajmer, we wanted to head to Pushkar. We had read that taxi prices would be >400 rupees each way, so we called an auto to the bus station with the intention of taking a bus. When we mentioned that we were planning to go to Pushkar, the auto driver offered to drive us there and back for a decent price, so we decided to take a chance and go with him, despite being only 50% sure of what we had agreed on, based on my broken Hindi. He turned out to be a fantastic tour guide, showing us everything we wanted to see, and more. At the end of the ride, he lamented that we didn’t have more time, as he would have wanted us to see more in Ajmer, his hometown, too. We exchanged phone numbers with the promise that we would call him if we or anyone we knew were coming to Ajmer. The moment that really warmed our heart was that evening, when he called us, and put his English-speaking son on the phone just to ask if we had gotten back to Jaipur safely from Ajmer. If any future CASI interns are thinking of a trip to Ajmer/Pushkar, please let me know!

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MaaBaap, our favorite auto driver ever, taking us into Pushkar from Ajmer

As we head into the remaining 3 weeks of our internship, we have every weekend booked with travel, and most evenings booked with dinners with co-workers or local activities. Thinking about the smaller joys of the past several weeks hasn’t made us want to slow down at all, but it’s made us remember the importance of reflection, and of acknowledging what’s been done and why we did it.

2 thoughts on “What made it worth it

  1. Lovely write up.
    The vast majority of Indians are innately friendly and helpful. Glad you found a good auto driver.
    Hope your Hyderabad stay is more enjoyable also. Blog about it.

    1. I love spending time in Hyderabad, and this visit is no different. Thank you so much for reading! We appreciate it.

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About Veena Bhagavathi

Class of 2019, majoring in biology and minoring in French and chemistry. Interning at the Naandi Foundation in Hyderabad, Telangana and Araku Valley, Andhra Pradesh for the summer of 2018.