Phew! am back to some semblance of normalcy again. From end of Jan to the 3rd week of Feb, I was on a roller-coaster whistle-stop tour across 5 cities in 20 days with my boss and her boss. Some memorable experiences from the trip include meeting a flower seller in Hubli, a jewellery shop in Chennai and an opulent farm house in Gurgaon.
It was a wonderful experience travelling to North Karnataka. Hubli as a city is probably not the best of touristy destinations, but the work some NGOs do there is touching and deeply impactful. We met this old lady at a microfinance organization who had lost her husband, her two sons and her son-in-law in a freak accident and had 3 daughters, 2 daughters-in-law and 7 grandchildren to support.... at the young age of 65! Amazingly she decided that there was nothing to be done by crying her heart out every day; she just rolled up her sari and got to work. She borrowed money from this microfinance institution (supported by HSBC incidentally... yippee!) and started a flower vendor shop. She did so well that she now has 5 flower shops, 2 vegetable and fruit shops and a tea stall. A business empire in her community! All in 3 years. And she has repaid her loan. She now takes lessons in the microfinance classes for women on 'how to spot a business opportunity, to have a business plan ready, to have well negotiated contracts with suppliers, how to treat colleagues and employees and how to invest to make enough money for personal and business expansion purposes'. I was tempted to learn Kannada just to attend these classes!
My boss's boss freaked out in Thangamaligai in Chennai(a large format gold shop.) It claims to stock gold for every pocket. The shop is a large 3 storied building just for gold accessories. He spent several thousand dollars in 4 hours flat marvelling at the make, the gold designs and the pure numbers that thronged the shop. His wife is one lucky lady I must say! He couldn't believe the number of gold shops in Chennai, not to mention silk sari shops and the perineal crowds that he found there. He refused to accept that there was any need in the city for an NGO! I had a tough task convincing him.
In Kolkata, we met several local community leaders. Cal as you know is famous for Indian Chinese. It is also famous for its laid back attitude, hospitality and the love of its people for good food. Each person that we met (usually over a brief meeting that naturally extended into a lunch or a dinner) took us to an Indian Chinese restaurant, 4 days continuously, for every meal. We ODed on Indian Chinese man. The best way to offend me now is to offer Indian Chinese for any meal! Never thought that the greasy Jet Airways parathas would be manna after so much hakka noodles and three treasure vegetable!
In cal we also had the opportunity to meet with Kiran Bedi. She IS a lady of courage, passion and conviction and an inspiring speaker. She sort of impressed upon me that it is 'best to be prepared' for anything one does. Sigh! If only I could implement that.
And finally in Delhi, we had dinner at this magnificient farm house at Gurgaon. Never knew of a person who owned a stretch limo in India, let alone with a house that had a dog kennel (with its own kitchen and dining area) the size of my house! A lawn the size of a football field, a marble floored house with a dining table that could seat 26 people and a Japanese loo that had a control panel that one could use to direct warm water or air sprays, lift or lower the seat or even flush! I must say that such opulence left me speechless (for those who know me, it IS a tough feat!)
Just settling into the normalcy of life in Mumbai, fighting my cook and maid and the istri-wala and catching up on news from friends. I have always wanted to travel constantly, be a jet-setting corporate executive type and none of the earlier roles I was in afforded much travel. I realise now, after this trip that no matter what, the joys of a five star hotel is never enough to compensate for fighting over an extra helping of dessert with my husband. In fact, I did not feel like dessert most days during the trip. (wiping my eyes! I missed home)