Saturday, October 29, 2011


The all to familiar concept of a looming deadline beckons as we enter our final week of this CSC assignment in Jaipur.

We've gained a high degree of familiarity with Jaipur and the local area around our homestay. No longer are we threatened by the apparent recklessness of the local drivers weaving in and out of the roundabouts and driving down roads against the flow of traffic. There may be a sense of disorder - but it works, and we appreciate the ease of jumping into a motorised tuk-tuk to get to our places of work, or to get into the city.

We've become regulars at a number of places - the local Indian/Italian restaurant greets us as friends of long standing as we mix our cuisines and cultures with a starter of bruschetta followed by paneer cooked in every way imaginable served with lots of naan.

The local fast food joint/sweet shop offers variety from dosas through to pizza... but this is not the main game here. The sweet shop on the ground floor is where the action is... and 'sweet' is definitely the name of the game here. Whatever concept we may have had of a sweet tooth, it has been redefined and taken to a new level here with cheesecakes, sweet dough balls bathing in cloyingly sweet syrup, and our new acquired favourite, Barfi made from condensed milk and sugar which has been cooked until it solidifies and can be cut into small (and deeply addictive) squares. To eat just a single piece of Barfi is impossible.

With our individual projects - we are all well progressed, as we should be, and we are all busy finalising material and getting ready for the final delivery to our partners. As will all projects, some change is inevitable towards the end as ideas get firmed up and finalised.
For a month Jaipur has become our home, the team our extended family, and our partners good friends who we have worked with but who have also welcomed us and shown amazing hospitality.

And... finally, we appear to have come up with a name for CSC India 13... in homage to our favourite sweet - we are the Jaipur Barfi Cowboys !

Thursday, October 27, 2011

….Deepawali in Jaipur


::This report filed at 2000hrs Jaipur time by blogger Mir Ali embedded in the CSC unit at Camp Girisadan:
After a 24-hour barrage, the smoke is starting to lift and the explosions and rocket fire in the background are starting to get less frequent. As we duck and weave and make are way around the outlines of smoky buildings toward the fast food store we see silhouettes in dark doorways waiting to ignite fuses. Flash…rat-a-tat…in the next alleyway a ladi is triggered…the 1000 or so little firecrackers strung together start to go off in concert…a violent rain-like sound with dancing flashes and embers that instantly turn the alley into a disco. Like marines, we move onward…gotta make the Kanha restaurant before the chicken-corn soup runs out. Out to my left behind the tower a sharp whistle as a rocket ascends into the sky. Ahead of me an auto-rickshaw ominously barrels straight for us, its driver looking heavenward…
As Deepawali approached, earlier this week, we went out to the local arms and fruit market and stocked up on firecrackers and custard-apples. I bought rockets (so many turned out to be duds but I guess you can return burnt rockets to arms dealers…besides they don’t come with serial numbers) and stocked up on firey spinning chakras. I acquired a mix of red sparklers and white sparklers…of little bombs and big bombs. My prized acquisition is the whistling rocket that bolts out of the bottle, ascends into the sky, explodes in a shower….and wait wait wait…now you’ll see it….little mini-explosive shrapnel that got dispersed by the first big bang explode in a second more deliberate, delayed and colorful orchestra of pyrotechnics. That was the best explosive in my arsenal until my fearless Australian friend Fay went to a different dealer. She bought the 10-hottest-bombs set, complete with original carton showing the 10 bollywood beauties: Kareena kapoor, Aishwarya Rai, Priety zinta……Raji Mukerji….!!! Bollywood does everthing better…
Last night at the stroke of Diwali, team India13 headed silently up the stairs to the 4th floor landing and then crawled up a second narrow stairway to the roof. All around us were beams, beats, single explosions, eruptions, circular trajectory rockets, sudden intense explosions that storm the ribcage, brilliant showers of red and green, golden and purple, rapid fire sequences and beautiful soundless pictures with far away specks of light giving birth to umbrellas and canopies.
It soon became obvious, there are certain neighborhoods that are better prepared for the battles of Deepawali! Militias of kids patrolled certain rooftops, setting off sequences, planning the next sky dances, synchronizing the sound and light shows.... On the rooftop due north of us it appeared at some point that a decision had been reached…”lets show them everything we got… Yessir!!”. For the next half hour I stood mesmerized as the showoff rooftop was transformed into a veritable launching pad….rockets were ignited non-stop and ascended in swarms, beacons of interrupted light flashed as bomb sequences ran their course, kids scurried purposefully, maybe fearfully, mostly triumphantly.
Not to be outdone the A-team off to our left mobilized. Maybe their plan all along was to let the others’ ammo run out. Now they were in the ascent…their rockets soared overhead, their pinks, yellows and reds painted the night sky and their drumbeat ruled the neighborhood. Yiiiiiihaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!
We unpacked our loot…laid it all out, selected what we wanted and went to work. It was wonderful, at once adrenaline pumping and calmingly beautiful! Writing names and letters with sparklers…multiple movements being captured by slow-exposure cameras, silly teenage celebrations of joy witnessed by handycams, the fun of indulging, the instant attainment of gratification, appreciating the art, creating the art, of being multiple artists creating and restoring one fleeting celestial mural, participating in this magical interaction between fire and smoke, darkness and light!!!

Happy Diwali!


Happy Diwali,
CSC Jaipur

Shubh Deepawali!

Jaipur's Diwali look

Pooja for Lakshmi at Agarwal family's house
(Lakshmi - goddess of wealth)

Impressive 56 dishes Pooja for Krishna called
Annkoot at Gupta family's house
(Krishna - god of love and divine joy)


The ‘oil-painters’ came back with yellow brushes and their now spotted pants. Turpentine flowed and nails scratched but the paint stuck, determined. Our team climbed down from its rooftop repair site of the solar panel. We’d fixed the dish that had slow cooked us in return. It was a funny transaction…for each mirror we replaced and each bird poop we cleaned away, the mirror’s reflective wrath got only more intense. Someone wondered aloud if a pigeon flying thru its focal point would instantly turn into a hot dinner. Kids Aakash, Salman and Vijay had been our companions, directors, friends, entertainers and general rooftop accompaniment all day with expert commentary like “….do this…don’t try that…you guys don’t know….I have done this before…what is your name…do you play kabbaddi…why…whynot...”.
Team three was concluding a blue and green colored “whitewash” of a dorm building. There were no paint rollers to deploy, only brushes which meant that at the end there were no arms no muscles, only fatigued mushy appendages. However from the returning smiles it was clearly a win for mind over matter.
This team of ten tanned, dirty, yellow-spotty, blue-streaked, burnt, dehydrated and tanned IBMers now gathered to clean, groom, detoxify, drink chai and enjoy their collective high. There are times in life when the benefactor becomes the beneficiary and this was one. Wow, another dormant bulb has flickered on, another understanding gained. How many such hitherto unused bulbs do I have, I wonder. (to my wife: this is a rhetorical question, honey!)
BLR(babulalji) isn’t about to get teary-eyed and grateful just yet. “Don’t forget to bring your paint cans with you” he announces to the team. After a little more physical and in some cases verbal scrubbing with the oil paint we head off in the direction of the kabbaddi game.
What in the world is kabbaddi-kabbaddi-kabbaddi?

Monday, October 24, 2011 the orphanage.

Jitendra drives the brake pedal into the floor of the bus and we come to a stop some in a clearing about 20 feet from a couple of nondescript little buildings. We’ve arrived at Vatsalya’s Udayan orphanage, an anonymous campus hidden away off the Jaipur-Delhi highway. It’s anonymity matched only by that of its eighty inhabitants…rescued street children and orphans of the Jaipur area.
The ten of us are led on a tour by a girl named Chandini who’s body language tells me that she has no small stake or place here. We learn later of her success story. She arrived here a mere 6 or 7 year old. Now a Kathakali dance teacher and practitioner when not pursuing her higher studies, she rightfully exudes an air of ownership. Together with the very much in-control Mr. BLJ (babulalji) she leads us through classrooms, dorm houses, bathrooms, mess hall, vegetable fields and sports fields.
The classrooms are missing window frames as if the bell rang and class ended before the windows could be colored in. Or may be this is intended, so kids brought here from harsh existences may learn to day-dream. We move on... In each class hangs one portrait: Marky Mark (aka Mark Twain) , MG (Mahatma Gandhi), Nelson Mandela…
The frames are hung too high, maybe ten feet off the floor. You cant read the bylines but the message is clear… these are elevated can get there too!
To enter the dorm we descend a few feet from ground level. This home for so many kids is cradled into mother earth, literally and intentionally. It stays cool like a basement, provides a shelter from the brightest rays and smells like ‘a boys room’. It hits me. My boys ten thousand miles from here with an uninterrupted supply chain of deodorant smell the same! An olfactory proof of the brotherhood of all boys! In the center of the concrete floor is a circular dugout fitted with a mattress…a prefect wrestling pit for all the physical tugs and wars of boyhood.
We head into the “mess” – a place where the school eats together three times each day. Long wooden tables reach out in both directions from a circular center. The tabletop is about 18 inches off the ground, just enough to get the lower half of an average Indian body under with legs crisscrossed or extended. Children line both sides of these long tables and chatter and watch the kitchen door expectantly and say a prayer.
We are ushered and assemble around a round table. The concrete floor also serves as our seat. Those who have natural cushioning are fortunate! Lunch arrives into our circular stainless steel plates. One curry, unlimited puris (fried bread) and a rice pudding. The last being a refuge for those with burning tongues and rumbling stomachs. Some spoons are handed out…but for some its time to take the plunge literally and figuratively…hesitant fingers with pinched pieces of puri head for the curry. Dip, dive, skim, touch, explore…a dance of fingers, puri and curry orchestrated by the courage at hand.
We eat a lot. I dare not look back to see if the kids are offered unlimited puris. Why invite guilt?

Week 3

We have now entered week three of our assignment and well into the routine of work. However this is really an auspicious week in the Indian calendar - the feast of Diwali, the festival of lights. The city of Jaipur is decked out in lights and the shops are doing a booming trade as everyone is buying gifts.

Having this festival in the middle of the assignment gives us some benefits - some quiet time to do some work while our partners are celebrating with their families (many of our partner organisations are formally or informally closed during this period), but also we have the opportunity to take part in the festivities... and some times we strike lucky.

Our trip back from the Udayan orphanage and school took us back past Amer Fort and the Lake Palace (Jal Mahal). The Palace was all lit up, and there was some activity going on the shorefront - a quick request to our minibus driver to stop for 5 minutes for a photo opportunity. Our luck was in ! Within a few minutes of stopping we were being treated to a spectacular fire work display, and we had ringside seats as rockets were fired into the sky for a good fifteen minutes --- a true case of serendipity in terms of perfect timing for an unexpected event.

Driving back through the Jaipur City Walls we had another treat in store in terms of the city streets being lit up with street lights strung across the road and all the shops preparing for the anticipated roaring trade the next day.

A great end to a great day!


A day at the Udayan children village

The contrast hardly be bigger between the vibrant life in Jaipur and the little place called Udayan, an hour's drive away from the city center. After a bumpy road along some fields lined with coppice and high grass the entry gate takes us into a dwelling. The little houses are surrounded by trees in the middle of a desert landscape. Some cows and geese are wandering around the houses and there is a basket ball court. Udayan is home to some 60 orphaned or abandoned children from all over Rajasthan. Some of the 3 - 18 years old have already gone through things in their lives that are difficult to immagine. The children's village is the centerpiece of the work Vatsalya, my client, is doing. The organization gives these kids a shelter where they can recover from their trauma, go to school and live a healthy life in a secure environment.

The team decided to spend a volunteering day at the children's village involving some manual work and and a bit of breakneck, or I lets rather say breakhand, kabaddi, something like an version of Indian rugby with no rugby ball where almost everything is allowed. Some impressions from our day at Udayan........

Thanks again all for was a great day!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

5 days ago…

Wanting to be the first people at the gates of Taj Mahal when it opens to hear the sounds of eternity, we had an ambitious plan to leave the guest house at 5:30am. The plan was executed perfectly, except we arrived at the Gates of Taj Mahal to a queue of about 150 people with the exact same plan. Upon sorting ourselves into “high value ladies” and “high value men”, we waited in queue for an hour before finally stepping inside the gates.

The first thoughts inside the gates were “ahh…peace and quiet”. For the first time, we were inside a tourist hotspot with no constant stream of people trying to be our guide, boys selling souvenirs and kids trying to pose for a photo for a tip. As we walked along the red sandstone gateway in the forecourt, we felt the serenity, at least as much serenity as one can experience when sharing an enclosed space with 150 other closest strangers.

At the end of the forecourt, we turned the corner, and through the dark arch hallway, we saw it - Taj Mahal, the magnificent white marble mausoleum glistering in the morning sun. From afar, the Taj Mahal has an understatedly grand presence, further reinforced by the symmetry for the structure, perfect reflection in the water ways and the garden filled with beautiful birds.

Up-close, the Taj is made up of walls upon walls of marble carvings. The simplicity of the white marble structure from afar is replaced by intricate lapidary of precious and semiprecious gemstones. The octagonal marble screen which borders the cenotaphs is made from eight marble panels which have been carved through with intricate pierce work.

The structure was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal. From the looks of it, he must’ve really loved his wife. Surrounded by the magnificence of this structure, we can’t help but wonder about the people, the money, and the time gone into its construction, and what the emperor could have achieved if the resources were used for humanitarian purposes.

After our tour guide reluctantly left us at our request, thus skipping the shopping section of the tour, we took a wonder around ourselves. Left to our own devices, we discovered why the Taj is considered one of the wonders of the world - it is mesmerising from all angles and distance. I felt like I could’ve stayed there for an eternity without getting tired of the view.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A day in the life…at UMANG

Leen and I have been meeting ‘Bhai-sab’ our quirky white-haired auto-rickshaw driver each morning at promptly 8:30 to embark on our bumpy, jarring, violent, jerky, horn-blaring, smog-inhaling, sleep-expelling ride into the office. The only place where I recall feeling this instant mix of fear, anxiety and exultation is on an old roller coaster in San Antonio called the ‘Rattler’. I think the same engineers designed both devices.
The other day we get on campus and while we do our good mornings we take pictures to create marketing material. There are loud cries coming from an adjacent class. Cries of pain, maybe of frustration and certainly of anger. A student is not having a good day. The UMANG staff is unrattled. We know this because looking at their calm gives us the courage to calm down. The girl is led outdoors...
In the hallway outside is the enclosure that serves as the Speech therapy center. Sharmila had asked me to help with videotaping a session. I, of course, am overawed by everything here, so I oblige. Two kids are sitting at a desk and one working with a largeish calculator like device. I zoom in, eyes and lenses. “What do want to tell me today?” Sharmila gently asks him. The child strains, braces and swoops to tap an icon on the calculator-like device that says ‘My Mother’. The device speaks the words for him. “What do you want to tell me about your mother”?
Tap-à “My mother loves me”, the calculator says!
If you are the teacher, you smile and Sharmila does. If you are me, this is heady stuff, a very intelligent little boy who cant speak, just told you about his biggest love…his mother. Choke, tears, wow...! Zoom out.
Then there’s this wonderful kid on a wheelchair that looks like one of my Rajput buddies from high school. Proud black moustache, well groomed hair, a steel ring at this wrist….”Good Morning Bhavani” I shout. That’s when he slowly unveils his 1000-watt smile. “Good Morning” he retorts. Our hands meet in air….”Kaise ho Bhavani?”.
Late morning one day UMANG plays host to group of sixty ladies; the wives of most powerful Indian army officers here in Jaipur. They come equipped with bags full of craft tools, projects, ideas, excitement, enthusiasm and patience. These one-on-one craft workshops are their way of honoring UMANG, which educates their own developmentally disabled children. I see the significance. I am on a CSR (Corporate social responsibility) assignment and so are these ladies. We talk to them about our ‘Branding’ strategies for UMANG, about our appreciation for their support and implore them to become our brand ambassadors.
The noisy gate of the vocational training center announces our entrance. Shakuntala and her kids in the patio are all smiles. Hellos come in many forms: words where possible, nods where possible, smiles where possible and any movements where possible. Hello all. We're here to meet Pramilla the coordinator of this unit, a superb educator, patient teacher and overall nice-person-and-manager of this unit. She is putting the finishing touches to some artwork of the kids. Squeezing golden glitter with a flourish, turning a patchwork into an artwork. Leen and I join in and its arts-and-crafts time…children again with glitter, cards and a messy art table... the CSR mission is checked in at the door!! After a while I have to stop to attend to an ongoing discussion in the group. Leen is absorbed, her attention and the glitter sticking to the card. Later she celebrates, “I did six cards”!!!

As we return past the main building we find a girl sitting and swaying back and forth on a blue trampoline who’s motion must sooth or smooth her loud and strong movements. She is inconsolable. She can’t verbalize why. She may be able to communicate, but just not this minute, this hour. Meenakshi is by her side gently talking, asking, consoling “Kya hua beta (what is it child?)”….Kya hua beta…..Kya hua beta….Kya hua beta...Kya hua beta...Kya hua beta...

Getting into it...

We are now about half way into the assignment and we as a team we have become accustomed to the Jaipur way of life. A motorised rickshaw ride is a daily occurance for pretty much all of us now and we accept the use of the horn on a constant basis.

Again as a team we bring and share our personalities as we discuss our individual partners over a meal at night. Fay demonstrates her passion for fruit - especially custard apples, Myriam has brought chocolate goodies from Argentina and is seen sipping 'Mate' at night, and the conversation drops into Spanish regularly as our 'alternative' language - although we list at least a dozen different languages between the 10 of us.

But all of this is useful, as we share our experiences and share our knowledge between the teams helping each other out where we can with specific knowledge across the assignments.

Our specific project is going well - a mix of providing, developing and sharing ideas, some specific tactical help (a quick lesson in how to use Pivot tables in Excel!), and some number crunching to 'see what this would look like' to provide a sanity check against the aspirations.

Meanwhile, Jaipur is preparing for one of the major festivals - Diwali - next week. The lights are going up, the sound of fireworks periodically breaks through the traffic noise whilst the shops and stores are preparing for a bumper season.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rural Rajasthan

#ibmcsc #india13
“Come!” exclaims Mr. Bapna, the General Manager of Coordination at Morarka Foundation, signalling the start to our journey north to rural Rajasthan and the city of Nawalgarh, the origin city of the Mororka family. Fay, Erman, and I eagerly put down our chais and boarded the 4-wheel drive car that would be our transporation for the next two days. In order to get a better feel for what the Morarka Foundation does, Mr. Bapna had personally arranged our two day trip to visit some of the farms that found success using the organic methods developed by the Morarka Foundation. After 3 hours of driving through the dry Rajasthan countryside and several small villages, we came to the first farm. Using extra money earned through their switching to organic production, the family that we met was able to construct some simple guest rooms to accommodate ecotourists that flock to their farm from all over the world. After giving us a tour of their farm, their animal shelters, and showing us their latest organic experiences, the family led us to their one-room house and had us sit on the floor in front of low tables. They then proceeded to fill our metal plates with delicious organic Rajasthani food. The customary way to eat in Rajasthan is by using only the right hand to break pieces of chapati (flat bread) and use that to scoop up food. I gave it my best shot and was given some tips by Mr. Bapna. The secret, it turns out, is to not care about how much food you get all over your fingers. Especially since at the end of the meal hand washing is expected. We were all blown away by the hospitality and warmth this family showed us. Turns out, this is the Rajasthan way. The rest of the day and day after were filled with more farms, all in much better shape after having switched to organic. The original farm to follow the Morarka methods is extremely productive and now has four brothers working 6 acres. Others are building guest rooms for ecotourism or building a new and bigger house for their family. All the families are clearly grateful to the Morarka Foundation for not only teaching them organic methods but of supporting them through the transition as well.

A thriving field of eggplants

Me, Erman, and Fay inside the Morarka Museum

Riding camels and getting henna at a farm that also accepts guests

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Road trip

Spain, Romania, Australia, Switzerland, Turkey, Argentina and the US are all driving down the Jaipur-Agra highway. The crackling speakers pour forth a Lata Mangeshkar song…something about life and love sautéed or skewered in tragedy. Normal.
Shortly after starting we are in a hit-and-run accident. This time we are the hitters-and-runners! The victim a poor cow who’s parents didn’t teach it to look both ways before it crossed the street. It was a matter of fact hit-and-run. The ‘hit’ borne out of haste and the ‘run’ out of necessity. Not much excitement, adrenaline rushes, instant justice or redemption. No drama.
The highway rest stop is an entrepreneurial tourist trapping enterprise. It wasn’t out of sympathy for our bladders but more out of the expectation of promised ‘gifts’ (to those who would assist in trapping unknowing tourists) that our driver decides to pause our journey here. We flee the trap quickly, but not before gathering our Oreos, Chips-Ahoys and Cokes.
What India have we seen thus far? Let me tell you – fields of grain,, camels swaggering down the highway, women balancing pots on their heads nonchalantly– “look no hands. Mom!”, blazing red Bougainvilleas, the newly invented six-pack speed-bumps , a live cow that maybe in the ICU now, wonderful roadsides littered with handicrafts, men on cell phones, women thatching roofs, women on cell phones, men drinking tea, mud huts, temples, smoke stacks and dhabas (roadside cafes).
This is the wonderful India that the United Nations in this bus are witnessing today. What more could we want as we ride in this air-conditioned space capsule. Well…just maybe the Taj Mahal!

Thursday, October 13, 2011



Eons ago, in morning school assemblies my generation mindlessly chanted “O Lord……Grant that I may not so much seek to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love…”. Eons later a vacant tubelight flickers on in my brain, as I mingle with the kids at UMANG Jaipur. UMANG is the NGO I work with (thanks to IBM forever) and a place of learning and recreation for (severely) developmentally disabled kids. I’m consulting at UMANG on issues of business strategy and planning but its also become clear to me that I’m serving my apprenticeship to these kids on core life issues of strength, fortitude and attitude.
Leen and I arrive early on day one to witness the students arrive. They come with little fuss lurching down the driveway on crutches, sliding on uncooperative feet, stumbling unbalanced, recovering, going into the next cycle of steps, arriving...being lead onto the campus by escorts, parents, classmates…and ALL smiling. Next come two who hold hands to accumulate the reassurance needed to get past the threshold of their classroom. UMANGs staff is everywhere….almost a 1:1 ratio of helpers to students, wheelchairs are filled with bodies lowered out of auto-rickshaws and then vacated faster than you expect. Right on the hour, the din outside morphs into classroom sounds inside.
Leen ‘Deedee’(sister) and Mir “Bhai”(brother) are introduced to one class. Loud good mornings spill out. Eager hands reach out for ours, awkward, deformed, able, unable, strong, hesitant, uncontrolled, miscontrolled…each fueled by unbounded enthusiasm. … touch is important, a overt acknowledgement of our acquaintance, of the possibility of a new friendship or simply the joy of a shared world. In many cases I’ll never know, but that doesn’t diminish the lesson it holds. After thousands of corporate handshakes we finally find a crowd that has no agenda past the handshake. It is an end in itself. And the goal for the morning. Leen and I are shaking hands, smiling, attempting eye contact, attempting speech, not able to contain the creation of so much instant emotion….trying hindi, trying English, shouting words like cricket, chocolates, Tendulkar, Spain, New York…
For three hours we go from one class to the next. Each child is a new friend, each disability establishing its own boundaries of interaction. At the end Leen and I are exhausted but happy. This feels good. Very good.


#ibmcsc #india13
Well into our first week and we are all deeply immersed in the environment and our individual projects. Sandra and I are working on a livelihood program for slum youth for Vatsalya, a well established NGO in Jaipur. Vatsalya is an inspiring organisation that started with care for orphaned, destitute and abandoned children. It has since grown to cover additional areas including health programs and empowerment for women, and most recently the Upaarjan program providing entry level skills training to allow slum youth to gain employment. These programs are run directly in the areas where they are most needed with recruitment being done largely by word of mouth through individuals walking through the streets and talking one on one.

On our first day we visited three of these centres, basic but adequate for training in Tailoring, Customer Sales and Marketing, IT and Hospitality. As well as providing three months training in the chosen subject, they also provide personal skills development and assistance in placement in a job. With significant unemployment and poverty, this is a first step in providing entry level employment.

Yesterday we did visit Vatsalya’s pride and joy – their orphanage and school. Set some 50km outside of Jaipur it’s a great facility. Dormitories for the kids, school in the grounds where they learn Hindi, English, Maths, playgrounds, volley ball court and of course a cricket pitch ! (This is India after all). The kids were clearly happy greeting Sandra with Namaste Deedee (hello big sister) and behaving just like cheeky kids anywhere in the world.

Feeling a bit inspired by this – we are trying to organise the whole team to get out for a day to do some ‘graft’ – a bit of building painting, a bit of hoeing, as a change from the day to day work we are doing. Most people are shutting down at least for some time during the Diwali festival so a good opportunity to give something back in a different way.

Sandra, Hitesh (Vatsalya CEO), Sunil (Research Assistant), Julian, Ravinder (Program Manager)
Vatsalya headoffice and cafeteria


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Thousand Colors, Thousand Scents

#ibmcsc #india13
We started the day with our first yoga session with Sashi on a bright Jaipur morning. Enjoyable as it was relaxing even though we really must have looked miserable to our instructor. For the next month everyday at 6:15am this will be our pre-breakfast morning routine.

We were then picked up by our friends from Morarka Foundation and taken to headquarters. What a day it proved to be, here are some experiences we had to name a few: - Admired and shared the passion to develop India, promote healthy food, preserve the world and increase farmers' welfare - Discussed and entertained ideas about creative business models, value chains, distribution and marketing channels, IT infrastructures for a dynamic and growing organization - Visited organic food, and spices production sites smelling of wonderful masalas - Learned how organic pesticides are made firsthand - Observed the vermi-composting process and about earthworms that makes the germination much more efficient in natural ways - Amazed by hydroponics to grow plants soil-less, and tray-cultivation experiments - Positively surprised by the delicious taste of organic garlic and onion cookies - Felt real comfort by trying on some organic cotton & bambu fiber t-shirts that are not only soft but also are anti-microbacterial, deodorizing and UV filtered - Enjoyed historical excerpts of Moghuls and Marwaris, silk road and spice roads - Feasted on wonderful organic dishes and sipped chai Even though I am really missing my wife having come to my assignment right after my honeymoon, the upbeat and diverse team, intellectual exchanges & business challenges, and the dynamic & colourful city of Jaipur will help me in getting acclimated it seems.
At the production facility

Tray Cultivation



Organic Pesticide

Organic onion and garlic cookies
Erman Akdogan

Through a different colored lens....

#ibmcsc #india13
Having visited India for work previously, and now visiting India again as part of the CSC volunteering program, I look within and feel the differences in my attitude, perception and heart.

During the previous work visit, it seemed to be all about you Vs me. Even though I was surrounded with lavish material comfort, and had stayed for an entire month, I felt isolated from the community.

Today is my 4th day, and I feel connected. When I look at the buildings, I see history, when I look at the roads, I see flow and when I look at the people, I see spirit.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The passion for your cause

#ibmcsc #india13
Four entrepreneurs spoke their hearts out today, each with the mission of transferring the compassion from their souls into that of their new IBM CSC consultants in the audience. Truly it was a moving spectacle, a slow and measured catharsis so that we understood the mission and its historical and emotional context. The first speaker was a dynamic woman CEO and founder who’s life mission is to rescue and rehabilitate the poorest of India’s kids. Her hit list: child protection, youth training, HIV and women’s rights. Next up was another woman at the helm of her corporation and at the top of her game. An entrepreneur, a mother, an activist and the primary caregiver to a developmentally disabled adult child. She’s built a framework of services that didn’t exist for her child but now services the needs of many others like her son. She wants the organization to become self sufficient, to be allowed to live on without donations and fundraisers. Period. Third was an analytical mind, a technical man, one who used numbers and reasons and the promise of better lives to make his case. His goal: to improve the lives of millions of Indians by efficiently collecting and mining data and using its stories to help build infrastructure and much needed services for the urban-poor. Last to speak was a businessman. A successful businessman. A businessman with the means and the acumen to successfully start, run and expand a supply-chain business and make the lives and livelihoods of thousands of farmers better in its wake! He needs the best IT. IT that will scale with the progressive applications of successful pilot models and IT that will enable him to reach the poorest of the poor in rural India.
To say I was impressed is an understatement. The missions are worthy, the need undeniable, the possible impact incredible…but most of all I was blown away by the commitment, the proverbial sweat, blood and tears that marks the journey that these folks have taken to advance their causes. Their calling is now our job. Wow!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Homecoming...

Delhi: 10/6/11 In the airport I pay 325 rupees which allows me to get into Mr. Lalit's yellow and black government subsidized cab (as opposed to the air-conditioned fleet of privately run cabs). But in keeping with the 'trying to help the underdog' theme of this trip it's fair. We rattle and hum the streets as I get his living pulse: he is from bihar, has come to the big city to earn money, money is not good, life is hard, the new civil disobedience movement is the only hope.....murmur murmur...I'm tuned out...distracted. It is hot and I unwind the window letting in the warm night air, fresh, smelly, humid, familiar, putrid, sentimental-memories-invoking, urine wafting, cow dung blasting, stray dogs running, exhausts fuming, auto-rickshaw sounding and tire screeching. Opening all my senses I inhale deeply. I am home. More than a feeling, I know I'm some stem-cellular level, an undifferentiated knowledge of certainty. No worries. It's my people, my animals, my fumes, my crap and my land. Only now it's the golden goose with ITs promise of golden eggs and massive emerging markets of havenots. The world has come to barter and bribe for the golden eggs. I want to stay and watch this show...

Day 1 - a day to overwhelm the sense

With a combined sleep of maybe 10 hours in 2 days between the 7 of us, Sandra, Leen, Myriam, Erman, Jordi and Catalin arrived in Jaipur early in the morning. Through the tasty breakfast Captain has prepared for us, we were determined to resemble human beings, although some with more success than others. Determined to beat jet lag by staying up until sunset, we decided to take a walk around the Pink City’s old city center. We hopped into 2 tuk tuks, which proceeded to race through the chaotic city streets. The cows wondered the streets leisurely, horns of all kind blared liberally, and the lanes on the roads were used as a suggestion only, at the best of the times. The ride in itself was an adventure. The ride took us through some of the old city, and we immediately realised that the name Pink City came at no exaggeration. The old buildings were pink, and they were majestic. Through the details, which has seen its fair share of weather and time, the grandeur it once were shined through. It was easy to see the building it as it once was, fit for a king.

The tuk tuks dropped us off in the middle of a market. Instantly, all our senses were overloaded. The sights of the pink building and the stalls, the smell of the spices, the noise of the street full of merchants, shoppers, traffic, tourists and cows came together with a touch of heat and humidity in the air. This was the market to end all markets. We saw stalls selling flowers, spices, tables, chairs, arts & crafts, underwear, religious paintings, leaf plates, saws and nuts and bolts just to name a few. There were an abundance of everything, although we wondered how many actually made sales.

We wondered the streets and just absorbed everything around us. Soaking in the environment and readjusting our sense. This will be home for the next 4 weeks, and I for one cannot wait to explore this multifaceted city in much more detail.

sleep deprived thoughts from the plane

Flicking through the in flight entertainment, I watched 2 episodes of “Go back to where you come from” before flicking to “Kourtney & Kim take New York”. “Go back to where you come from” is a documentary which follows the path of a refugee from origin through to integration into Australian society. “Kourtney & Kim take New York” is a couple of spoilt brats whose biggest problem is if their lipstick matched their dresses. The contrast between the 2 shows highlighted the differences in people’s perspective & priorities as they lead very different lives, and so they should - a person’s perspective is shaped by their experiences. I think we are so desensitised by the media and so over-bombarded with information that we don’t absorb anything unless we seek for it ourselves. In regards to basic humanitarian issues, I know it is all around me, but I seem to not notice it until I look for it myself. The CSC program has made me want to look, and now that I am looking, it’s all around me. It is very much real, and it is very much overwhelming. Hello Jaipur, I can’t wait for the next month, and everything it will entail.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Sunday before departure

So a very wet, long weekend in Sydney, Australia - ideal for doing a few last chores around the hours, doing some preliminary packing, wrapping up a few work things.. and of course a big weekend for sport.

Looking forward to finally getting to Jaipur and beginning work on our individual projects.