Friends, Family and an Impact

Halfway through the class and India already feels like home. If you would have told me how close I would be with new friends within this short period of time I would have called you crazy. Now I know that there is no way this experience could happen without getting this close. I now not only have new friends but a new family, albeit quite a large and diverse bunch. For several days I was sick, first a fever and stomach bug and then a minor throat infection and almost complete loss of my voice. I assumed I would be left in my room while other students keep their distance to avoid getting sick. Instead, I felt like I had 20 mothers and fathers each ensuring I got better as quickly as possible. Kuku running to me with cups of traditional Chinese medicine nighty, Chirag dropping what he is doing to bring me to the pharmacy, Tejas driving me through the hectic streets of Hubli to get me to the best soup in town, Hannah and Kanmani washing and bandaging my injured foot and the dozens of offers for medicine, water and to get me anything I need. From the moment I wake up to when I fall asleep I know my new family is here for me. If you are looking for someone to talk to or something to do I simply walk into any room and am met by smiling faces ready for a good time.

I am constantly learning about Indian culture from how to eat properly in India (using the right hand only) to different gestures (a slight shake of the head means yes/ I am listening while in America this means no). Yesterday we visited the “Rock Garden” a tourist attraction that is part artists installations, part cultural museum, part amusement park. My friends Chinmai and Chirag were great tour guides explaining each part of the museum and the connection to traditional and modern Indian culture (I think they taught me more about India than I ever learned in the States). At one section of the Rock Garden there was an installation called the Rain Dance which was a waterpark ride installation where giant shower-like heads pour water onto a crowd of dancinguests while a DJ bumps American music crossed with Punjabi. Mya and I were the first ones to run into the dance and there was a group of young Indian school boys and girls who were thrilled that we were there. We were soon taught some Indian dances and while I butchered every single one the locals were beyond happy and when we tried to leave we were swarmed with hugs and had no choice but to return to the dance floor. The busride home, as always in India, was a great time where we watched beautiful farm lands sprinkled with Buddhist, Muslim and Hindu temples and religious sites. At one point a van drove by and I swore it was straight out of a picture I had seen on the internet: men were hanging out the windows and even just standing and holding onto the back of the car. Again this is on a highway going at least 50 miles per hours.

On another, more academic level, I knew this would be an accelerated class but I had no idea how much I would learn in such a short period of time. I keep having to remind myself that everything I know about entrepreneurship I have learned in this past week. My project is one that I am personally interested in and is called Greenhouse-in-a-Box where my company creates smaller greenhouses that provide protection from intense heat, pests and reduces water usage. My company also provides monitoring, education and financing to ensure that small time farmers cannot only access the technology but actually be successful in their ventures. One quote that has stuck with the co-founder and was part of his inspiration for creating the non-profit also really stuck out to me and I wanted to share it. One day while a boy he walked by a farmer eating mud, when asked why the farmer replied “The stomach does not realize the pocket is empty”. I may have misquoted him but the meaning and power of this event is one that I think will stick with me for a very long time. I cannot even imagine the poverty and struggles that this man faces on a day to day basis and am very glad that this company now exists. Every day I see things in India that make me want to jump for joy while others make me want to weep. It is tough to see the intense poverty that millions of Indians face here, when driving to a high end mall with my friend Tejas I looked to the left and saw an Indian slum. In front of me were, for want of a better word, small houses with piles of garbage next to, on top of and all around them. Looking inside I could see a single small room full of bodies, I wanted to ask my Indian friends but I was shocked into silence. I have traveled the world and visited many impoverished places, small Tanzanian villages, Lebanese towns that have been levelled only years prior, Costa Rican slums and Mexican homeless. None of them have every shocked me like this or had the raw power of this moment. While I am having quite literally the time of my life in India with a new family of amazing friends I will take far more with me.