So, I changed my toothbrush last week. You know what that means? Yes, I am diligent about oral hygiene. Also, I’ve been here three months – I’m halfway done this Fellowship. Crazy, eh? Doesn’t feel like three months. I can tell the time is just going to fly by now too.
Last Wednesday, I went to a Secret Cinema event at a new restaurant in Hauz Khas Village. They have this tiny little movie theatre in the backroom of the restaurant that seats only 15 people. True to the exclusive nature of events here, you give them your number and they call you that day to let you know if you’re on the list. You don’t know the movie until it starts. Anyway, I got the call so I went. The movie turned out to be North by Northwest, by Alfred Hitchcock. I’d actually never seen a Hitchcock film before so this was new for me. Interesting portrayal of blondes.
Thursday was Rakhi, the festival celebrating the bond between brothers and sisters. We didn’t have the day off, but a lot of people didn’t come in. Traditionally, a sister will tie a sacred red threaded trinket around her brother’s wrist to express her devotion and feed him sweets, and the brother will give his sister gifts and vow to protect and watch out for her. My brothers have already abandoned me and, as the eldest, I still feel like it’s my responsibility to watch out for them in some ways, so I didn’t really have anything to do with this holiday other than eat the jalebi (a tooth-achingly sweet deep-fried street “food”) that kept going around the office. So imagine my surprise when my maid showed up on Saturday (not one of her workdays) to give me a rakhi! Is that the sweetest thing or what? I was very touched; I didn’t have anything for her so I gave her a hug and I hope that’s ok.
Yesterday I came home to quite the treat: another care package! This time it was sent by my lovely manager back at Pfizer with contributions from my Safety team. It was totally unexpected and very welcome! I didn’t really need anything, but I really appreciate the thoughtful “comfort” touches. Coffee, oatmeal, toiletries restock… you guys are the best!!! It’s so nice to get something from home and just to know people are thinking of you J My team back home is very busy this summer; I’m out and there’s a maternity leave as well and neither of us could be replaced, so they’re down two full-time workers. They really have to work harder to make up for us being gone, so I think they deserve some public recognition for their efforts. Any contribution that I’m able to make here to CARE India is due in large part to the support I receive from my manager and team back home, who are shouldering my share of the work and still making time to check in with me through email, telecons, and trans-Atlantic coffee shipments. Thanks guys! YAY TEAM!
Work suddenly got really busy here. I was asked on Friday to start doing some work for one of our program groups for Dalits (Untouchables). They send me their notes Friday after hours and wanted feedback on my synthesis Monday. Seems like it’s all or nothing here. I’m not involved in the external consultations due to the language barrier, so I’m doing the documentation synthesis, gap analysis, etc here in Delhi. I feel like the timeline is a little rushed and I’m not sure we’re really getting to the root of the issues. As I read through their notes, I keep seeing “there needs to be” or “there should be” and I’m a little concerned we’ve gone into these consultations with our minds made up about what the issues already are and are just “consulting” with externals who support these ideas. We haven’t even consulted the Dalits themselves, which seems pretty important if we’re talking about empowerment and engaging them in their own programming. We’re jumping to solutions about what to put in the program before identifying the problem. Anyone who’s done their Yellow Belt training knows this is a problem! Unfortunately, from what I’ve been reading about development in general, this is a known issue. We talk a good talk about letting go of our bias and prejudice, enabling and supporting rather than actually “doing,” but we don’t follow our own guidance when it comes to practice. One of the items was actually about “improving intellect” of the Dalits [this is coming from external parties, I think, not CARE staff] but still, to me that suggestion seems baked in judgment. I hope he really meant ignorance, as in, the Dalits are ignorant of their protected rights and thus have difficulty accessing services and entitlements. The intern is working with the Tribals group and she’s noticing the same thing, the kind of information we’re getting just isn’t adding value to the current knowledge base, in part because we haven’t developed a knowledge base of our own before running into consultations. Aaaaaanyway……. I’ve brought some of these gaps up but haven’t received any feedback yet, so we’ll see how well that goes over.
This weekend I’m going to Kerala (South India) with a couple other people. This is my first trip since Agra/Jaipur and I’m really looking forward to it. Tune in for the vacay report next week!