So we thought it best to skip over the happenings of Tuesday considering it consisted of: a bad workday that rehashing at this moment would require us to relive, blackouts, monsoons, and an unsettling basement office. Notable but also unsettling is the car accident on the ride home. Suddenly, a motorcycle collided with the back of the car. Our driver jumped out and started screaming at the young boy- what we perceived from inside the car was that he did not have insurance. Our car was not damaged at all. However, the boy’s motorcycle bumper had fallen off and strangely, our driver stole it and threw it in the back of the car. We are not sure how having half of a motorcycle bumper will help him at all. We wouldn’t know because he never talks to us, no matter Nora’s futile attempts to penetrate the language barrier.
motorcycle bumper and fight outside the car
Wednesday: Nora and I were woken up at 7:20, it seems as though with each passing day Hiru didi wakes up 10 minutes earlier as compared to the day before… we woke up and took turns showering- turns out the house isn’t the only thing that’s possessed. The shower head, though usually perfect, has periods of shutting off and then suddenly shooting out cold jets of water. This wonderful occurrence usually only happens while Mohenna is showering. It’s always hilarious watching Nora try to communicate with Hiru didi because it usually consists of Nora asking one question and Hiru didi answering another, completely unrelated one. That particular morning, Hiru didi was not happy with the way Nora was eating her eggs and would not allow her to eat in peace until she made a strangely folded sandwich out of her eggs and toast. When Nora finally offered her a bite and started to put her fork towards her mouth, she opened it and Nora screamed- it was filled with snuff, which she eats like chewing tobacco each morning.
We arrived at work at 10:15 this time, only to find once again that we were the first people at the office other than the office (coffee, tea, lunch) boy. Mohenna not being a morning person can now be explained, it seems to run in her blood/culture. We began our research when Sid and Dolon asked us if we wanted to go on a field trip to the former Indian Secretary of Government (!!!) regarding agricultural advancements in India.
Before explaining our meeting, we need to talk about our experience getting to the location of the meeting. First of all, we had to go back home to change into more formal clothing so our bosses offered to drive us home and then onto the location. Apparently, the place where we are residing is close to impossible to navigate to (as is most of Delhi.) Poor Sid was sitting in the front seat with the grumpy, aggravated, and hungry driver and every time he would stop and ask for directions, people would think for two seconds and would simply point ‘forward.’ No, there would be no suggestion on how long we should go forward for, or which direction of ‘forward’ due to the fact that each person’s finger would consistently point in contradictory directions, or the acknowledgement on their part that their suggestion of simply continuing on ‘forward’ would lead us into a wall; no, none of that. Also, it has become clear that the people here do not like to disappoint with a ‘No sir, I’m sorry I do not know the way.’ Instead they give directions, which may or may not work. I guess hospitality runs deep, and gambling is always fun.
Now for the meeting, we arrived at AFPRO: Action for Food Production’s (www.afpro.org/) office on time. We were finally introduced to D.K. Manavalan who was extremely gracious and lead us to his conference room with the rest of his team in order to have the meeting and see a visual presentation. We filed into the room and someway somehow Mohenna ended up sitting at the chair at the head of the conference table that towered significantly above the others. We are sure that this was the chair he usually (and rightfully) sits in during his own meetings. Mohenna realized this and immediately asked him if he wanted to switch to which he laughed and responded that it was for ‘visitors like yourself’ (lies). The office boy who was coming around to provide tea was confused to see a young girl sitting in his boss’s chair and watching the presentation. Anyway, it seemed as though AFPRO impacts all aspects of rural life in India and realizes the interconnectedness of the problems facing the rural poor. Their innovative projects related to such issues as food security and agriculture, irrigation, potable water projects, sanitation, energy, and overall rural development and capacity building greatly impressed us, as did their partnerships with businesses, governments, and other NGOs. They are a national level NGO providing socio technical development support for grassroots’ organizations. We felt that the mission of Ashoka and its fellows overlaps with that of AFPRO’s in almost every area. One of the points made in the meeting was that 70% of Indian agriculture exists in rain fed areas. If people do not maintain that area properly then it won’t be able to sustain the growing population, and one of the main sources of water is being overlooked in the system is rainfall water. If this rainfall water can correctly be stored within the aquifers, the entire system has the possibility of becoming recharged. One of the goals of AFPRO is to educate people on the concept of “hydrogeology.” At this moment in time, two of the largest partnerships AFPRO has are with IKEA (growing organic cotton using sustainable farming methods) and with the World Bank (Ensuring food security through community participation). The discussion proved to be highly beneficial, and at the end he told us to stay in contact and gave us his contact information.
The point of Ashoka building a connection with an organization like AFPRO is for several reasons. It is sort of difficult to understand its connections with other grassroots NGOs because Ashoka is NOT a grassroots organization- it manages fellows, many of which have grassroots organizations. For one, the head of AFPRO is an example of someone that could serve as one of the nominators we were talking about in our last post. By talking with AFPRO and keeping up contact with Mr. Manavalan, the Venture Team, which we are a part of, will be able to hear about innovation in the field of agriculture and rural development. Perhaps a member of AFPRO themselves could be an Ashoka fellow. The other reason to have a connection with an NGO like AFPRO is as a resource for fellows and their partnerships. If let’s say, five fellows working in different areas of agriculture wanted to meet in Delhi to feed off each others ideas or create a joint project, AFPRO might come and collaborate. These are the types of tools Ashoka gives its fellows. Manavalan is an example of a nominator that we are searching for this summer.
Mohenna and Nora at AFPRO
Anyway, on the car ride back home Sid was very tired out from relentlessly explaining Ashoka to the man. Being the former Sec. of Govt and a former military officer, he was quite intense and accusatory in his questioning, although he meant well and was ultimately impressed by Ashoka’s presentation. Sid began to make strange accents- we think he was very tired due to his insomnia Sid asked us to tell him five things he could improve in his presentations, then proceeded to question us about or horoscopes. We all decided that Mohenna was definitely a Scorpio because she is evil. He then demanded that Nora tell him 15 good things about Judaism. The end.