I survived the streets of India!!!
We left NYC on a Friday night and arrived in India on Sunday morning. Twenty hours of travel time so we were a little tired on our arrival. We napped and by that evening we were ready to start our adventure. We left the hotel in search of a place to exchange our US dollars to Rupees. We went around the corner from the hotel and found a very fast paced street where we actually had to learn how to get across the street. There were few traffic lights and we really had to follow our classmate (guide) and do exactly what he did. Motor cycles with three and four people went zipping by at tremendous speeds while the little yellow and green rickshaws, some of them over packed with six passengers, came very close to hitting other vehicles stopping inches away. My head was swirling a bit from the noisy street, the different smells and the many colors of the buildings. There were also some poor folks who were suffering from polio that were panhandling on the sides of the streets. There were others just laying there who looked completely fine but was also panhandling. They politely smiled up at us and then requested money for food. It was very hard to pass by and not stop and give them anything.
Our trip to India was to mainly visit the following companies: Sankar Netralaya (Eye Hospital; Healthcare), Larsen and Tubro (L&T) (Engineering; Heavy Machinery; Manufacturing), Cognizant (Software; IT; Services), Hyundai (Automotive; Manufacturing; Assembly Plant), Airtel (Services; Telecomm). We also visited with, and had a class at, the NBL School and were well received by our host school.
The most interesting company that I visited was the Sankara Nethralaya charitable eye hospital in Chennai. It’s a not- for- profit hospital that performs numerous eye surgeries daily to both Indians and foreigners. What impressed me most was the mobile hospital which consisted of two huge buses that were totally retrofitted with all of the equipment that is needed to perform eye surgeries. The mobile hospital is used to reach and serve poor people in some of the most remote regions of India. Sankara Nethralaya Eye Hospital is known for their affordable eye care and great research and other services that they provide to the poor.
Another fascinating place that was not on our list but was quite thrilling was the Swaminarayan Akshardham Hindu temple in New Delhi. It was the last day of the trip and the temple was about an hour away from the hotel. We were by now so accustom to traveling for long hours that we did not notice that we had arrived. The bus pulled up on the side of the street and to our left we saw these beautiful structures and well manicured compound that looked totally out of place. The magnificent architecture looked like something out of an Ali Baba movie. I could not believe my eyes. I was smiling from ear to ear. The site was truly breathtaking. I could not wait to get in because we were told that the true beauty was inside. Well, we all had to wait for about three quarters of an hour for them to open. We finally got in and ventured to the main building. I could not help but notice that the air was clean compared to the other places we had visited. After leaving our shoes at the “shoe drop”, which was quite the norm, we headed into the magnificent building.
Words cannot explain and no cameras were allowed inside so one definitely must visit. You must experience the splendor of it all for yourself. It’s like trying to explain going through some of the rides at one of the Disneyland attraction a hundred times over. You just can’t. The lawns were well manicured, the people were very pleasant, the statues and exhibits were meticulous. There was gold everywhere. I felt very calm and wanted to just sit and absorb all that I was experiencing. This was the one place that I visited in India that even now, I can actually close my eyes and hear the water running and feel the breeze on my face. I truly enjoyed the experience and would like to revisit with my family. It was well worth the trip and the wait. I know the Taj Mahal is highly rated but one must also add the Swaminarayan Akshardham Hindu temple to their bucket list.
Although there was a lot of poverty around us it did not seem to bother the natives. There was always someone on the streets either wearing pretty Saris and Dhoti or not dressed appropriately at all. People just side stepped the poor folks on the ground. Everywhere I looked I saw people sleeping on the sides of the street or panhandling. The lovely beach strip was blocked and littered with shanty homes that even had lights and water running to them. This seemed to be the norm for poor people to live this way. It was heartbreaking. I actually inquired about the living conditions and was told that the government do supply homes to the poor people but some of them would sell their homes and go right back to living in a shanty. There must be some way that the government could stop them from selling their apartments or charge the ones who purchased and are living in the apartments.
My most memorable time in India happened on our way to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal. I got sick on the bus. My stomach was not doing well again. It kept swelling up and I kept burping like crazy. I had taken some over the counter stuff but it was not working. I had to inform the group. The bus pulled over and we were able to find a pharmacy and a doctor’ office. The doctor’s office was unlike any other that I’ve ever seen. It was actually a hole in the wall but seemed efficient. He was just finishing up with another patient when we walked in and he was able to assist. He was very attentive. The first thing he did was take my blood pressure and then he started asking a lot of questions. He then gave me some pills and told me in an Indian accent to stay away from the highly seasoned foods. One of my classmates had run over to the pharmacy and had also picked up some other medication. I took everything. I wanted to just make the sensation stop. This trip was getting harder for me. I love Indian food and was looking forward to the authentic Indian food but I was told that I needed to stop eating it. For the rest of the trip I ate mainly plain white rice and the Granola bars which I had brought with me.
What an experience! Even though I had a bad stomach my visit to India was fantastic. The trip was well planned for us to experience a little bit of everything in a short space of time. The WMBA program team and NMS really thought of it all. We were actually able to visit six different industries where we met and conversed with professionals such as the CEO and Executives and were well respected. We experienced north and south India through a world wind sightseeing tour and we were able to visit some of the greatest places on the earth. Two of the places from my bucket list, The Taj Mahal and the Bahá'í Lotus temple, were scratched off. I also must say that I enjoyed eating the delicious food on the banana leaf and a variety of delicious Indian cuisine but that’s another story. I could not have planned a better trip and pulled it off without losing anyone. Thanks to my cohort and the many host that made it all possible.