I haven't written a blog in a really long time due to my lack of time. It seems like Udiapur has had me on the go go go.
I still love my internship and am learning a lot. Yesterday at work I arrived at about 10:45am and began by continuing to write a report that I will give Sadhna about what products to add to their current product line, what colors are best, who their number one customers are etc. After doing this for about 1 hour, our bus Madhu told us to review her chain of emails that she was having with one of her customers Gabs Gabriel. She opened her email and told us to find out as much as we could about the customer, that he wanted to buy about 30,000-50,000 products in the price range of 500-2000 rupees per item. This is a huge sale for Sadhna, but Madhu said she didn't know anything about the person she was trying to sell to so that we should try to get in contact with them to learn more. We scanned for the emails and immediately became suspicious, Gabs Gabriel did not have a website, the products were to be shipped to France, the company was listed online as from Slovenia, but Gabs said the company was in Africa. After emailing back and forth several times we noticed the email name vs the signature name spellings didn't match. Who was this company?
The company seemed upset when we began asking them for information about whom they were and where the products were to be sold. They wanted our bank information... and that's when it all was confirmed. This was a scam. The man our boss had been emailing was trying to steal the products and hack into Sadhna's bank accounts.
The whole situation really upsets me; this is an NGO that is working for women. Of all companies to steal from, why would you choose Sadhna? It seems kind of twisted, but these scams are common and don't necessarily care who they steal from. After several emails back and forth and our fears had become confirmed I felt like I had actually done something for the day.
After emailing this company in hopes of stopping his twisted scam, Lydia and I modeled a bunch of products to have pictures taken for the website. We tried on close to 30 new shirts, jewelry and hair accessories that will be put on the website. We then emailed a list of companies given to us by our boss Madhu who told us all of the people listed had expressed interest in gaining a relationship with Sadhna but were not currently buying product. Soon after the first email was sent we got a reply:
We are already part of Sadhna and put in our most recent order one month ago and are waiting for our purchases to be shipped. Have you forgotten our order?
This response alone tells us so much about how companies in India are run. Sadhna is a role model for other companies, because it is so such a successful company. Which makes me wonder how is it possible that an organization so successful is so unorganized. If I were the leader of Sadhna I would be so embarrassed by this mistake, Madhu (our boss) thought the mistake was funny.... :s
Work ended and the next day frustration really set in...
I went back to the store I usually work in, in the Old City (there are 2 different stores, one in the old city and one in the new, the new city store is a store that is attached to the NGO while the old city store is in the middle of tourist central, old city). When I arrived at 10am, opening time, the store was a disaster, all of the clothes were on the floor, the blankets and shelves opened and products were a mess. The display was destroyed and the staff seemed stressed. When I asked them why the store looked as though it had been robbed they explained that the people from the other store came to do inventory.
My first thought was...yea and??... your point? But why is it a mess?
But when I acted confused they replied that 2 men from the other store had come to count all the products in the store and record what they had in the store. This was bewildering to me, why had they left the place a mess, why was everything still a disaster the next day. Why would they just come in unannounced and destroy the store. These two women are constantly folding clothes, organizing the store and proud of their work. It seems as though these men had totally disrespected the store. It would be similar to walking into a Coach store and everything was thrown on the ground, the storage cabinets wide open. A fancy boutique opens with a disaster of a showroom is seen as really unorganized and overwhelming.
I was so upset. I have worked hard with these women and have become extremely close with them and was horrified to see how their hard work was being treated. I decided then and there that I was done following unorganized directions. I was going to make my own project and help this particular store... I called my partner, Lydia and we became the tedious job of 're-inventorying' the store. We counted every item in the store, measured it, recorded its color, cost, and found out the total worth of all the products in the store combined.
After the items were counted we showed the store keeper ladies how to use the system so that every Monday when they go to the storage room they would know what products they need to buy based off of their records. By taking a couple of long days and counting every product in the store the ladies now have an organized system. While also organizing the inventory system, we re-setup the store, by changing the displays and showcasing more items the store has a totally new feel and looks much more attractive to the western customer.
The ladies seemed enthused about the new system and were excited to see that other people were as interested in Sadhna as they were. Laxmi, one of the workers at the store began to cry when I first told her what we were going to do for the store. She said she prays for Sadhna every day because it needs more customers to help more women and it isn't making any money right now. When she first saw the displays upstairs that we had done she was so happy.
Although our internship has been a chaotic rollercoaster of jobs we have finally seen that there is something for us to do, and we don't need their help. We can simply take self-initiative and do what we want, and hopefully show them that we are capable and we want to help them! In any case the internship has taught me a lot about what I want to do with my future, how a business can be run, ideas for a new business and I have gained so many connections to store keepers.
As far as my family life:
I have been in the paper three times, the news twice and continue to go to parties with Kavita all the time. Kavita is one of the political elite, as part of the BJP party (Interested in what BJP is: LINK) the rotary president, running her own NGO, being part of several other committees and constantly going to parties she is always in the spotlight. As her 'pet-foreigner' that means I too am going to parties. Which is fun at times, when I am not singing the national anthem in front of hundreds of people at least, I get to go to political meetings, see singing, dancing, neighborhood parties, wedding parties, etc.
Speaking of wedding parties.... Kavita is planning my wedding. Didn't know I was getting married, but Kavita said she will make all the arrangements and that it will be the most beautiful extravagant wedding I have ever seen, in the fort, on the lake with a sunset, music and Rajhastani folk dancing. She will host the party for me and my family and she will invite all the important people of Rajhastan. Exciting right? Except... I am not getting married, and have no plans to in the near future. Haha BUT WHEN I DO..Kavita is taking care of everything. ;)
My family here has some interesting elements. I learned a lot about my new host family over their biggest holiday, Diwali. (What is Diwali? LINK) The holiday includes FOOD lots and lots of FOOD as well as endless sweets and lights (fireworks, candles, and what we would call Christmas lights). The whole city was beautifully lit up with Diwali pots (a small ceramic dish filled with oil and then a hand rolled wick lays in the oil and is lit) lights, and the noise of the fireworks consumes every hour of the holiday. Did I mention that the holiday is 5 days long? This means that the whole country is never resting, fireworks go off until 4 or later in the morning, starting again at 6am. Although it was fun to look outside and see all the fireworks all the time it was extremely frustrating to never be able to sleep. I began to get really over tired, moody and irritable. :P
But the preparation for the holiday and everything, but the fireworks going off at the latest hours is wonderful. Kavita took me shopping and I bought two new outfits to wear on Diwali. Indians are always changing three or four times a day, so one is never enough. The boutique she took me to, Tulsi, was great. All the suits were extremely beautiful and I was so excited to be able to wear one, except the price tag was... lets just say even in American prices it would be expensive. But how many times do I spend Diwali in India.... O yea.... Probably never again. So I ignored the tag and tried to find the best suit, because everyone wears their best suits on Diwali. Everyone buys things on Diwali.... Suits, jewelry, appliances, EVERYTHING they need.
The 5 days of Diwali have three most important days.
Day 1: Choti Diwali= little Diwali or similar to Christmas eve
On this day I had to work so I went to go to work and then was picked up by Kavita to go shopping. Because this is the day you buy things, most people buy things before hand as well, but it is also the day where buying things 'blesses them.' After buying my outfits I went to the carnival at the Municipal building where Kavita works and also I was in the paper for the third time. We rode carnival rides together and drank real fruit juice.
PUJA!!!!! I got up and went to a 4 hour puja. What does this mean exactly? It means sitting on the hard floor with heavy incense in the air, while praying to THOUSANDS of dollars at the front of the room. It was incredibly interesting to be with a highly wealthy family and see what exactly they do for their puja. We all got dressed up and went to their family business where they prepared a room FULL of money. We then all sat in the room, doing the puja and then at the end all the people of the family where given 500INR which is equivalent to 11 US dollars. After the prayer we lit off fireworks for about 2 hours and then went home where Kavita told me not to leave the house in my sari again.... BECAUSE.... Get this! 'You look to sexy in the sari, don't go out in it' haha ;) yes the most conservative dress in India.... J
Against her wishes I went to meet some friends at a local circle that had paddle-boat rides shaped like swans. It was nice to see everyone in their beautiful clothes. We stayed in the boats in the pond until dark and watched the giant fountain light up for Diwali. While waiting for the paddle boat ride the most interesting thing happened.... Everyone gathered around me while I waited in the park alone for my friends to arrive. WHY- because no one had ever seen a white girl in a sari before, so I was the center of attention in the circle. Everyone was taking my photo and interested in me... Which makes me wonder, by the time I leave India, how many random pictures I will be in?
The best photo... a woman asking me to hold her baby for a picture with her while her husband took the picture... the baby was terrified and cried.. hahaha
After the boat rides I headed home where we then changed into our nicest new suits and lit the Diwali lights around the house. The whole house looked beautiful and serene. We then went to Prateep's mothers house (Prateep=house dad) for dinner and then came home to meet people and go to the Jain temple for more puja.
AFTER WAS FIREWORKS!!!!! I set off so many fireworks. The sound of Diwali is similar to how you would imagine a warzone. BANG BANG BANG bang BANG... (HOURS AND HOURS of this). I set off a 51 meter long firework and laughed hard as I noticed there was for the first time in my life no animals in the street... all had gone to hide... fearful of the BANG BANG BANG bang BANG...
Around midnight we got back home where we found Laxmi (the god of money) in the form of a lizard near our front door.... Which means money would be coming to the family this year....We followed tradition and flicked red powder at its body so his shape would be outlined (my guess) to remember.
We finally went to bed and the next day was even more hectic.
Two women from Sadhna invited me to their homes for Diwali, because I was so busy the day of Diwali I went the third day.
First I went to Rehka's house. Rehka is a young woman who works at the same shop as me. I have talked about her before and how she worked every day for 5 years. Her home was wonderful, although teeny tiny. She had four bedrooms and a small living space with a kitchen that looked more like a closet. The catch is that the house was for 25 people. It was a joint family. Rehka and her husband and two children had one room and every other family similar in size shared another room, while the grandparents also stayed somewhere in the small home. I did not see a bathroom in her home which made me curious as to where exactly they bathed in the morning. Her home was 8km outside of the city, which means she lived in a small village. It was interesting to meet her family and children whom were all ecstatic to see me. None of them knew English so the first ten minutes was incredibly awkward as I tried to use the little Hindi I knew to ask them simple questions. Of course Rehka's family brought out tons of sweets and snacks for me to munch on while I was there. As part of Diwali you exchange gifts so I of course brought gifts to give the children and family. I brought them a stainless steel sugar, coffee, and tea container set as well as colors and notebooks from the US for the children. They were so grateful, and immediately began to color with their new gifts. After sometime Rehka brought me NesCafe (a form of watered down chocolate like coffee=extremely tasty) the coffee was a sweet gesture considering it meant she had taken note to the fact that I always order coffee rather than chai at tea time. After playing with the children sometime Rehka gave me her gift. She had someone come over to her home to do my henna. It was so sweet. When I left I gave Rehka her gift of the stainless steel set which she was extremely happy about considering it was more expensive than two days of work. I then went over to the next ladies house.
Laxmi's house was very similar. Her home was much nicer and defiantly bigger. I met her children and of course it was awkward but we exchanged gifts and ate sweets before parting ways. I got a beautiful jewelry set from Laxmi J
After separating I went home to find that there were so many people over all of which are Kavita's family. She had fixed her son and my favorite dish, dal bati and I ate even more. By the end of the day I was so full that I felt like puking it was craziness.
It was a wonderful holiday and I had a lot of fun.
Diwali is a holiday of money, which is why at the same time that you are doing a puja (prayer) to Laxmi (the god of money) you are also dealing with lots of protest. It's a confusing though to think you are taking part in a holiday that some people literally can't participate in.
Christmas- We celebrate Christmas by buying gifts.... It's not about the gifts, there is much more to it. Diwali would be similar to Christmas but it's ONLY about the gifts set and cleaning. For the poor.... What do can they celebrate? They cannot afford to buy new things, pray to money they don't have set off fireworks they cannot afford. It is a holiday in which you must spend money. Because of this people are protesting Diwali, which it should not be about money. That Laxmi, the god of money does not visit their homes. It was a really sad day in that sense. People surrounded local circles and released black balloons to show their support. It was incredible to see everything going on all at once.
Between the holidays, work and our mid-semester internship seminar where all of the students got back together to talk about what they have done thus far. I have been soo busy. I haven't written a blog in so long! It seems insane.
The more I think about everything, the more I realize everything is going by so fast. I worry about my return home and yet I am so excited about it.
I have had so much fun here, I have learned so much here, I never want to leave here, but yet I miss my friends and family.
It's amazing to think about everything I have done: riding camels and elephants, celebrated the biggest Hindu holiday of the year, work for a successful NGO, meet amazing Indian families, make friends, learn so much about the politics here, travel the entire state, participate in puja, and sooo much more.