Day 26: We’ve Come a Long Way

Hi all, Mike here with Day 26. Today we drove to Dolatpura and split into two groups. Erica, Brianna, and Zoha gave a formal interview to Sumeetra ben. Mitchell, Jon, and I walked around the village and mapped out the drainage system in the town. We also noted major landmarks and the locations of the houses of people that we’ve gotten to know.

 From mapping, and learning about drainage over the past week, we’ve learned valuable information. Firstly, government-maintained drainage ditches cover only a small portion of the town. As a result, many people run excess water straight into the street or farm. Secondly, the drainage system that does exist is ineffective. There are pools of standing water throughout the visible portion of the drainage line, caused by uneven gradient and blockages (trash, sediment, etc.). Standing water is a potential breeding ground for mosquitoes. We also walked along the pipe that is supposed to bring the runoff water out of town and discovered that the pipe was completely blocked with mud and rocks. A couple villagers told us that the owners of the adjacent farm had purposely blocked the line and redirected the flow into their property in order to help water their crops. Drainage is certainly on our radar in terms of potential project.

 Later on, we played Frisbee with kids and a few adults. It was really encouraging to realize that we are remembering lots of names, and that people in the village are remembering our names. That simple name connection works wonders for building rapport. After heading back to Setco, we went to Setco employee Pharat Cala bhai’s house for lunch. We were served a wonderful lunch, along with ice cream.

 After work, we went to Priyank’s house to say our goodbyes before heading back to America. Priyank is studying for exams and will be graduating college in the coming weeks. He was absolutely crucial for our project, and really helped us gather information and build a bond with the community. I will miss his witty sense of humor and honest feedback about our project.

 Later that night, we began working on our final presentation that we will be giving to Setco in Mumbai. When we started laying out our story on the slides, I realized just how far we have come since flying in on May 2nd. We have several needs and problems that we are considering, including an ineffective drainage system, stoves that hurt the eyes and throats of the cooks, lack of accessible and sustainable toilets, unclean drinking water, and a shortage of electricity for farm work and pumping water. In the coming months, we will compile our information and choose an area to work in for the coming year. I look forward to the challenge!

Day 25: Also Know as “Day A LOT”

Namaste! This is Erica checking in for day 25. Today was my second day back in the office after taking Monday off. I got pretty sick on the drive home from Gir and was up all night trying to recover. Needless to say, not really a story for the blog, but if you’re super curious about the gory details I can fill you in some other time.

Today was an exciting day because we had two formal interviews planned and also we had a presentation to the villagers scheduled for the afternoon. Lately, we’ve been splitting up our groups based on gender. We’ve found that this leads to better formal interviews because a woman is more willing to talk openly about her life with Zoha, Brianna, and I. As for the male team members, I think having us females around just cramps their style (that is a joke. Side note, but kind of not a side note: observing the gender roles here has been fascinating to me. I would like to talk to more people and do more research so that I can speak more intelligently about them); the men of Dolatpura seem pretty willing to speak their minds regardless of who is in the room. At 11 am, the males went to interview Andu bhai (a 63 year old man who still climbs 20 meter palm trees), while the females interviewed Parvati ben at her home. 

A bunch of Parvati’s female neighbors also came in to listen and the security guard from SETCO was kind enough to hang out outside. Parvati ben was much more shy than Sangeeta ben. She also expressed some frustration with the intricate dance that is our translation process. Women have said to us on multiple occasions that it would be easier to connect with us if we could speak their language, but we have also all collectively agreed that we are doing our best under the circumstances. A smile, a few animal names, and some noises to accompany the names later: connection made.

Zoha has been kind and patient enough to do an incredible amount of translation, but it still gets exhausting at times. I was really proud today to realize that I could occasionally figure out what people were saying based on a little bit of prior knowledge (from the other women we had talked to), some context clues, and their hand gestures and body language. That was pretty exciting. Additionally, in order to clear the foggy translation process, I speak directly to the woman we are interviewing when I ask questions. Even though she likely does not understand my English, I think it is really important to show respect for people by speaking to them. I realized early in the trip that some of my teammates were not doing this, so I pointed it out. 

After the interviews, we headed back to the SETCO factory canteen and had arguably one of the best meals we have had there (I think we say this everyday). Then, we tromped up to the office to gear up for the afternoon’s presentation. About halfway through the trip, we decided that we weren’t going to run a formal workshop while we were here because we did (and likely still don’t) understand cultural nuances enough to claim (deserve?) attention from anyone. In spite of that decision, we decided that giving a presentation would be beneficial to us so that we could learn how people respond to a more formal group setting so that in the event that we give workshops in coming years, we would have somewhat of a base. In addition, we wanted one more chance to let everyone know where we are from, why we are here, what our plans are, and what we hope for our relationship with the community.

We arrived at the presentation to find quite the setup. Jena bhai had rigged the front porch of his home and those of his neighbors into a screening room. The SETCO Foundation had provided a projector so that we could add visual aids to our presentation. The audience was mostly women and children, but, as time went on, men began to gather in the back of the room. It was exciting to see the familiar faces of people whose homes we had visited (we knew their names too! That is another thing that I have emphasized to myself. Remember EVERYONE’s name). We gave our spiel and then, as orange pop was being served to everyone in the crowd, asked for questions. Throughout our trip, we had mostly been referencing our project as research about water and this presentation was the first time where we had explicitly stated that we were hoping to co-design technology with the help of the community. People were incredibly receptive to this prospect and were excited that a group will also be returning next year. It is interesting that people are so honored that we are visiting their homes and talking to them because we are so honored that people are being so friendly and letting us in.

When Mitch, Mike and Jon went to talk to Duda bhai in the afternoon, they were much more candid about our project ideas and about our perception of the needs in the town. This led to some extremely good input about our ideas and observations thus far. More to follow, I think this post is getting a little long. I got carried away. Like Passion Pit. 

Headed home to Vadodara. Mitch and Erica walked to store. For some reason, they don’t sell Crest toothpaste in India. Learned that poster board is called char paper. I think we may be becoming regulars at the grocery store. The cashier might have smiled with recognition today.

We’re stilling hanging in there! Avjo!


Disclaimer: Title courtesy of Jon because apparently my original title was “socially unacceptable”. 

Day 24: The Last Tuesday

This week is an exciting time for BLUElab India because, having spent a couple of weeks in the village, we feel that we are finally starting to build real relationships with the villagers. As a result, we have already arranged for 5 people to sit down in private with group members for a more intimate interview in the next couple of days. Today, the guys (Mitchell, Mike, Viral, and I) sat down with our friend Prakash for a formal interview at his farm, and we learned a ton of great information about his life. The whole thing was really laid back and everyone was very comfortable, which is exactly what we’re looking for in these interviews. The guys have another two set up for tomorrow with older men in the community, and the girls have planned another sit-down to learn more about the lives of women in Dolatpura.

As we near the end of the trip (we only have three more days in Dolatpura!), we are starting to reflect on all that we have learned in the last couple weeks.  Naturally, we wish we could spend more time here, but we have made tremendous progress as it is. We are learning incredible amounts about the community, and seeing a number of ways that we could potentially work to improve quality of life. Our scope has widened to include things like sanitation and drainage, stoves and ventilation, and electricity in farming. The coming weeks should continue to bring excitement with new breakthroughs and a progressively narrowing project focus.

After finishing our day’s work and returning to Baroda, the team made a mall trip to do some shopping. The mall provided a great opportunity for Mike to satisfy his perpetual craving for American style coffee and brought our differences in style and buying habits to the forefront. If you ever come across Club Fox clothing, you can make an educated buying decision with the knowledge that it is one of Mike’s favorite brands, but Mitchell and Jon do not approve. The winner in the mall excursion was definitely Mitchell, who came away with a sweet new Indian Cricket hat for the equivalent of 12 American dollars at a Nike store.

That just about wraps up the last Tuesday, as we came back from the mall for a relatively low key night before going to bed, although we did switch it up tonight by doing core after dinner instead of before.



Day 23: Only four more days left! 0:


After this weekend’s epic journey we decided to have a more chill day. Erica stayed home sick while Mitch, Mike, Jon, Zoha, and I left for the Setco Factory at 10:30.


Around noon, Zoha and I went to a workshop for adolescent girls. When we walked in, they were doing an activity on communication skills. However we were so tired that our communication skills were sub-par and we spent most of our time quietly sitting with the girls while they cut out pictures from magazines and wrote down the emotions of the people in the pictures. After that activity we left for lunch at the factory.

After lunch, the boys (Jon, Mitch, Viral, and Mike) went to Dolatpura to talk to some of the men of the town to try to set up a formal interview. There were a bunch of kids and teenagers hanging out at the end of the street and they invited the boys over to talk. They talked about our weekend adventure to Gir and showed them some pictures, and then they got to talking about the town drainage system. Few days before we checked out the drains and noticed a lot of blockage and debris. Sangeeta Ben, in our formal interview with her, also talked about how waste water removal is a big problem. But when the team asked the boys on the street, they said they thought it was clean. According to Mike, it seemed like the people of the village have better things to do than worry about junk in the drainage system. Apparently, it is the local government’s job to clean it. Prakash said that the government came by only six days ago to clean the streets, but the drains looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in at least a month. They walked down the road to where some bricks were sitting in the drain. When the team asked about that, the villagers explained that whoever put the bricks there didn’t want their neighbor’s dirty water passing in front of their house. The team asked about what Prakash did with his wastewater. He has his own drainage ditch that goes into fields to which he adds boric acid to kill insects.


The team also asked about Prakash’s wood stove which sits outside under a thatched roof in the back of their house. The ceiling was blackened and Prakash said he had to replace it once a year. They asked if he was bothered by the smoke and he replied that it was only bad for about the first five minutes, but otherwise it doesn’t bother him much. They also asked him if he cooked and he said he didn’t. When we talked to another woman she said that the smoke from cooking really bothered the eyes and lungs. We are starting to see a disconnect between the men and women with what they think the biggest problems in the town are. It’s something we’ve been warned about so we will be looking into it more throughout the rest of the week.

With only four days left, our trip is nearing an end. The pressure is now on to find a solid project idea to pitch to the Setco Foundation. Ever since we started focusing on a small community we have been able to more accurately pinpoint needs in the community. I’m waiting for that eureka moment when we figure out exactly the problem we want to tackle. I feel pretty confident that it will come, the way things are going. We’re getting a lot better at asking questions and people are become more comfortable in talking to us.


Days 21 & 22: Gir-ing Up for the Weekend

Mike here, along with the input of the rest of the team. This weekend, SETCO generously took us on a sightseeing excursion to the western coast of Gujarat. We saw Palitana, Gir, and Somnath, and experienced a lot in between.


First up was Palitana. At 4 PM on Friday, we (the team, plus our friend Viral, Raju bhai, Gayatri ben, and Fuzela bhai) packed into a large van and hit the road. Eight hours later, we pulled into our hotel and immediately went to bed; we had an early wake-up ahead. At 6 AM the following morning, we got up and left for the Jain temples in Palitana. Like the Mahakali Temple (which we visited last week), the Palitana Temples sit atop a lonely mountain surrounded by plains. There is a footpath that runs all the way to the top, boasting an impressive 3500 steps.


As a rite of passage, devout Jains run up and down this path 108 times in 60 days, and are not allowed to have food or water during trips. We met someone that was running up and down seven times in a single day. We, however, were just planning on doing it once. The hike itself was great, and even though there were three times as many steps as at Mahakali Temple, we all felt that this hike was easier. We started at 7 AM, long before the heat of the day, and were bombarded by cool wind the entire time. The atmosphere on the trail was very calm; there were no stalls or shops to create crowds and noise. When we finally got to the top, we took in the view and explored a few of the beautifully intricate temples. Also, compared to many historical sites in the US, there was much more freedom to explore. There were few barriers or restrictions; any staircase or door was fair game. After descending, we stopped for sugarcane juice and headed back to the hotel.


Following lunch (featuring a killer mango raas) and a midday nap, we hopped back on the road to travel to Gir, a lush preserve famous for its lions and other wildlife. Late that night, we finally arrived. Our journey took several hours longer than expected due to an unforeseen detour; the road we had planned on taking closes after dark because of lion activity! After a short night of rest, we again got up at 6 AM, but this time, it was for a safari. We climbed into the tour bus, not really sure what to expect. Mike felt dumb because he was wearing the brightest, most fluorescent, neon green shirt in the history of the universe, while there were signs that warned that colorful clothing scares away the animals. Regardless, we saw four lions and many other animals, and none of them seemed too bothered by the squeaky bus brakes, let alone Mike’s squint inducing t-shirt. After the safari, we had delicious aloo paratha (think potato tortillas stuffed with veggies) with yogurt for breakfast before getting ready to drive back to Baroda. Mitch, Mike, and Erica threw a Frisbee for a while, and remembered just how quickly 100+ degree weather will drench you with sweat!


On the way back to Baroda, we stopped in Somnath to see the Somnath Shiv Mandir, an enormous temple on the western coast of Gujarat. This was our first glimpse at the Indian Ocean, and Brianna, Erica, Mitchell, and Zoha took full advantage of it by wading into the water. Erica and Mitch, unknowingly volunteering to captain the “wet row” of the van, jumped all the way in and body surfed. In the meantime, animals surrounded Jon and Mike; there were many people on the beach selling rides on camels, horses, and donkeys. We also stopped for coconuts at a local stand. After we drank the water, the owner chopped up the coconuts (in a fashion that would terrify any boy scout troop leader) so that we could eat the fruit inside. Finally, we began our long car ride back to Baroda.

We spent upwards of 24 hours in a van this weekend, and that time was an adventure in itself. Because most of us are experiencing India for the first time, car rides are the perfect opportunity to soak up what is happening around us. The villages and cities that we pass through are bustling with a kind of activity that is foreign to the US. In New York City, for example, busy means thousands of people rushing up and down the sidewalks in one frame of vision. But even with so many people, few people stop on the street. In Gir, though, there are few people rushing up and down the streets. Busy means countless shops and stands on the sides of the road. There’s always people standing outside at these shops, or working a trade, or stopping to chat. In the places we’ve visited, roads aren’t just a means of transportation, they are the life of the town. All in all, it took us 13 hours to travel just over 300 miles, and we got home at 3:30 AM Monday morning. While this may seem slow, even with traffic, the road system we traveled on was different from the interstate system we are used to in the US. Many times, the highway ended and we had to drive through towns or on back roads, slowing us down significantly. We also stopped periodically to enjoy, as Mitchell would say, the wide varieties of roadside chai. Another interesting point is that, according to Zoha, many people don’t use GPS in India, even if they have access to it. Navigation is often accomplished by word of mouth alone. Viral, Raju, and Fuzela, for example, didn’t use GPS at all, and would periodically pull over to a stand and ask for directions.

We had an amazing weekend, and are extremely grateful that SETCO gave us this opportunity! 


Day 20: Atithi Devo Bhava

Jai Shri Krishna,

It’s Zoha blogging today. Friday was a relaxed day. We conducted our first official formal interview. Brianna, Erica, and I connected with Sangeeta Ben earlier this week to schedule an interview. Initially, she informed us that we could interview her anytime based on our schedule. In India, this means that she would halt her housework, farm work, and other important work to talk to her guests. Hospitality is a bit different in India. Many Indians follow the concept of “Atithi Devo Bhava”. This literally means, “Guest is God”. I have experienced hospitality in India numerous times, but for the first time, I saw the implications and consequences of being a guest.

Every home we visited, people would invite us in. We were under the assumption that the residents had some free time to interact with us and answer a few of our questions. We would intermingle with everyone for about 30 minutes and move on to the next house. Later, we realized that we might be imposing on the community. The residents within the community would forsake their nap, field work, household chores, and other work to meet with us.

Informal Interview at Jena Bhai's house
Informal Interview at Jena Bhai’s house

As a team, we took the initiative to communicate with the community leaders. First, we communicated with our colleagues at SETCO about finding a solution, so that people do not feel obligated to invite us as their guests. Later, we requested that Arjun Bhai, the surpanch of Dolatpura, and Sangeeta Ben, the anganwadi worker, to schedule our visits based on people’s schedules. Collaborating with SETCO, Arjun, and Sangeeta was crucial because it allowed us to establish a better understanding of the culture and not impose on the community.

The team and Salma Ben meeting Arjun, the Surpaanch, of Dolatpura.
The team and Salma Ben meeting Arjun, the Surpaanch, of Dolatpura.

Our interview with Sangeeta Ben allowed us to learn about the bathroom issues that females faced within the community. Most of the homes in Dolatpura do not have bathrooms. Instead, the residents use their fields or a lake nearby. Sangeeta believes that the lack of a bathroom in her home is the hardest aspect of her life. From our interview we learned that women could only use the bathroom twice a day: early morning and night. We believed that this could cause health issues for women. Next week, we plan to learn more about health related problems for women.

As Erica, Brianna and I conducted our interview, the boys travelled around Dolatpura to learn more about the drainage and sewage system within the community. They gained a lot of information in regards to the sewage system, which causes flooding within the community during the monsoon season. They decided to conduct more research by interviewing the community next week.

After arriving back to the office, we ended our Friday by boarding the car with our luggage for our trip to Palitana and Gir. Gayatri Ben, Viral, Fuzela Bhai, and Ragu Bhai decided to join us. We were excited to see the Asiatic lions and the 1,000 Jain temples on the mountain towards the west coast of India!


Day 19: No Time for Reminiscing

Mitchell here today. We have started talking about the end of our trip, because it is fast approaching, and I have started thinking about all the things I am going to miss. I am for sure going to miss eating with my hands but I can’t wait to show the family back home how its done. Tearing roti (tortilla like food), with one hand, is a skill not easily mastered but an art that every one here has perfected. I will also miss driving through the streets and watching as our our driver avoids cows, motorcycles, mopeds, bikers, pedestrians, gorgeously painted trucks, and the occasional car. Learning how people behave while driving in India could be a course all its own. After watching our driver maneuver through some questionable situations I think I am finally beginning to understand how things work on the road. For example, the horn is honked and the lights are flashed, on average, once a minute on our hour long drive to work each morning. However, the honking and light flashing is conveyed with a completely different emotion than it would be in the United States. In the US these actions seem to usually be associated with reckless driving or road rage, but here it simply is a means of letting other drivers know that you are right beside them, behind them, or looking to pass. I have yet to see another driver angered after being honked or flashed at. It should also be noted that the average speed here is much lower than it is in the US which makes things a bit safer. In the whole time we have been here we have only seen one accident where an ambulance has been called. Usually a car and motor bike may brush up against each other and the drivers will exchange looks to make sure each is okay and keep driving (this happened to us with some one on a moped a week or so ago!). I like to joke around with the other team members that I will be a “horny” driver when I get back to the states.

I will miss many other things but we still have nearly a week left so I will reign things back in and talk about what happened today. We got up early to try to beat the heat and meet with the pump operator in Dolatpura. The men of our team have finally stepped up to wearing pants in the intense heat. Props to the ladies of the group that have been doing this the whole trip. Yesterday was the first day we wore pants and our co-workers in the factory said we looked great, so no more shorts for us.

We finally met the pump operator of Dolatpura. We were beginning to think the elusive operator did not exist. Turns out he is a real person and he helped sort out some questions we had. After talking to him a few of our team members went to take water samples or talk to people at the anganwadi. I walked around and took notes on the open waste water drainage system for the town. Priyank went with me and we walked and mapped out the location of the main drainage system.

Then we split up into two groups and did some semi-formal interviews in an effort to make the towns people more comfortable with our presence and learn what people do around the village. Erica, Jon, and I (along with our friend and translator – Viral) went to a family and talked for a while. We got down to business at first and then eventually we talked about random things (like dreadlocks, marriage, and body piercings) and life in the US. We talked for a while and then stopped by another house briefly before heading back to the factory.

We stopped by the factory real quick and then headed out into the “boonies”. We took some crazy back roads and drove by a small banana farm before we got to the small house in a field where lunch was prepared for us. The land owner was an employee of SETCO and had invited us over for lunch outdoors. We were very thankful for all the food that was prepared but we are still having trouble adjusting to some of the cultural differences. For example the host of the meal does not sit down and talk with us when we are eating, we are served food. Viewing this through the American lens, I personally would love to have our host present while we eat the delicious food but things work differently here, and we just have to go with the flow. We were also served fresh mangos. The mangos were the BEST I have ever had. After our delicious meal we were shown around the farm and we got to see the wide variety of crops. The crops ranged from a huge banana field, to mango trees, to cotton, to lemons, to timber for furniture, to corn, to bahdri (a cereal). After lunch the majority of our group was feeling the 111 degree heat. Jon and I were especially drained. 

We headed back to the factory then home. On our way we stopped at a nearby grocery store and bought ALL their gatorade. Then, following a typical Dolatpura routine, we all konked out for 2 hours after work.

I feel like my post may be a bit long winded (Dr. Krishna has rubbed off on me a bit I think!) but I just want to make sure people aren’t missing out. I joke about you, Dr. Krishna, but you have been instrumental to the success of our group and we are very thankful for all you have done.

One last anecdote: While in the apartment this evening Mike grabbed one of the fruits that Zoha brought from her home in Sidhpur and he started eating it. Normally the fruit, [called chikoo (phonetic)] is like taking a bite of a peach and tasting pungent brown sugar (I am not a fan! They are much too sweet). Little did Mike know that it was nowhere near ripe and he yelled out in shock about a crazy sensation he had in his mouth. Jon overheard Mike’s shouts and rushed to try it out as well. After watching Jon try the fruit I, naturally, wanted to try out this crazy unripe fruit too. So I grab the fruit and bite down. It was an explosion of sensation! The piece of fruit I had bit off completely sucked all the moisture out of my mouth within half a second and left me making an absurd face and running for water! So here the three of us are running around the kitchen yelling about this crazy sensation. But no need to worry mum, we all survived and are feeling just fine.

That’s all for now,


Day 18: Less of a Novelty

Hi all, Mike here for Day 18. Today was our third day in Dolatpura. In the morning, we split up into two groups to talk to two different families. Jon, Mitch, and Brianna spoke with Prikash bhai and his family, and Zoha, Erica, Priyank, and I talked to Bhupad bhai and his family. Bhupad bhai was happy to speak with us, and made us feel welcome in his home. He has six brothers, and all 45 members of his family live adjacent to each other. After introductions, Erica and Zoha broke off to speak with the women of the household, and Priyank and I stayed behind to talk to the men. We did this to create a better environment for open conversation. Bhupad and his family are hardworking farmers who grow corn, wheat, mangoes, and tamarind. They eat the food they grow, and sell the rest at a market in Kalol. Instead of getting water from the water tower, the family uses a personal well that they (the previous generation) built in 1972. There is a branch that lies across the opening of the well, which is used for pulling the water up with rope and bucket. Over the years, as the rope slides across the branch, deep crevices form in the wood. The well is 55 feet deep, and was built entirely by hand; I cannot fathom the skill and precision that was required for that project! After talking, a friend of Bhupad wanted to see an American dollar, as he had never seen one before. I broke out a $1 bill, and we exchanged equal currency.

Tomorrow and Friday we will be learning as much as possible about the water system in Dolatpura. We will be speaking to the pump operator, who comes to the town at 7 AM each morning to turn on the water for an hour. At 8 AM, the water is shut off (despite the short window for running water, there is no apparent shortage in the village). We are particularly interested in the chlorine that is added to the water tower; we do not know how much is added, or with what frequency. In addition, we will redo our water testing at several different points, on the same day, to help ensure consistent results.

In between the more structured tasks, we’ve been trying to start organic conversations and interactions as much as possible. For example, Mitch, Jon, and Brianna played Frisbee with several villagers for over an hour today.


From this, Mitch was able to ask a local farmer if he could try his hand at farming sometime (the farmer said yes, and that he would follow up soon). I managed to play a quick game of cricket with members of Bhupad bhai’s family before leaving. Erica captured the attention of dozens of young girls by drawing animals and exchanging their English name for the Gujarati translation.


All of these interactions help us build rapport with the village. The more comfortable people are with us, the better we’ll get to know the community and their needs. Plus, we hope to strengthen our connections to the point where we can ask people to sit down for “formal” interviews: conversations where two team members can ask questions away from the crowds and public eye. On Thursday, Erica, Zoha, and Brianna will interview Sangeeta, a woman who works and lives in the Dolatpura anganwadi.

We have noticed that each day we go back to Dolatpura, there are significantly fewer people that crowd around us. We think that as people are getting used to us, we are becoming less of a novelty. This is a good thing!

After work, Baroda life has been great. Many of us do a core workout each day to unwind. What started out as “10-minute abs” has turned into a 45-minute daily ritual. Mitch has convinced Erica to hop on the “wheat grass train” and down a cup of the healthy green concoction every night. We are enjoying the many fruits (ones with harder skins of course) and deserts in Gujarat; the mangoes are amazing!


– Mike

Day 17: Learning Animal Names

Hi all: this is Erica checking in for day 17.

On Tuesday, we went back to Dolatpura for a second consecutive time. During this visit, we were hoping to meet with the municipal water pump operator, but we found out when we got there that he would not be joining us. In addition, the patient and kind Surpanch, Arjun, was headed to a wedding in a neighboring town, so he would not be showing us around. We are getting used to last minute changes in plan, so we elected to wander and meet some families under the guidance of Arjun’s younger brother, Jaideep.

Most people (and by most I mean pretty much all) in Dolatpura are farmers, with very strict daily routines. People wake up early to farm and then nap in the afternoon. Women do chores for pretty much the entirety of the day. We are still figuring out how exactly to interact with people in the village without imposing on them. People are so hospitable that it seems as though it would be against their cultural values to refuse to invite us to their home to speak to them; however, we create such a large commotion and disrupt their daily schedule. In addition, it is wedding season, so things are already quite hectic.

We talked this over with Priyank and Gayatri and we decided to split up the group and speak to less families. We also decided to ask the anganwadi worker, Sangeeta, if she would be willing to let the girls in our group interview her. We can figure out a time that works for her and go from there.

One technique that I have found engages people is learning animal names. We had some downtime in the anganwadi when we were waiting for the pump operator, so I took out my notepad and started drawing animals. I made some friends (a crowd of blushing little girls and one bold one) who taught me the Gujarati names for all the animals I drew. Then, as I was walking around the village, I pointed at animals and tried out all the animal names. With this new-found game, I have expanded my vocabulary to include words such as buffalo, cat, and snake.

After another awesome lunch in the canteen at SETCO, we decided to have recess. We threw the frisbee around for a while on the grass before we went inside to reflect and work. Having some down time in the middle of the day definitely helped our productivity in the afternoon.

In the evening, we headed over to Salmaben’s house for a lovely non-vegetarian dinner. We love Ramesh’s food, but it was nice to get some meat. Salmaben’s nephews were super cool and filled us in on all the rules of cricket. As the cricket match we were watching was on national television, there were commercials for alcoholic drinks. I found it interesting to watch these commercials in Gujarat, a dry state. The cricket match also gave us a taste of pop culture in India. I find it interesting to compare American commercials with Indian ones.

That’s all for now!


Day 16: Marriage and Cricket

Namaste everyone, this is Jon checking in with day 16. After a great weekend of evaluation, reflection, and a little sightseeing, we started off Monday bright and early with our morning ride to SETCO.

Having recently narrowed the scope of our focus to Dolatpura, we set out for the village shortly after arriving at the factory. Before we left, we were told about a wedding happening in Dolatpura this afternoon, and we saw signs of an imminent celebration as soon as we got there. Chairs were out, tents were painted, and music was blasting. We planned a short visit, hoping to leave well before the commencement of the wedding in order to avoid drawing attention away from the bride and groom.


In Dolatpura, we first met with the Surpanch to formally introduce ourselves and ask for explicit permission to work in the village. He welcomed us in the gracious manner that we have become used to here in India, and introduced us to three other villagers, each of whom shared great information with us about life in Dolatpura. It seems as though most of the villagers farm for a living, and their crops provide not only a direct source of food, but also some cash flow when sold at the market in Kalol. We focused our visit on simply breaking the ice as well as learning about the daily schedules of the villagers so that we can plan our visits throughout the week.


After lunch, Kiran Bhatt showed us SETCO’s systems of rainwater catchment and RO purification. It was really interesting to see how SETCO both recycles rainwater and provides clean, potable water in the factory.

After finishing our days work, we went home with Priyank to meet his family and hang out for a bit. His mom and brother welcomed us warmly, and it wasn’t long until we all decided to head outside and play some cricket. Within a few minutes, neighbors and other friends had joined and we had quite an intense game going on. I regret to inform you that Mitchell’s attempts at hitting the ball were dismal at best, but Mike put the team on his back with a stellar display of athleticism. In his words, “you love to see that”. We also had our first experience with a cow stampede when a herd of at least 10 rounded a corner and headed toward us at a threatening pace. The encounter saw me and Mitchell jump a fence while the rest of the group not only remained calm and composed, but also had a good laugh at our expense.

We wrapped up the day with dinner at home. As I lent Ramesh a hand with the preparation, he made casual conversation by asking me if I’m married, inquiring about my wife and any kids on the way (and more Gujarati that I didn’t understand). He told me about his wife and kids, and that he got married at 19. Having just turned 19, the thought of marriage sounds totally crazy to me. It just goes to show another aspect of a culture and an experience that is so interestingly different from my own.

Tomorrow, we head back to Dolatupura for another day of community integration. Look out for an update on Mike’s struggles in the never-ending battle with sunburn.