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.