Hey everyone! Rachel here again! Sorry for the (very long) delay in posting the final blog entry of our trip… Our last day on the ground started with a long, productive meeting with Setco that included a lot of discussion about our plans for the upcoming months.
After this meeting regarding logistics and short-term goals, we had the pleasure of sitting down with Harish Sheth, the founder and CEO of Setco Automotive. Harish had some very good thoughts regarding project implementation that we will be discussing with the rest of the team as soon as we’re back on campus. During this sit-down he also asked us about our experience so far in terms of what sites we had seen and food we had eaten. When we replied that we had mostly been working, he said we should go sightseeing in the afternoon which Salma was kind enough to arrange.
Before we did that, though, we still needed to visit Dolatpura to test the two-burner stove and say “goodbye”. When we arrived at Sumitraben’s we got out the Maggi noodles we had bought for the occasion.
When she lit the fire and set the pot on it, we saw some smoke coming out where the pot met the stove which Shilpen pointed out was likely due to the fact that a different pot was used to shape the stove surfaces. The majority of the smoke, however, was coming out of the top of the chimney. The water in the pot quickly came to a boil and then the noodles were added. Overall, I think we were pretty satisfied with how the stove was working.
While Maggi was being made, most of our team was chatting with Sumitraben’s family and neighbors. We were also distributing photos that we had printed. Of course, the picture-taking never stops, so we were still snapping new pictures, including one of a woman with Garima on one side of her and a cow on the other. We said one last round of “thank you” and “namasté” to Sumitraben and her family before heading to the Anganwadi. We thanked Sangeetaben for her help and said goodbye before we piled in the car to head back to Setco one last time.
When we returned to the office we did a bit of work and then grabbed lunch. We said a few goodbyes to the Foundation employees who had helped us so much over the past week and headed out to go sightseeing with Viral leading the way. Our driver took us to Pavagadh, a very tall plateau that we passed every day on the way to and from Kalol.
We drove the winding road up the mountain as far as it reached. After that, we got out of the car and walked to the elevated tram system where we got into 2 cars that were suspended from a large cord that ascended the mountain. Following that was quite a few steps – but a very small fraction of the 999 steps that span the whole mountain. Viral led the pack at a vertical jog, followed closely by the guys, then the girls, with me bringing up the rear. When we reached the top, we paused for a few minutes to let a school group get most of the way through the Hindu temple before we followed. The building, like the steps, was showing its 900-year-old age. But inside was a beautiful shrine that looked bright and new.
After passing through the temple, we descended back to the bottom of the mountain to find our driver who took us to Baroda. Although we didn’t have time to see the palace that Harish had mentioned, we really enjoyed the glimpse of Gujarat history that we got at Pavagadh.
Before leaving the office, we had been invited to dinner with Salmaben at 7. So before that time came, Rohil and I headed to the mall for one last time since we wanted to get a few more snacks and a bag to bring them back in. When we returned, it was time to depart for the restaurant. We were greeted by Viral and Rajesh followed by Salma and Sonam. We enjoyed a great meal together and then said our final goodbyes.
This was when it started to hit me that we would be leaving the country in the next few hours. And it was very sad.
The trip back to the hotel was followed by a nap for me, then packing and hustling out to the cars – one for our luggage and one for our team members. We signed some paperwork to check out of the hotel and we were off. Most of us knocked out for the long drive to the Ahmedabad airport.
The following 36 hours were a blur of airports, airplanes, naps, fast food, crying babies, security lines, customs forms, and passport checks. Our two flights (Ahmedabad to Dubai and Dubai to Chicago) were followed by home (in Chicago) for two of us, while the other 4 hustled to catch our train to Ann Arbor. My dad was nice enough to pick us up at the Amtrak station when we finally arrived at 11:30 pm Saturday night. While I can only speak for myself, the time since the train has been groggy and hungry for Indian food that’s no longer just an elevator ride away. My jet lag is very real and my “home” sickness for India is practically tangible.
Overall, this trip was very productive and eye-opening. I am so grateful to all of the people at Setco, our sponsoring organizations, and our partners in Dolatpura who made this amazing experience possible. Until next time, namasté, India!