This is Mike checking in. Our second day was super informative… and jet-lagged. Most people are still running on a 5pm-1am internal sleep schedule, but we’re getting there.
After eating breakfast, we headed over to SETCO Headquarters to meet with Neethu (Exec. Director of the SETCO Foundation) and Viral (who has been helping with our project too). The day was largely informal. Using our design review presentation, we talked out every aspect of our project and progress (over some unreal Indian Chai tea), and got great feedback. Neethu and Viral also clarified a ton of information about Kalol and the water situation in the town. After that, we planned out our first few days in Kalol; tomorrow, after we move to Vadodara, we will go to Kalol and get oriented in the SETCO factory. We’ll also get to meet Priyank Gandhi!! Priyank is a Civil Engineering student who lives in Kalol, and will be helping us with our project. It will be awesome to get to know an engineering student who knows the town and is the same age as us.
Later in the day, we explored Mumbai some more. We went to the Phoenix mall and the Hanging Gardens of Mumbai. As we were moving around the city, the income disparity really stuck out to me. We would see homeless people and run-down shacks, and then a Lamborghini or million dollar house, all within the same line of sight. There must be a middle ground between poor and rich, but it is certainly hard to spot. For example, we passed by Antilia, a billion dollar skyscraper, staffed by 600 people, that houses ONE billionaire and his family. This is estimated to be the most valuable private home in the world, and it sticks out like a sore thumb. For this reason, I think it is misleading to just say that the per capita income of Mumbai is three times the national average… the few that are super wealthy (and/or tied to Bollywood), drive up the average.
A few other things that we noticed: Firstly, “Head Bobbling,” which looks similar to shaking your head to mean “no”, can mean “yes,” “no,” “I understand,” or “okay.” We’re definitely still trying to get used to different social cues. Secondly, a lot of cars have bumper stickers that say “Honk OK Please,” because honking is strongly encouraged on the roads. The way that the driving culture is, cars are constantly weaving in and out of traffic, and getting very close to other cars. Because of the close proximity, drivers cannot pay as much attention to their mirrors, and just look forward instead, honking to signal their presence to other cars. The sheer skill of the drivers on the road is pretty amazing, though. It makes sense; it’s obvious that bad drivers would be weeded out super quickly here.
Our day pretty much ended around dinner time. A bunch of us passed out early at 7pm. We have an early 4:30am wakeup Tuesday, and a 7:55am flight to Vadodara to look forward to. We’re excited to see what Vadodara and Kalol are like!