The air is a cooler as I stepped off the plane into the Delhi night. I collected my bag and went to find my ride. The CEO and co-founder of SeeYourImpact, Digvijay, had generously made my arrangements for my stay in Delhi. Since his father served in the Indian military, he reserved me a “rooftop hut” at the service hotel right by the airport. What I didn’t know what that the hotel is located on a military compound and the building itself time warps you back to British rule. When I stumbled into the “restaurant” the next morning for breakfast, I found myself eating amongst soldiers in uniform from India, European and African nations. They certainly found it amusing (or perhaps confusing?) that I was in their presence.
My colleague Natasha met me around 11AM and we hopped in car to get to our meeting with Pratham. Pratham is the single most impressive organization that I’ve had the honor to work with at SeeYourImpact. The scale and scope of the work they are doing to make access to education possible for all goes unmatched anywhere else in the sector. Their cost-effective model allows them to reach millions of women, children and needy adults each year.
The meeting was with two beautiful, strong, smart and driven Indian women and it went great. Afterwards, Natasha and I went to lunch at a Himalayan restaurant called “Jeti” and I enjoyed my first Thali – basically a sampling of many different vegetarian options. It was delicious and spicy and left me completely stuffed. Natasha took off for the airport to get home to her two beautiful sons back in Mumbai, and I went for a stroll around. When I hopped back into the car the hotel provided me for the day, the driver asked me if I’d had lunch. I told him I had, and asked him the same. “I’m fast,” he told me. “Oh, you are fasting?” I asked, “For how long?” For nine days, he informed me, and he was on his third day. I almost blurted out, “Aren’t you HUNGRY?” But I held back and instead was feeling a bit guilty about the excessive lunch I had just enjoyed and also impressed with the physical discipline it must take to complete such a physically daunting mission.
Our next stop was called Dehli Haat. All I knew was that it was a place you could shop. I had no idea what to imagine, but I thought of a market with many stalls where I could bargain my way into a few souvenirs and gifts for friends. I was wrong. It was a gigantic store, run by the government, where my own personal shopping assistant instantly swooped me up. He took me into a private room, and started showing me different shawls and silk scarves. He had a helper, who, anytime I expressed interest in something would run out of the room and return with 50 more similar options. I was quite literally covered from head to toe in beautiful Indian scarves, tops, pants, and saris.
I’d quite quickly had enough of all that. I picked out a few things to take home and went to pay at the register. Well, of course the register is in a different area of the store where another group of men all tried to pull me in different directions. A man selling carved wooden elephants was particularly funny. He kept showing me different elephants, all which had holes in the body and a baby elephant visibly carved on the inside. “It’s an elephant inside an elephant!” he must have told me a total of about 20 times.
Finally, I made it out of that store and back to the military compound where I’m in for the night. I’m thinking of my family as my dad is just getting out of surgery, hoping all is well and looking forward to seeing him again when he’s feeling better. Tomorrow is another big day in Delhi that ends with a flight to the nearby city and capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur.