Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hyderabad Projects (Katie, ILR'15)

Teresa and I have now been in Hyderabad for two weeks, working with the Society for the Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP) on disability issues. 

Teresa’s project involves analyzing the employment and skills assessment program for SERP. She will be creating a tool that will streamline the evaluation of persons with disabilities for potential careers. My project is to interview persons with disabilities in regards to lack of accessible public transportation. I will then compile findings from the interviews into an essay that SERP can use to advocate to the government to have more accessible public transportation. 

In addition to working hard at our projects, we have been able to see a lot of the city. Hyderabad is really vibrant, and we’ve had a lot of fun exploring. 

We went to the Charminar on Saturday, which is an icon of the city. We climbed all the way to the top, which offered wonderful views of the greater Hyderabad area.

We also went to Laad Bazaar, which is a really old bazaar in the heart of the city. Hyderabad is the city of bangles and pearls, so we had a lot of fun picking out pearl bangles!

We’re having a great time here in Hyderabad and are very excited about our projects. It’s hard to believe that we only have two weeks left! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

SVYM Potluck Dinner (Onella, GH'14)

Cornell students (working in Kenchenhalli and Sargur), along with other visiting students from the United Sates and United Kingdom, had the privilege of attending one of the monthly potlucks held on for the physicians and staff at the Vivekananda Memorial Hospitals in Kenchenhalli and Sargur. The event took place on Friday evening in the home of Dr. MA Balasubramanyam, the CEO of the Swami Vivekananda Youth Movement. It was an enjoyable evening filled with hearty laughs, entertaining games and good food. When prompted to suggest activities for the group, the American students managed to teach and lead engaging rounds of Rock-Paper-Scissors and Telephone. Those of us who were not sure how enjoyable these games would be were quickly silenced by the active participation of everyone present. 

The evening gave the students a chance to meet and interact with the staff at both hospitals in a relaxed environment. Whether it was a comparison of education systems across the world, a lesson on geography or a discussion on India's chances of winning the ICC Championships trophy this year, a conversation was it full swing at every corner of the lawn. Between the vibrant chatter, we were entertained with beautiful renditions by Dr. Dennis and Dr. Rashmi and were treated to a traditional Indian dance performance. By the time the food was about to be served, everyone was in a jovial mood. Not even the sudden down-pour of rain was able to place a damper the feeling of contentment that floated in the air. Those that were serving the food calmly moved to a room inside the house and the party continued. At the end of the night, everyone agreed that the event was a success.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Kenchanahalli Projects (Lydia, GH'14)

Onella and Lydia are two of the Global Health Students engaged in service projects at the Vivekananda Memorial Hospital - Kenchanahalli this summer.

Onella is monitoring patient flow in the hospital. She is making observations in order to determine where patients have to wait the longest. Eventually she hopes to propose ways to make the entire patient process more efficient. Her project includes coming up with written protocol for each staff position.

Lydia is working on a project that involves the Ayurvedic Medicine Production Unit. Her project includes making promotional materials for the products and producing standard operating procedure documents for the production, distribution and sale of each product.

Monday, June 17, 2013

An Indian Marriage Ceremony (Phoebe, ILR'14)

Our group was lucky to be invited to a marriage ceremony on our last weekend in Mysore. This was a perfect way to end our two week stay in Mysore. We had all learned about Indian marriage and the customs that it involves. So naturally, we were all excited to have an opportunity to experience a South Indian marriage.
Female members of the group in their saris. Madame Sindhu and staff of
VIIS who helped the ladies wrap their saris are included in the photo.  
Three male members of the group- in their Indian shirts!

We had to look our best at the ceremony. The girls went out shopping for saris and bangles to match. We all got very glamorous, bright and beautiful saris. Mme Sindhu, Director of VIIS, arranged for a tailor to stitch our saris for us.

The marriage ceremony took place in a large auditorium in Mysore. We were welcomed by the family of the bride, who are relatives of Madame Sindhu. Before the beginning of the ceremony, we were served food on a plantain leaf. This is to ensure that marriage guests are well-fed and comfortable throughout the actual ceremony.

 Groom being led into the auditorium by family members.
Afterwards, we were led outside; where rituals were performed around the groom before he was led into the hall to begin the ceremony. The groom is surrounded by family and friends, who throw rice on his head to bless him. They also make marks of bindi on his forehead. After the rituals were complete, we took our seats in the auditorium, and the ceremony began.

The groom sat on the stage, dressed in a gold suit and hat to match. His bride was brought to him, her face concealed with a white cloth. When the cloth is lowered is the first time the groom sees his beautiful bride. She was dressed in a very elegant sari and adorned with jewelry from head to toe. Henna was also painted on her hand- in the same pattern as the other female members of the bride’s family.

A priest guided the new couple through the completion of the marriage rituals. During this time, family, friends and well-wishers took turns to offer blessings to the couple. They sat across from each other with a coconut in hand. We had the opportunity to offer blessings too. The peak of the ceremony arrives when the groom puts a necklace on his bride’s neck, a symbol of their marriage. There is much variation among different families and castes in India, but at this marriage, the necklace is the equivalent of a ring in western culture. The drummers at the ceremony played their best rhythms at the loudest tempo and everyone roused in applause. The couple was married.

Afterwards, a performer, traditionally called “kashi” treated the guests to a spectacular performance. This was nerve-racking at times as he performed antics that seemed dangerous in an enclosed space. At a point, someone will throw coconuts in the air and the performer slashed it with his sword. He was able to burst most open in mid-air—only missing a few. He proceeded to do the same with limes- this time missing more than a few. In any case, it was fun to watch. The group even got a shot with him! After all of this was over, we were served lunch, with ice-cream for dessert. It was delicious and a fitting end to a day filled with much celebration.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Coffee Plantation, an Elephant Camp & the Golden Temple (Jeffrey, ILR'15)

Coffee Plantation, Elephant Camp, and Golden Temple. To the casual observer, it might seem unlikely that these three things would be listed together, but then this person obviously has never been to India.  As we set off for our trip early in the morning, we were all looking forward to the long but exciting day ahead. 
The first stop of the day was the Coffee Plantation, which was located in a rain forest like region of Coorg, very unlike the urbanized Mysore from which we had departed. From an ILR perspective, the trip was informative because we got to learn about how the agricultural sector within India was being affected by the changes in the larger Indian labor market and also learn about the ways in which gender played a role in the division of labor on the Plantation.  We were treated to fresh bananas, coconuts, and oranges while we learned about various aspects of the Plantation’s operations. After that we took turns riding on what we came to affectionately call the “roller coaster,” as we stood on back of a flatbed and got to see more of the plantation as well as the living quarters of some of the staff at the farm. 
Following that and lunch, we departed for the Elephant Camp which was reached via a short riverboat ride. The highlight of this part of the day was being able get up close to the fully-grown elephants, some thing that we all knew we would never have been able to do in the United States. 
Some of the braver students took turn feeding the elephants bananas and also receiving blessings from the elephants. The trip served to reinforce our understanding variety of roles that elephants in the Indian culture.
The last place that we visited was the Golden Temple, which is Buddhist Tibetan temple.  Walking into the temple, we were greeted by three gigantic Buddha statues. The scale of the temple and its elaborate decoration really gave a sense of the importance that the Temple has to the Tibetan community of India. 
Overall, the day’s activities were highly memorable and though they were varied location, they all helped to give me a better understanding of the diverse range of lived experiences that exist within India.