August 14, Cincinnati
The hustle and bustle of new students was evident in Cincinnati – people moving in, attending orientations, looking lost and yet on their way. Amidst this, there was Rukmini, who along with Mahesh picked me up from the airport and took me to her apartment and entrusted me to the care of her roommate’s mother before running back to her lab while Mahesh ran errands and came back in time for the new students’ introduction to AID.
Just before 5:30 we reached the Engineering Research Centre. Four students were already there, sitting together in the middle of the auditorium. We asked them to come to the front which they readily did and started chatting. People trickled in and we directed them to the front rows and segued into the presentation. After we took a few questions and Sri told them about the weekly meetings we continued chatting and people trickled out but these four students remained and talked. We sang Is Liye and Sri mentioned that Mehfil, a local singing group, would be singing it the next day for the Independence Day program. I gave the four new students copies of the Narmada songs CDs and one of them told me he would practice that night to be ready for the program.
August 15, The Atrium Hotel, Cincinnati.
Several AID volunteers including Mahesh and Sri are part of Mehfil. It was great to see so many people from the Cincinnati community singing Is Liye and other songs before finishing the program with the Indian National Anthem. It was a pleasant surprise to see Rajeev Sampath, who was part of the Society for Asian Engineers and interested in collaborating with AID – and whom I had first met many years ago when he was a student in Cornell and had come to Maryland to visit his brother Balaji.
We moved to the Windsor Room where 60 of the 250 people who had come for the Independence Day program stayed on for the AID Dinner. Some of the people there were involved in causes locally, such as providing support for Indian senior citizens through a group called Apna Sapna. They had done laughing yoga on that day. Some people were directly connected to NGOs in India or had volunteered in India. It always impresses me that the AID Dinner event is an opportunity to get to know like-minded people in the community and strengthen ties with people outside the circle of those who attend CSH.
My talk was structured as a train journey with various halts, and at every halt I talked about work in that area and how it reached the last mile. After each such example, we paused and heard from people who came. Some shared their reasons for supporting AID. One high school student shared her thoughts after hearing Ayesha Didi speak in Cincinnati earlier in the summer.