16 August, Cincinnati to Columbus
Bright and early Saturday morning, Anand arrived in Cincinnati to take me to Columbus. We had thought that he had arrived the night before but in fact he had left Columbus at earlier that morning. “My friend who lent me the car didn’t want me to drive late at night,” he explained. So he drove both ways in the daytime.
Seeing how volunteers work together for the cause never stops inspiring. With the calendar deadline approaching, I did not want to miss the opportunity while in Columbus to work with Gayathri who was collecting the project photos and captions. So we left Cincinnati at 9:00 am so as to reach Columbus in time for the weekly calendar call at noon, and I hoped that I could catch Gayathri either before or afterward.
We reached before 11:00 am and Anand called Gayathri and told her that I wanted to meet her to work on the AID Calendar. She was not sure she could meet before the event because she had to do several things to prepare. Anand asked, “What do you have to do?” She said she had to finish the presentation and run various errands. “What errands?” he persisted. At this point I wanted to intervene and say it is okay I will talk to her later. Anand listened patiently. The next thing I heard him say brought a smile to my face. “I will do those for you,” he volunteered and then took me to Gayathri’s place. We reviewed some calendar pictures and made a plan for getting brief yet detailed captions from the project coordinators.
“You remind me of my daughter,” Bhanu garu told me at the Friends of AID Dinner in Columbus that evening. We worry about them, she said, and then added with a smile, but I think they will figure it out. I had to agree, while also aware that only ten short years hence I might be saying the same thing about my daughter.
Her daughter had served in Indicorps. Interestingly two active volunteers of AID Columbus, Ms. Jayanti and Dr. Natarajan, were also parents of a young woman who had served in Indicorps and later with a Harvard Medical project in Kenya. I was glad to see that AID Columbus comprised volunteers from the community as well as students, both graduate and undergraduate including some who were not of Indian origin.
Often parents seek out AID as a resource to help introduce their children to India , to social consciousness and exposure to life beyond their shell. Several children have read reports from AID partners, made presentations on their work and even visited or volunteered on site while in India. Here it was exciting to see that there were children who were a step ahead of their parents in going to volunteer with community service organizations and it was in fact their parents who were balancing their concern with their support for their children’s idealism.
During the discussion, I saw one woman look as if she wanted to speak but when her turn came she hesitated. I gave her the mike anyway and she said, I am really concerned that the industries are destroying the environment much faster than we can clean it up. I have a list, she continued, of the powder metal industries that are setting up factories in India. I don’t know what regulations are in place for disposing the waste and I am afraid they are going to dump it in these villages. These will make it difficult even to breathe, she said, quite agitated.
We discussed this issue in a little more detail and I asked if we could use the information she had to write an open letter on the issue and contact concerned environmental organizations in different areas, especially where the industries were planned. We could ask what the regulations were and how much waste had been generated so far, and how it was disposed. We also need to do further research into the environmental and health hazards. Several Columbus volunteers were interested in working in this direction.
Miscellaneous: Resources that I mentioned while answering questions:
For the one who said she was good at helping people find work that made them happy – Swaraj University (Udaipur)
For those who want to understand Ashish Kothari & Aseem Srivastava, Churning the Earth
Deepak Dalal’s adventure stories
Chatting outside after the event, Jayanthi Auntie said, next time we will use millets and local grains. They remembered that the Seattle chapter had served Korra Pulihara in their donor dinner. Uncle added, why don’t we grow the vegetables in our backyard and use them in the dinner, we can advertise that this is homegrown and home cooked.