Dhola Ri Dhani: Rajasthani Park in Hyderabad:
I met my cousin and aunt/uncle for the first time in over a decade! My sister has also come so it has been one family celebration. I went with my family to visit a Rajasthani recreational park in Hyderabad. The undeniable highlight for me was riding a camel! Actually, feeding the camel by hand afterwards! It had such a cute large grin. In addition, I had a Rajasthani Thali served by a gentleman with one of the more ridiculous mustaches I have seen.. A Thali is basically a plate with a large number of bowls with different Indian dishes. As Indian food is prepared to be shared, it’s a fantastic way for individuals to get to try a lot of different foods. My grandparents said it was authentic so it was nice to have it. We also saw a puppet show which was quite entertaining.
I traveled with an intern from LifeSpring and four interns from the Acumen Fund, a social impact fund, to Kerala for the weekend. I had the most amazing food I have had in India! As they are coastal, I was able to have fresh shrimp and fish prepared in Keralan fashion. The highlight as you might imagine for me was seeing an elephant by the road and stopping to pet it. We spent the first night at Allepey and the second at Kochi. At Allepey, I saw Chinese fisherman catch small shrimp and fish. I noticed immediately it was easier for me to communicate here. The Hindi was much more similar to mine than the one in Hyderabad. At Kochi, we kicked off our boat excursion with some nice fresh coconut juice. It was beautiful going through the water and seeing the rice patties on each side. At night, we watched the World Cup and talked about our experiences in social enterprises and India. The next day, we visited the city and viewed historical landmarks. Kochi is very diverse with a Christian, Hindu, and Muslim populations co-existing. It is also very tourist-oriented and advertisements abound in every direction.
I took a site visit to a rural village about 3 hours from Hyderabad to see an eye camp by the social enterprise, VisionSpring. I went with two other interns from LifeSpring for the day trip. VisionSpring is a non-profit that offers eyeglasses to low-income and rural communities for about $3-4 USD/eyeglasses pair. VisionSpring works as a microfranchise model where an entrepreneur can opt to sell the glasses. Using a team of community workes and the resources provided by VisionSpring, the entrepreneur can then travel to a village, conduct basic eye exams, and sell the glasses. Targeted to middle-aged individuals, the glasses essentially serve as reading glasses, greatly enhancing productivity and quality of life at an affordable cost. Individuals who require more serious eye examinations or have myopia are referred to specific hospitals following the eye examination. It was very interesting to learn how VisionSpring is transitioning from a non-profit organization with external funding to a self-sustaining operation. Traveling to the village was also a unique experience. As we were touring the village, a group of about 50 students or so made a huge circle around us. They were fascinated to see us. We took photographs and everyone loved to pose. It was very fun!
Rajeev Saxena, LifeSpring Hospitals Intern
20 July 2010