Meet Candice my guest blogger for today. She is one of my heroes. We met in college (way too many years ago) where I was instantly in awe of her positive outlook on life and her drive to help those around her. She got her MA from Columbia and works as a nurse practitioner where she has worked for MSF / Doctors Without Borders in both South Sudan and Central African Republic. Total rockstar.
The phone rang at 7 am; the Tempo-truck driver was on the phone. He and Kristin were speaking in a hybrid combination of English and Hindi. Without trying to understand, I rolled over, fell back to sleep. An hour later when I finally came to, I learned that our ride to the center and the transport for the generator and supplies was cancelled. No alternate Tempos were available, meaning we could not deliver the heavy machine or schlepp the large bundle of fabrics that had taken up residence on Kristin’s couch that day.
This was the beginning of a typical day in Delhi with Kristin. We rolled with it, got dressed, ate the American cupcake that I smuggled over and started the two and half hour commute to Najafgarh. The first leg of the journey was a 15-minute bicycle rickshaw ride to the metro station where we were scanned through the metal detectors and were given an obligatory pat down by security staff. We then boarded the women’s only carriage and commenced the hour and half ride to the outskirts of Delhi. Fortunately, she had her laptop and could work, and I always carry a good book. Our metro trip ended in an area called Dwarka Mor, from which we transferred to a local open-air bus. On this this 30-minute ride I saw an urban dairy farm with free roaming cows, a wedding hall decked out with ribbons, street children, and many beautifully colored fruit carts and stalls.
The scene was enthralling to me, but to the bus riders and Kristin, this was a completely normal mash up of what is on the outskirts of Delhi. The bus dropped us off in Najafgarh and we started the last leg to the Sewing New Futures Center, a 15-minute walk.
By the time we arrived to the center, the electricity was out again. Girls were sewing wall hangings by hand in the courtyard or using the hand crank sewing machines in the classroom. It became very clear to me why the generator was invaluable; with the electricity out, work was delayed and no Bollywood music could set the background mood or set the beat for a head bobble. After tons hugs and greetings of “ Hello Didi,” we settled in the office/supply room/lunchroom with Monica, the stellar social worker turned centre coordinate who manages everything and Auntie, the surrogate mother to all at the center and sewing teacher, for a cup of chai and update talk. Things speed up once the electricity turned back on and allowed for the workday to end with a final dance number. (I honestly could not get enough of the dancing and the girls equally enjoyed laughing at my lack of choreography and coordination). We left the center following goodbye hugs and with a throng of children ages three to six chasing close behind.
Though work at SNF center was finished, one more meeting was waiting. At around 5:30pm, we boarded another bus for the two-hour ride back into South Delhi. After grabbing a quick and delicious dinner of biryani, we met up with Prianka, the business mind of SNF. Over a hot cup of chai; accounting, sales, and donations were discussed. We parted ways with Priyanka and hopped in an auto rickshaw for the 30-minute ride home. We closed out the day falling asleep to bootlegged Netflix. Recounting these days through texts brings about a slight visceral sense of exhaustion; I would go back and do it again tomorrow and the next day.