Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cross-Cultural Teaching as Co-Learning

Last night we returned to Delhi after a week away teaching at two different campuses of Jaypee University. It was an extraordinary experience and I certainly learned more from the students and faculty than they did from me.

I was invited to teach by the Jaypee Group’s Chief Operating Officer for Education, Dr. Yaj Medury. He earned his PhD at University of Wisconsin in Madison and is a friend of Professor Deepak Khazanchi, Associate Dean of the University of Nebraska’s Peter Kiewit Institute. When contemplating where to teach as part of my Fulbright, Deepak (who has sons playing in the Omaha Area Youth Orchestras) put me in contact with Yaj, an old friend of his from the Indian Institute of Technology, the premier university system in India. After an extended email exchange, we landed on my teaching Social Entrepreneurship at Jaypee Business School.

Jaypee University is a private university system that has “deemed university” status, meaning it is a government approved institution with a rigorous curriculum and not just a private money-making venture. With two-thirds of the 1.2 billion people in India under the age of 35 (twice the total population of the USA), there is a huge market of potential students to tap which has led to the proliferation of these private colleges many of which are of low quality.

But Jaypee University is a different sort; well-maintained facilities, top notch faculty and students from more privileged backgrounds. It has three campuses, the first two of which I visited this past week: (1) Jaypee Business School ( which is on the campus of JIIT in Noida, a suburb of Delhi; (2) Jaypee University of Information Technology ( in Waknaghat, Himachal Pradesh State; and, (3) Jaypee University of Engineering and Technology in Guna, Madhya Pradesh State.

These educational institutions are the passion of Jaiprakash Gaur, the Founder and CEO of the Jaypee Group. Jaypee Group is a corporation with annual revenues of $1.5 billion and many lines of business including engineering and construction, hydropower, cement, real estate development, expressways and hospitality. I was told by an administrator at Jaypee University that the education business “takes profit from the other businesses and redirects it to do socially responsible work.” The educational institutions – not just the three universities, but 17 schools that serve 25,000 students at all levels – are partially funded through a nonprofit trust. Although this is the philanthropic work of the founder and his family, the universities “hope to break even” on the venture. 

JBS offers both MBA and PhD. degrees. Every MBA student must complete a “social internship” in their second year during which they work with a non-governmental organization for at least 3 weeks and write a research paper on the social issues being addressed. Rather than have me teach a stand-alone course, the JBS faculty decided to integrate my three-day course into the social internship requirement. This was great because it meant my class was mandatory. It was also a challenge because it meant that all second year MBA students were in my class. (Note to Self: Never again put essay questions on the final exam given to 257 students who do not speak English as their mother tongue!)   

Teaching in a cross-cultural setting of any sort is difficult, but I think it is particularly hard in another country. Not only do I have this funny American accent (yes, friends, it is us who have the accent when we are abroad), but the classroom norms, social hierarchies and expectations from students and faculty must all be figured out in a hurry.

When I entered the classroom, which was fully equipped with state-of-the-art technology, all the students rose from their seats and, in unison, greeted me with, “Good morning, Sir.” In one corner was an idol of Sarashwati, the goddess of Music, Education and Creativity… maybe an auspicious sign for a conductor’s husband to be teaching in this room. The students were deferential and respectful, curious and (mostly) engaged, bright and young (all in their early 20s and most in a dual degree program, B-Tech/MBA).

I taught two sections of approximately 125 each. My intention from the outset was to keep it simple and clear in design and delivery. I used PowerPoint slides for students to easily track things, but (as is my nature) took frequent tangents from the outline to address issues that came up in discussions. 

The students were a bit reluctant to engage at first. They were not used to being so interactive. So I started by asking questions and gently put students on the spot. “Please share your name? Where you are from? And what do you want to do after your MBA?” I asked. I also tried discussions in small groups of 2 or 3 before asking for volunteers to come up front and share the class assignments. Slowly they loosened up. The morning section of my course had students from the Marketing and HR tracks of the MBA. They were definitely more engaged and dialogic than the afternoon section which included students from the Finance and Operations tracks.

One assignment asked students to choose a social problem then design a social entrepreneurial approach to solve it. Almost 75% of the students named illiteracy or the flipside education as the problem. I asked them why? They are students so are living the topic. They see the great need for education, especially in the rural villages. And they see a connection between education and many other issues of social betterment. Nearly all the students mentioned government as the funder. Again I asked why? They saw the government as having the deepest pockets. And as being the only entity concerned with the public good. Unsaid was that there is still not much private philanthropy in India and after years of a quasi-socialist planned economy, having only opened up in 1991 under then Finance Minister now Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, there is a certain dependency that many feel.

I had a great teaching assistant, Vishal, who is a doctoral student at JBS. He helped me with the logistics of the class, grading the multiple choice questions on the exams (I graded the essays!) and sharing insights into the culture of Indian classrooms. Two other doctoral students helped proctor the exams. And one, Vidit, accompanied my family to the magnificent Akshardaham Temple, near the recently constructed Commonwealth Games Village, where we watched an impressive evening “musical fountain” show with water and lights.

Discipline in the cross-cultural context is tricky. At one point, a particular student continued to chit-chat during class. I made eye contact with him, but it continued. I stood close to him, but it continued. Finally, I asked him a question about something I had just said and handed him the microphone to answer. After a long silence, I asked again. Finally, he answered. It was obvious to all what I had just done and there was no more chit-chat from anyone for that class period.

I was feeling bad after class, not sure that embarrassing this student in front of his classmates was right. So I asked Professor Naseem Abidi, my incredibly gracious host from the faculty, whether my discipline was culturally appropriate. “I would have thrown him out of the classroom. I think you were too easy on him,” Naseem reassured me. Vishal told me, “I think the students learned something from you today about how to handle a situation like that. What you did was very good.”

I tried hard to make the course relevant by using local examples of social entrepreneurs in India. I asked the country director for the Ashoka Foundation (named by founder Bill Drayton after the great Indian king who was exemplary in his dedication to give back to the people) whether he might provide names of a guest lecturer from the roster of Ashoka Fellows, chosen because of their innovative work as social entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, an Ashoka guest lecturer did not work out. But I had even better visitors to my class when the great social entrepreneur Aviva Segall talked about her work as Music Director of the Omaha Area Youth Orchestras, and Ilana and Leora talk about highlights from their travels. (Ilana said the Taj Mahal on her birthday was the highlight. Leora would later say that the trip to an Amusement Park during our stay in Noida was, “The best day of my life!”)

On the morning after the horrific bombings in Mumbai, I integrated that into our class discussions by asking how a social entrepreneur might go beyond just dealing with the immediate suffering to addressing the deeper root causes of the bombings. We got off into a discussion of how religion can inspire people to commit acts of violence, as well as acts of peacemaking. I shared the example of my friend and social entrepreneur Beth Katz who started Project Interfaith to help build bridges between people of different religions. I cautioned the students not to jump to any conclusions about the culprits of the Mumbai attacks before the investigation was complete. I also shared some of my own religious background and belief that “there are many paths to God,” which is a rather controversial statement to some of my fellow Christians, not to mention many believers in other faiths.

Later, a JBS faculty member who sat in my class that morning complemented me for how I handled the discussion. He warned, “We have many Muslim students who might take offense if you accused them of being terrorists.” He also said about my sharing my own faith perspective, “That would not be done by an Indian professor, but you have more latitude as an American professor.”

The flattering feedback in emails I received from students confirmed that my teaching was well-received by at least some students.  One wrote, “Sir, your teaching style was awsome!!! You were more of a friend with us than just a teacher and I really appreciate that. Sir, your friendliness definitely crossed the cultural boundaries which you had been talking about a lot in the class.” Another wrote, “It was a pleasure listening to all those wonderful and insightful stories. The passion with which you taught us or rather talked about your life stories was simply incredible. It helped me a lot in understanding my own purpose in life a lot more clearly.”

After I finished at JBS, they sent my family up to the Waknaghat campus to give a guest lecture and interact with the faculty there. It was a four hour train ride followed by a three hour car ride winding up into the Himalayas. We spent the afternoon and sunset in Shimla, the hill station where the British Viceroy and his administrators would escape the summer heat of the lowlands. We visited the Viceroy’s palace, now the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (, which looked like a set for Harry Potter, and was the site of Gandhi’s unsuccessful negotiations with the Muslim League leaders to stop the partition of India and Pakistan.

As the car careened down the mountain to the train station in Kalka for our trip back to Delhi, it took harrowing hairpins at a potentially (literally) break-necking clip. I thought about how my own life has taken terrific turns and landed me with such amazing opportunities to learn about myself and others. This trip is another chapter of a life-story yet unfolding. I hope that I can stay on the winding road long enough to learn, grow and use my gifts to give back in ways that I am only just beginning to see.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Birthdays in the Golden Triangle

This past weekend, we celebrated the birthdays of our daughters in grand style. We got a car and driver (no way that Aviva or I are attempting to drive in India) to take us from Delhi to Jaipur and Agra. This is sometimes called the Golden Triangle... and it is definitely the "Tourist Triangle" of India.

We are here during the off-season. After a day in the heat of the desert or downpour of the monsoon, it is easy to see why most would choose to come in fall or winter. Still, there were tens of thousands of people at the sites of these two cities. They were probably 5% foreign tourists and 95% Indians.

Mr. Javed Ali owns 14 cars and minivans that take tour groups all across India ( He was a wonderful driver and host to our adventure, arranging our hotel in Jaipur, restaurants along the way and reliable tour guides at places of interest.  He even got birthday cakes for our girls.

Jaipur was planned and built by Maharaja Jai Singh II (1693-1743) when his former capital city, Amber, became too crowded. In a model of urban planning, he divided the area within the walled city into rectangular blocks, each specializing in a particular craft or industry, which followed the architectural forms detailed in the Silpa Shastra, an ancient Hindu text written in the 4th to 2nd centuries BCE. The city within the walls is still generally organized in this manner, which is extraordinary given that only about a dozen modern Indian urban areas today have master plans, according to one developer I spoke with.

Jaipur is called the Pink City because Maharaja Ram Singh had the old city painted pink to welcome King Edward VII in 1876. It remains a soft pink color today. And the line of the Jaipur kings remains alive too. Although only a ceremonial role in this democratic nation, the maharaja is loved by the people. As we learned from our patient and well-informed guide, Sanjay, the last maharaja died three months ago and his 13-year old grandson was crowned.

On Leora's 8th birthday, we saw all the sites of Jaipur - Wind Palace, Water Palace, City Palace - plus visited a local village-cooperative fabric store, where I had a suit and shirts tailored for me at a bargain price, and a gem shop, where the ladies in the family bought some beautiful and (relatively) inexpensive jewelry. The pool at our heritage hotel ( was a wonderful end to a hot day.

The highlight of the day was riding an elephant up to the Amber Fort. Although it lumbered and lurched, we made it up the hill.

On Ilana's 10th birthday, we drove to Agra and visited the Taj Mahal. This is a highlight of, not just India, but surely the world! A deserved entry into the Seven Wonders of the World, this monument to love must be the single most visited site on the subcontinent. On the day we were there, we were approached, sometimes in rough and demanding and sometimes in polite and gracious ways, by no less that a hundred Indians who wanted to have their pictures taken with our beautiful girls adorned in traditional Rajistani outfits.

The Taj Mahal is the Mogul Emperor Shah Jahan's memorial to his second wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died giving birth to their 14th child. It took 20,000 craftsmen over 22 years to complete this masterpiece. The white marble which is inlaid with precious and semi-precious stones is a wonder to behold. It reminded me how much I love my wife!!!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Gandhi's in the House

This afternoon, Rajmohan Gandhi, the Mahatma’s grandson, and his lovely wife, Usha, came over to our humble home in New Delhi. We were honored and delighted to host them, quite blown over by the reality of having such an internationally revered figure sitting with us in our makeshift living room in this rented flat. They were both so gracious, down-to-earth and inquisitive, especially sensitive to including our daughters in the conversation.

How I came to invite them over takes some back-story. I serve as Vice Chair of the board of a nonprofit called Initiatives of Change – USA. It is part of an interfaith global network ( that Rajmohan was the International President of up until the end of 2010. IofC challenges people to take quiet time to reflect on the personal changes they need to make which may create ripples that can transform a community. We are people struggling to live out Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” This fellowship of friends has been important to me at crucial times in examining places where I am wanting and need to make changes in my own life, a continuous process to be sure, and has introduced me to some wonderful folks such as Raj and Usha.

In addition to this IofC connection, the Gandhi’s have a son, Debu, who attended Willamette University in Salem, Oregon, where my mother is an alumnae and long-served on the Board of Trustees. Debu occasionally spent vacation breaks in my parents’ home in Portland, when he wasn’t able to get back to India or wherever his folks were at the time.

Later in my trip, I hope to go to Panchgani near Pune to visit Asia Plateau, the retreat center for Initiatives of Change – India. This morning I called the Managing Trustee there to make arrangements. Dr. Ravi Rao mentioned that Rajmohan and Usha had just left Panchgani and were in Delhi for a couple days before departing for Caux, Switzerland, where IofC’s International Retreat Center is located (and where I proposed to Aviva). I immediately called Raj’s mobile number and he invited me to meet them for lunch.

When I told my colleagues at Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy that I was leaving early for lunch with Rajmohan Gandhi they were aghast. “He is the grandson of the father of our country and you are the having lunch with him? I have only seen him on TV. He is a powerful speaker,” one said. Raj is a journalist, historian and author, and was a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the India’s Parliament. He now teaches at University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. I later said to my daughters that “it would be like having George Washington’s grandson in our home,” to which Ilana responded, “But George Washington’s grandson is dead.”

Usha’s sister, Jai Chandiram, a film maker and media consultant, was meeting Raj and Usha for lunch at the comfortable India International Center in Lodi Colony, and I joined them. After lunch, Raj and Usha had a meeting with their tax advisor who just happens to office around the corner from where we stay in Jangpura. They were delighted to offer me a ride in their car and I was delighted to have them come up for about 45 minutes to meet the rest of my family.

I called Aviva to make sure that our place was picked up enough to entertain these honored guests. Raj was slow coming up the two flights of stairs. Later, when Leora asked “Why did your grandfather use that stick?” Raj answered, “Like me holding onto the railing coming up the stairs today, he also sometimes needed something to help him keep his balance.”

Once we sat down and offered them a glass of cold water and a plate of simple cookies, we relaxed into some chit-chat. With an interesting twist on the standard question we are asked by many here – Do you like India? – Raj provocatively asked our girls, “What is something that you don’t like about India?”  Leora quickly answered, “The smell is sometimes yucky.”

As if taking personal responsibility for the smells of this country, Rajmohan said, “I’m sorry that India does not smell good. We do not always take care of our garbage. I apologize for that.” It struck me that this incredible man was finding some way in which to make my youngest child feel just a little more comfortable in his country by sincerely apologizing for something that he has very, very little control over. It was a small gesture that went a long way in connecting with this almost-8 year old girl.

I asked Rajmohan to tell my girls a story that he remembers about his grandfather from when he was their ages. He prefaced his story by recalling that when he was about 10 years old, his father, Devdas Gandhi, the Mahatma’s youngest son, was the editor of The Hindustan Times, an English language newspaper published in Delhi. The printing presses were on the ground floor, business offices on the first floor and housing on the second floor where his family lived. Using his grandfather’s surname, Raj said, “At that time, Gandhi was very busy,” probably an understatement considering the years must have been the late 1930s or early 1940s during the heat of the Indian independence movement.

Rajmohan said, “In India it is traditional when you first greet a family member of the older generation to bow before them and they give the child a blessing. When my grandfather would come over, he would bless us by giving us a thump on our backs, a loving thump,” he said demonstrating with his open palm and making a motion as if gently slapping a small person’s back bending in front of him. We all laughed, having shared an inside intimacy of the Gandhi family.

Raj looked at Ilana, “Like you, I wore glasses.” Then he said, “My grandfather was very simple and frugal.” He asked my girls, “Do you know what frugal means?” When Leora said no, he answered his own question, “It means not wasting things.” He went on with his story, “I had recently got a new pair of glasses. At first I thought that he wouldn’t notice because he was so busy with other people. But he did notice and said, ‘You got a new pair of glasses.’ I had already thought about how I would answer and quickly said, ‘Yes, I needed a new pair.’ To which my grandfather asked, ‘And did you need new frames too?’”

Another story Rajmohan told us referenced the place in Delhi, now called Gandhi Smriti, where his grandfather was assassinated. When we said that we planned to go see that place, now a famous memorial and pilgrimage place, Usha said with a special twinkle for my girls that there were small dolls showing scenes from Gandhi’s life. Raj then told us, “We would walk with my grandfather to his prayer meetings. The whole way we would joke and laugh having so much fun with him. He loved his family. But when we got there, we would have to be very silent.”

Raj and Usha graced us with a few photos and we said our goodbyes. The Gandhis’ visit to our home was definitely the highlight of India so far. But there are many highlights yet to come. This weekend we will celebrate the girls’ 8th and 10th birthdays in Agra, where we will see the Taj Mahal, and Jaipur, Rajasthan, which is called the Pink City.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Accommodating Ourselves Accommodating Others

I thought we had our accommodations set before arriving in India. For the first week, we had a Bed & Breakfast Guesthouse in Safarjung Enclave, paid for by USIEF. After that, the staff at Sampradaan Indian Centre for Philanthropy had set up a stay at a B & B in Vasant Kunj around the corner and down the block from their office. It allegedly was a fourth floor “penthouse” apartment with a bedroom that could have two beds in it, a separate kitchen, a bathroom with shower and a “private roof terrace.” And having breakfast included in the deal seemed good for us; at least one meal would be provided making it less cumbersome in a new country and culture.

I sent Mr. Bali, the owner who is a retired Indian Air Force Wing Commander, an email to introduce myself and, hopefully, to reserve the place. I never got a reply so I sent another email. Again, no reply. I thought, maybe that is just the way it works in India. But it did leave a lingering worry in my mind. 

As it turns out, it was good that I didn’t reserve it. At the Fulbright Pre-Departure Orientation in Washington, DC last week, the Fulbrighters were told not to finalize their housing until we had an opportunity to see it and decide if it met our needs. I heard some former Fulbrighters tell tales of great places they found and others tell tales of disaster. I thought, “Hmmm, this could be interesting.”

On the second day we were in Delhi, I met with the USIEF staff. They are great people who went out of their way to help us out on every account. A month earlier I responded to an email from Bharathi, the woman who is the main point of contact for Fulbright-Nehru Scholars, thinking foolishly that I did not need a “facilitator” to help me with housing and other transitional needs. I was hoping that my housing was set with the place in Vasant Kunj. When I met Bharathi in the USIEF office at 12 Hailey Road, I changed my mind and asked for a facilitator which turned out to be the best move.

On the third day, I went to Vasant Kunj, a “posh” suburb south of Delhi, and meet the Sampradaan staff. They are great people who are dedicated to building up the community-based philanthropy movement in India. A tall task, as I am quickly learning. Before we sat down to the workday ritual of sharing all that we bring for lunch with each other – “Like the ‘give and get’ we were talking about earlier,” said Dr. Pradeepta Nayak, the Executive Director, echoing how I had hoped my time with them would be mutually beneficial – we went around the corner to see Mr. Bali’s place.

Mr. Bali was not at home so his “servant-boy” named Gopi, which is the name of Lord Krishna’s cow-herding girl lovers, showed us in. Pradeepta and Surinder, the office assistant at SICP, accompanied me. While nice, it was not the penthouse apartment I hoped it might be. The bedroom was small but had A/C. The kitchen area had a refrigerator, microwave and sink, but no stove or hotplate. The bathroom needed a good cleaning, but seemed sufficient. The roof terrace was a great feature. It overlooked a nice neighborhood and had a cool-ish breeze blowing even on a hot afternoon. But we learned this apartment, although on the top floor of Bali’s B & B, did not actually have breakfast included.

After SICP’s shared lunch, my family, who had gone to the nearby upscale Vasant Kunj Mall, came to the office. Moijuddin, the Program Director, accompanied my family to Mr. Bali’s place. Leora loved the roof terrace where she danced around and imagined putting on nightly “shows” for us. Aviva did not like the uncomfortable bed, but thought the place looked OK. However, she thought that she and the girls would be isolated down in Vasant Kunj with no Metro stop or marketplace nearby, getting in auto-rickshaws or taxis to get anywhere. It may be good for my access to SICP, but not our family’s life here in India.

On the walk back to the office, we stopped in the shade to debrief with Moijuddin. It was obvious to me that Moijuddin wanted to talk more openly to us before we got back to the office. While he thought the placed was sufficient, he suggested we consider renting a room in or apartment near a hotel frequented by tourists, which would be more accessible to everything. He suggested Connaught Place and I learned that he used to work at a travel agency so knows something about all this.

Once back in the office, while my family drank cold Sprite, I gently told Pradeepta our concerns. Apologetically, I told him how much I appreciated the work his staff had done on finding the place and stated that I didn’t want to put him or SICP in an uncomfortable position with Mr. Bali, who they use when other guests come to visit.

Moijuddin was very deferential to his boss, asking at each turn what Pradeepta thought. Pradeepta thought we should explore Aurobindo Ashram which he said was “peaceful” amidst the chaos of Delhi. He had used it for a conference of community foundation leaders a couple years back and liked the atmosphere. We talked about other places too. When I called Mr. Bali that night to tell him we are still considering his place but looking at others the next day, he put on the hard sell. That made me feel even less likely to live there.

We stopped later that afternoon at Aurobindo Ashram, feeling that because the Executive Director of my primary host institution encouraged it, we should definitely see it. It was, indeed, a welcomed contrast to the Delhi we experienced so far.

Sri Aurobindo is a main character in the long history of India. He combined Indian philosophy, yoga and science in an innovative way at the beginning of the last century. A contemporary of Mahatma Gandhi who worked in the independence struggle, Aurobindo was a well-loved guru when he retreated into a contemplative isolation from the world in the 1930s and passed his spiritual followers to a French woman who became known as The Mother. Big and small photos of the two of them hang everywhere in the Ashram.

Now, when I was last in India, 20 years ago, I rode a rented bicycle out to Auroville which disciples of Sri Aurobindo and The Mother founded in the state of Pondicherry (now called Puducherry). It is a fascinating example of ingenuity and hard work, as well as a utopian new-age enclave that has 1,800 residents from 40 countries. The center-piece is Matrimandir (Mother’s Temple), which looks like a huge golf ball on top of a wide stem, or like a spaceship that landed in the lush southern Indian desert. In the inner-sanctum sits the largest crystal in the world (70 cm in diameter) which refracted beautifully radiant rainbows throughout the white chamber on the day I visited. 

When my family arrived at the Delhi ashram, a stately older woman named Mrs. Patel welcomed us. She is Indian but spent many years in Chicago near Northwestern University where Aviva earned her Master’s in orchestral conducting. Once I told her I had been at Auroville 20 years ago she warmed to our family, realizing that we may not be the average American tourists.

As we walked the grounds, the dormitories, the dining hall, and finally the shrine, I asked my family, “Please think about what you are feeling in your heart and why you might be feeling that.” Quotes from Aurobindo and The Mother were everywhere, most talking about peace and harmony and right mindedness. Leora wasn’t sure she wanted to go into the shrine which had a rule of complete silence, but we did. Two towering photos of Aurobindo and The Mother were in the front and a few meditators sat facing their direction.

Later we debriefed over dinner. Each of us had a similar reaction: it was a rather strange place and the photos of the guru pair were particularly off-putting, but it seemed incredibly peaceful in the midst of the craziness of this city. Leora, who is full of rambunctious energy and creativity, was clear about not wanting to stay there. “I can’t be silent that long. And people will get mad at me if I make noise,” she quite astutely predicted.

The next day we traveled to Connaught Place on our own before lunch with our facilitator, Harsh Singh. He is a 21 year old who has just finished college with a degree in commerce. A freelance journalist for an English language newspaper, he also helps Fulbrighters get settled in Delhi. An impressive young man with an earnest demeanor, he was assigned as the protocol assistant to Prince Charles and Prince William during the Commonwealth Games held in Delhi last year. I would later learn that his father recently stepped down as a Member of Parliament from his village about 150 km north of Delhi and his brother was a facilitator for USIEF before him.

As we wandered in the mayhem of Connaught Place, I asked again for each of us to consider how we felt and why. Leora was not feeling well that day and we were all a bit out of sorts. Many men, known derogatorily as “touts” because they are trying to recruit business for particular establishments, approached us asking if we needed help with tours, hotels, restaurants, bookstores or anything else. Harsh, which appropriately means “happiness” in Hindi, was almost assaulted by a tout who thought Harsh was stealing us from him. “Don’t go with any Indian man, especially that fellow,” shouted the tout.

Later, in the family debrief, it was obvious that Connaught Place would not work for us. Although centrally located, with many hotels, it was just too overwhelming. Aviva said, “I must always have my guard up every time I walk out the door with the girls. I just can’t do that for the next 6 weeks.” Ilana nailed it when she said, “I didn’t know who to trust.”

The rest of the family went back to our first week’s B & B, while Harsh and I went to Sunita Singh’s guesthouse in Jangpura. She is a recent widow with a beautiful house in which she commentated on how her husband did all the craftwork. Although it had a small kitchen in the room, it felt like we were living in someone else’s home and that would get tiresome quickly. So, we walked by some other places in the neighborhood and made plans to meet again.

The next day I met my friend Shekar Narasimhan in Gurgoan.  We had a wonderful breakfast at the Oberoi Hotel, which opened in April and features views of water from every room. It was absolutely exquisite. After breakfast a driver took us through Gurgoan to the office of Shekar’s development firm. Gurgoan has some of the most expensive property in all of India, second only to parts of Mumbai. This suburb of Delhi has million dollar condos and many multinational corporate offices (IBM has more employees there than in the U.S.). It is built vertically because land values are so high.

The next day my family continued our adventures with Harsh. We all bought Indian outfits at Fabindia, a store that sells clothes crafted by poor villagers and is truly a social entrepreneurial success story. We then looked at four places owned by one landlady in Jangpura and one by another landlord in a different area. We ended up renting the first place we saw, but were glad to see the others, just to feel comfortable with what we were getting into.

That night we went to Hotel Taj Mahal in central Delhi for a USIEF function welcoming 20 U.S. elementary school teachers on an exchange to experience the history and contemporary issues of India. We met many interesting people. And my daughters loved dressing up in our Indian outfits and going to that “fancy hotel.”

As we moved our bags the next day to our new accommodations, I became even more aware of the contrasts that are India. The U.S. Deputy Ambassador to India had said the night before, “Just when you think you know something about India is true, you will learn that the exact opposite is also true.” We had experienced both the poverty of housing and the exquisite beauty of housing in Delhi. We had all felt great anxiety and were trying to lean into it.

An epiphany came for me as we settled into our new place. We were all hot, tired, hungry and cranky. And Aviva, who had worried about our luggage tied to the top of a cab by the Sikh driver who whizzed us across town, said, “As I was riding in the taxi worried about our luggage and looked out to see that woman and child who lived under the bridge begging at our window, I thought, We must be thankful for all that we have; an air conditioned place to stay, clean clothes to wear, food to eat, water to bathe and drink. Thanks, God!” All I could say is, Amen.