2012 has already kicked off as a very active year! In the last 3 weeks, I’ve been in Kolkata for only 7 days. But now I’m back home and will be stationary for at least the next month. For our Fellowship midpoint conference, all 30-something of us met up in Mysore for a week to catch-up, debrief, vent, reflect, enjoy, relax and re-energize. We heard about each others’ experiences in the form of presentations – the good, the bad, the ugly, the frustrating, the beautiful, the heartbreaking, the learnings…all of it. It was wonderful to be away from a bustling city and to breathe in some fresh air and think some fresh thoughts. We ate a lot (3 buffets a day), drank a lot of chai and coffee and enjoyed each other’s company. We’ve all known each other for about 5 months now, but have actually only spent 15 days together in person. It’s amazing how close you can get to people just through the experiences you share.
After a brief week back at work in Kolkata post-Midpoint, I left again for South India but this time to the state of Tamil Nadu. Anudip was invited to a conference just outside of Pondicherry for all of AIF MAST (Market Aligned Skills Training) Program Partners. Basically, the skills training program we conduct for our rural students is supported by our donor, AIF. AIF hosts 2 conferences a year for all their MAST Partners to get together and exchange best practices, talk numbers, catchup, etc. There were about 14 NGOs present and each gave a brief presentation on how many students they’ve trained, where they were placed and their vision moving forward. It was exciting to see Anudip step into a leadership position and hear other NGOs saying they’d like to ‘follow in our footsteps.’ This conference was also a big deal for me because I was given the opportunity to present the project I’ve been working on. Specifically, I’m developing an advanced training curriculum for our students to opt into after basic training that would give them a leg up when applying for jobs. The course I’m working on is in the BPO realm – an area I have absolutely no background or experience in but am learning a lot about really quickly! The curriculum I develop may end up being used by other MAST partners in case they find it applicable to their geography. Thus, the presentation I gave was really important in conveying the importance of building our students’ skills in the IT and BPO sector given that the BPO industry is currently booming all around India.
The conference was held at the Pegasus Institute for Excellence – off of the Chennai-Pondicherry highway, about 26km from Pondicherry (Pondy). Pegasus’ philosophy follows Outward Bound Learning (OBL) – they conduct comprehensive training and team-building activities to get companies and organizations out of their comfort zones and reflect on every aspect of their work. The campus was filled with obstacle courses and other physical structures used for the OBL activities. To get guests out of their comfort zone, all of us slept in raised cabin-like tents with thatched roofs on a mat on the floor. Bathrooms were shared with no hot water and our days began at 6am with a walk on the beach, a coffee/chai in hand. There’s nothing to do on the Pegasus campus besides enjoy the fresh ocean air, sit through presentations, eat 3 buffets a day and fight off mosquitoes. There was no internet connectivity and my phone even had a hard time picking up signal – I was totally living in the moment. Apart from lots of mosquito bites and a traumatic experience with a cockroach up my pant leg(!), I really enjoyed my stay at the Pegasus campus – my feet got a free and natural exfoliation with walks on the beach, my lungs cleared up breathing in fresh air, I learned to shower quickly and efficiently, my posture improved having to sleep on the floor and I gained a couple pounds eating 3 buffets a day comprising of rice, rassam, sambhar, rice, curd, rice, rassam, and more rice.