I had some time on the flight to Delhi to think about what I might say in this first blog post of many I’ll write over the course of this Fellowship year. I decided that I both have an answer and don’t have an answer to the question “What do I anticipate it will be like to work in India for 10 months?”
On one hand, I’ve been to India before, so I have many expectations about the experience of living in India itself: about the climate, about the food, and about transportation, for example. I’m free from some of the uncertainty and nervous anticipation of going somewhere new, which is great. I come in knowing a few things about the year: I’ll replace my coffee addiction with a sugary-chai addiction; I’ll be forced into Bollywood dancing and just have to laugh at myself; I’ll feel bad about haggling over autorickshaw fares but do it anyway; I’ll be too, too, too hot all the time; and I’ll miss friends and family at home in the US.
On the other hand, I’ve never been on the AIF Clinton Fellowship before. I don’t know what this year will be like or what challenges I’ll face. As a Fellow at the ICICI Foundation, I’ll be working in the headquarters of ICICI Bank in Mumbai. I’m sure working in a corporate office will have its own quirks, and I’m already worried about how to arrive at office still looking fresh in my business clothes despite the Mumbai heat and humidity. I think working in a building with 3400 bank employees will be very different from many of my fellow Fellows in rural areas or smaller organizations, so I’m already excited about midpoint where we’ll all be able to compare notes and trade stories. Up until now, most of my experience in India has been as a student in somewhat flexible situations. I’m curious to see how the regularity of a job in such dynamic surroundings will change my experience and even my image of India.
As part of my role in communications and documentation, I’ll visit most of ICICI’s project sites across India. Site visits will be a great opportunity to learn about to learn about ICICI’s diverse programs. I’m also excited about the traveling I’ll be doing for work because I have a feeling that Mumbai will be overwhelming and exhausting, and at times I’ll need a break from the hectic city life. The more I hear about commuting in Mumbai, the more scared I get. I’ve had a 75 minute commute before to New York, but never anything approaching 1.5 to 2 hours! Of all the immediate logistics of being here and moving to Mumbai, I’m most anxious about the apartment hunting process, but I hope once we’re on the ground in Mumbai, we’ll find our new home quickly. I’m really looking forward to getting to know the other Fellows this year. What an accomplished, intelligent, and fun group! Although many of us will be in different cities and towns throughout India, I know we’ll visit each other and stay in touch through email, this blog, and if the Fellows give me their addresses, good old fashioned mail!