“It just doesn’t seem that we’re in the right area. In fact, it seems like we’re in the same place we were earlier today. Like, the exact same place.”
“Well that can’t be right. ”
“… Yeah, I know.”
This conversation happened while I was sitting in, rather I’m squished into, an auto in the middle of Hyderabad. What had started out as a ten-minute drive from our hotel to a renowned biriyani joint, supposedly made easier by my boss’ GPS, turned into an hour long pleasure cruise around the city as we ping-pong between historical sites and bustling streets. I didn’t mind. For me, this business trip to Hyderabad was a chance for me to see a part of India that wasn’t Delhi or Ranchi – the only parts I’ve seen thus far.
Beyond inadvertent sightseeing and biriyani eating, I was in Hyderabad to visit a chain of low-cost, high-quality maternal and neo-natal hospitals called LifeSpring with my mentor and the medical superintendant of the hospitals we operate. While the mission and goals of KGVK and LifeSpring are very similar, it was interesting to note how large of a role the completely contrasting contexts played in our conversations about possible collaborations in the future. For me, it was amazing to see that three departments and a staff of just under twenty were working on the same quality improvement portfolio I manage in Ranchi. For my colleagues, they were impressed by LifeSpring’s substantial IT backbone, and what a large part programs like Sales Force and Open Source played in the day-to-day operations of the hospitals. I couldn’t help but think, ‘Is it possible that Jharkhand and Hyderabad are both in India? Are we sure that they’re not completely different countries altogether?’
In many ways, they are different countries – you don’t have to have been to every state in India to quickly realize that Jharkhand has its unique set of paradigms that make solving development issues tricky, maybe even trickier, than in some of India’s more developed areas. But I really don’t want to get into a competition of “my problems are harder to solve than yours.” That’s not the point. Sharing best practices and collaborating with another organization was inspiring and will undoubtedly lead to good things, but I was strangely emotional during the trip. Initially, I had been 100% excited to get out of Ranchi, go on my first real business trip, and see a different part of India. My excitement level dissipated once I saw the IT backbone, the paved roads, the staff coffee machines (oh, the coffee machines!) – indicators of success that, while very nice morale boosters, are simply not part of the cards Jharkhand has been dealt. Living here doesn’t come with the expectation that you’ll be able to let off steam from your workday on a Saturday night; Jharkhand is all around you, everywhere you look. Most days, I consider that a good thing. There are beautiful sites, great people, and sparks of hope everywhere you look. But some days, all I can see is the lack of access, the lack of infrastructure, and the long road ahead. But progress is made everyday, and despite some of the detours I feel like my work takes from time to time, some of the consequences have been as lovely as getting lost in a wonderful city, seeing some things you might never have otherwise seen, and using those experiences to shape your future plans.
I started by suggesting that my boss put away the GPS the next time we went out for a meal.