Today was our first day in Chennai, India. We arrived at 2.00 a.m. last night after a 27-hour journey. We spent this morning making phone calls to our tsunami organizational contacts. We made appointments with Seva Bharathi and Public Concern India (PCI) for visits to Nagapattinam, the village that has been most affected by the tsunami. Nagapattinam is six hours away from Chennai. We contacted NalandaWay and met in person Sriram Ayer, its CEO. We hosted him in our Chennai office, which becomes our bedroom at night as it is the only air conditioned room. Mr. Ayer has invited us to participate in his workshop for mentors on Saturday July 23, 2005. The following Saturday, July 30, Mr. Ayer has also invited us to do a workshop with children from the slums of Chennai. The workshop of play activities will take place in a community hall located in the slums. Mr. Ayer showed us a DVD on child prostitutes, which children in his organization created with the help of community volunteers and professional filmmakers. This film, Still Dreams, is being released in Chennai tomorrow.
We contacted Professor/Dr.Thiru who is chair of the Department of Psychiatry at Stanley Medical College in Chennai. We are meeting him tomorrow, July 22, at 10a.m.
We contacted Bhavana, who is in charge of tsunami relief in Auroville, a small town south of Chennai. We will visit Auroville to get an understanding of the tsunami relief work that has occurred in Auroville and will also learn about alternative healing practices at The Quiet Center.
We had a terrific Business Thali lunch, which is served on a huge silver platter with an array of curries, rice, breads, and yogurt. This gave us energy to go to the U.S. Consulate. Gargi and Linda registered with the consulate, while Miko, who is a Japanese national, and Kristen, who is Canadian, visited the United States Information Services. There, Kristen and Miko got on the internet to reach friends and family in the United States.
On our way home our driver took us to a bustling market to buy an icebox to hold drinks for our business meetings. We are riding a Toyota van with a chauffer, which has been provided by an Indian family; thankfully it is air conditioned. While we were buying the icebox, street vendors used our parked van to display stuffed huge toys (lions, tigers, elephants, and bears!). At first, we passed our van, not recognizing its changed appearance. We have now gotten home (minus the stuffed animal) and are jet lagging, which we need to sleep off.
We did a good day’s work! And we had a great day, too.
Gargi Roysircar, Linda Lee, Kristen Robinson, Michiko Ishibashi Antiochians at Chennai