The differences between Delhi and Pune are super obvious! Lets see, my teeth aren’t chattering, sound is only 74% car horns and overall it appears much less crowded.
Our first meeting was with Tata Ryerson, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Steel, the second most geographically diversified steel manufacturer in the world. Tata Ryerson is the largest processor of steel in India. You only need to walk around a major city in India and see the construction to realize steel is big business around here.
We got the opportunity to hear about the Tata Ryerson joint venture as well as the recent buyout of Ryerson’s 50% stake by Tata Steel Ltd. Afterwards we split into groups and toured the processing plant. As I walked around the facility I thought about my grandfather who worked for Great Lakes Steel just south of Detroit, MI and I remembered the mill along the river near my hometown that used to light the night sky bright yellow every time it poured molten steel. The steel industry has undergone quite a transformation (to say the least) as a result of globalization.
Our next stop was the Ashraya Initiative for Children (AIC). This was easily the most memorable of all of our company visits so far. We met with Julia, one of the founding members of the Ashraya executive team and were astonished by how much she and her team have accomplished! The initiative has two focuses. The first is a residential program for 11 kids in need of permanent housing and a loving family atmosphere (the goal is to take on 15 kids when they get enough funding). The second is an educational outreach program that provides meals and tutoring to 150 kids each day!
Julia walked half of us to the local slum all of her kids call home while the other half stayed behind to help the kids paint a wall with colorful handprints. When we got to the entrance of the slum Julia hesitated to take us in. She said that our presence would cause quite a scene. An elderly woman appeared and greeted Julia. The woman, a friend of Julia’s invited all of us into her home. We walked past the only bathroom in the slum, through the narrow walkways and past countless children, removed our shoes and entered the woman’s home. Immediately she ran off and secured two bottles of Pepsi to share with us. I was struck by the woman’s generosity.
It was a matter of seconds until the entire doorway was filled with onlookers. I’m pretty sure part of the curiosity was spurred by the fact that none of the kids had ever seen a size 14 loafer. I think three kids sailed one of my shoes around a puddle.
All jokes aside these kids pushed and shoved to get into the house to see us. It was the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. They went wild for the pictures and videos we took of them. They would pose for a photo with a friend or sibling (the oldest would do the time honored and global tradition of putting “rabbit ears” on the younger kids’ heads) and then they would all gather around us to see their picture on the backs of our camera. At one point there must have been over twenty people inside a 12 x 8 ft room!
The poverty in India is both overwhelming and heart wrenching. It’s amazing to know that there are people like Julia and her team out there helping kids in need!