Friday, July 25, 2008

In just one week ...

No price tags on merchandise in the bazaar. A tasty Punjabi leavened bread called naan.

Henna tattoos and colorful saris. Bollywood musicals. Elephants.

A country school for children who have been child laborers. The call center from where people offer credit cards. A village which receives micro-financing so it can produce its own clothing for sale. One of the world’s largest car manufacturing facilities.

A rising star in India’s parliament. One of the world’s most successful consulting and information technologies companies. Traffic like nowhere else in the world.

Beginning on Friday (Aug. 1), I will be joining more than 30 honors students and faculty in Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business to this land of many questions and contrasts and an emerging economic powerhouse. We will return 10 days later.

We will leave Bloomington on a bus to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport at 6 a.m. (3:30 p.m. in the afternoon in our ultimate destination, Delhi. At Chicago, we’ll get on a flight to New York, where we will depart on an international flight to Delhi that will probably stop in Brussels for fuel. By the time we arrive, it should be about 11:30 p.m. in Delhi and 2 p.m. Indiana time the following day (possible flight delays not withstanding).

Yes, it is that far away.

For most of the chaperones on this trip, this will be our third trip to India with Kelley students, which their parents should find most reassuring. Undergraduate Program Chair M.A. Venkataraman, better known as “Professor Venkat,” was born and educated in Chennai. Professor Vijay Khatri also is returning to his homeland. The new director of the program, Kathleen Robbins, has traveled extensively worldwide. Professor Jamie Prenkert and Rosanna Bateman -- who handles all the logistics for the school’s international experiences -- also have gone to India three years in a row.

This trip will reinforce close relationships that have been forged by these and other Kelley faculty and staff to provide a personal and engaging experience for students.

For others, including me, this will be more of an introduction. But many of the Kelley students I met last year on my previous India trip continue to stay in touch with me through Facebook and occasional meetings on campus. I look forward to forging more of these friendships and regaining an appreciation for college life, 20 years after getting my IU degree.

It has been amazing to follow their progress. They include a university trustee, the founder of a microfinance organization, a student government leader, several Kelley and Wells scholars and many other outstanding young people with interests beyond financial reports and stock projections.

This blog will serve as a travelogue for our incredible Indian adventure. It not only will contain my thoughts, but also those shared with me. I plan to write daily and hope I’ll also be able to include photos.

Salaam alaikrum, “peace be unto you.”

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