Sunday, November 21st started out easily.  We had breakfast at the hotel, packed up our stuff and were driven to the airport in Delhi (seemed like the size of Rhode Island when we landed), with a bit of city tour on the way.  Now the troubles begin.  It was a good thing we had our cranky day the prior day!

Sunny, our guide went with us and the luggage into the airport to get the wheelchair for Lisa and the boarding passes.  It took a long time.  They kept asking me about Lisa.  Why did she need a wheel chair?  Could she climb the stairs to the airplane?  Finally, the wheel chair arrived, we bid Sunny goodbye and off we went to the ticket counter to check our luggage.

We had been concerned about weight.  But they took our luggage without issue.  But no boarding passes. Our wheel chair assistant kept going back and forth between agents.  I asked, what’s happening?  He said 10 more minutes.  This went on for an hour!  Lisa was left sitting in a corner waiting in her wheelchair, wondering.  Peggi couldn’t tell her, because she didn’t know, in spite of standing with the wheel chair assistant and talking to each of the agents.  Finally, she found out.  Kingfisher Airlines had re-routed us through Mumbai to Hyderabad.  Now instead of a 1 ½ hour direct flight we were scheduled for 4 hours in the air.  Stay tuned, there is more.

Off we went to security, got our “pat downs” and then to gate 54.  The Delhi Terminal is laid out like a “C” on its back, and our gate was at the very end.  Felt like a 100 mile trek, pulling the hand luggage!  Lisa realized, it wasn’t Rhode Island, more like Manhattan!  One cool thing:  They have a laptop station at each gate, with power, and with lounging chairs.  Peggi felt like at home, lying down, with her laptop in her lap!

We were very impressed with Kingfisher’s flight crew. In a 1 ½ hour flight, they served a soda immediately after take off, then they brought a full meal with two hot dishes (choice of vegetarian or chicken) and chocolate cake!  And then hot coffee or tea.  Delicious.  Then we landed in Mumbai.  A wheel chair awaited.  Off we went.

We were walled out of the airport.  We had to go all the way to the baggage claim then turn right, take an elevator up and go thru security again and back out to the gate area, right where we came from!  Then they announced a gate change for our flight.

Our new gate was at ground level.  They had buses there to drive you to the plane.  They put us on a bus all by ourselves, with our wheel chair assistant and the wheelchair, plus our hand luggage.  Then, they drove just us to the plane.  There were the stairs to our Airbus 320.  Up we went, with the staff carrying our luggage.  We were the only ones on the plane!  Then another bus arrived with the rest of the passengers!  We started the engines and moved onto the tarmack.

There they announced that Mumbai was backed up and our take off slot was delayed an hour.  So we sat.  Lisa got to know her delightful seatmates very well.  Peggi read her book.  After take off we had another meal, flew to Hyderabad and arrived safely.  So did our luggage!  YEAH! And our Culture Holidays local contact met us cheerfully and drove us to the Green Park Hotel in Hyderbad.  They have a new elevated highway from the airport to town that is just gorgeous (think New Jersey Skyway).  No traffic issues.  The best road we’ve seen in India (and we’ve spent a lot of time on the roads!)  We checked in at midnight!  12 hours total travel time.

Monday, November 22nd –  Microfinance Field Trip

Dr DSK Rao met us in the lobby at 6 am to take us to Bidar, a 2 ½ hour drive west, in a neighboring state.  Another wild and thrilling ride.  This time it got to Lisa and Peggi was amazingly cool.

A LITTLE BACKGROUND: Peggi has been involved in ending hunger in the world since 1978.  One of the organizations she supports is RESULTS, which lobbies on behalf of the poor in the US and around the world.  The founder of RESULTS, Sam Daley-Harris, has been her close friend since 1980.  Sam has made microfinance a major thrust for ending poverty.  He has partnered with Mohammed Yunus (2008 Nobel Peace Prize Winner) to promote and assist microfinance organizations thru the Microfinance Summit Campaign.  Dr Rao is the head of the Asian Microfinance Summit Campaign, working for Sam.  Peggi tried to visit a microcredit project with Dr Rao in 2008 during her India visit, but it was interrupted by the terrorist attacks.  In January, 2010, Peggi had the pleasure of escorting Dr Rao around Los Angeles for a day.  So, today was the long awaited day for the field visits.

And it was worth waiting for.  We met Niranjan Sheelavant, the CEO of Nirantara, a Microfinance Institution (MFI) at his office in Bidar

DSK & Niranjan at Nirantara Office

MFI Client running her grocery stall

and then met one of his clients at her grocery stall.

Peggi, DKS & Lisa at MFI women's group meeting

We then sat in on a group meeting.  The women meet each week, make a loan payment, and support each in their businesses.  Each woman introduced herself to us and told us about their work.  And we did the same!

Town Women's MFI Weekly Group Meeting

The ladies all wanted their pictures taken with us

Their Loan Records!

Then there were lots of handshakes and photos.

Passionate woman and her husband and daughter

We took the most passionate woman in the group home to look at her business.  We met her husband, mother-in-law and child.  They make bras and underpants that are sold in this region.  We saw the sewing machines and met their workers.

One of the eight sewing machines in their business

Then DSK, Niranjan and the couple had a big conversation about expanding their business.  They are the biggest and most successful business of this MFI group, employing 9 people, having used 3 MFI loans.  Their number one issue now is capital for expansion.  DSK will help Nirantara help them in moving beyond microfinance by getting a capital expansion loan of $3,000 US.  We felt so great to witness the process.

Woman with chickpea business giving us samples

Then we went off to a village meeting, stopping at several of the clients’ homes along the way.  These women were shy and excited simultaneously.  They were proud to show us what they are doing.   One woman roasts chickpeas for snacks.  We all had many samples.  They were delicious.  It is hard work, you can tell by her hands.

Flour Mill Businesswoman

Another woman runs a small flour mill.  She was very excited to show us how it works and take pictures.

Exterior of Flour Mill

Buffalo for milk and the business woman

The kids love being in the pictures and then seeing them in the camera.

Another woman sells the milk from her buffalo. Nirantara is working on a milk co-op project in this village.

DKS & Jan in village


On the way back to Bitar we stopped at this 15th century fort complex.

Another section of the fort

It has just become a national monument and restoration has just started.  We stopped for refreshing cold drinks there .  Later we stopped at a Sikh temple for a simple lunch of daal and chapattis, followed by a sweet donut-like treat.

Jan's family

We stopped at Niranjan’s home nearby to meet his grandmother, wife and 3 ½ year old daughter and 2 year old son.  And now for the drive home!  OMG.  Lisa decided the best way to handle this was to keep her eyes shut for the entire journey.  But not her mouth!  We had a very stimulating 3 way conversation on both legs of the journey about economics, finance and politics.

Full Moon over Lake in the center of Hyderabad

After a 2 hour rest break DSK’s driver picked us up at the hotel and took us to see the gorgeous lake around which the city is built and then to meet DSK, his wife Sheela and their son, Sanjay at the Country Club for a delightful outdoor dinner.

In spite a huge party on the patio below us, Peggi was sound asleep within 30 minutes of our return.  Lisa was the night owl!

Tomorrow we fly to Mumbai.

(PS.  Please forgive so many words and the messiness of the page.  I want to get this published!  We are in Mumbai now and I have to run to our evening program.  I’ll do another page tomorrow!

So much to share! Happy Thanksgiving to all!)

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