Today we met up at 9am in the team room (711) to perform a team building exercise. Each person drew something about themselves and then shared with the team their background, IBM background, reason for taking part in CSC, and interesting stories. Time passed quickly and at 11am we were ready to go meet our clients. Each of the client teams met with their respective counterparts, and then the official opening was kicked-off by Mamtha Sharma, the Head of Corporate Citizenship & Corporate Affairs for IBM India. After all the official introductions we enjoyed a tasty lunch with our clients and got right to business discussing their organizations and also the SOWs (Scopes of Work) to be performed. Once again time went by quickly and before we know it we were saying goodbye for the day and parting our ways.
Monday evening we went to a famous Punjabi restaurant with Mamtha, Shuri and Jaspreet, and there we all shared our meals (as this has become the norm here, and we get to taste many more dishes). This was Mamtha’s last day here as she was departing the next day so the meal was a nice send off.
We slept very well after that meal 🙂
We started the day in the team room (711). As agreed with our clients we were going to spend the first day going over the details we received the day before, and also coming up with a strategy and an approach to the project. We got right to work, set up a projector, and started a brain storming session. As we were brainstorming we also did further research, identified some IBM resources we can use, and came up with a few preliminary suggestions for solutions. We created a template for our presentations, an initial presentation, and identified requirements such as process documentation, what visits we will need to make to the classrooms, schools, and training sessions. Other groups were out in the field or at their clients so he had a very quiet environment to complete our work. We had lunch with Shruti where I decided to order the Pad Thai… this is where I found out that “Indian Pad Thai” is not necessarily like “Thai Pad Thai”.
Others had better luck, however the food took a really long time before it came out. After lunch we continued working. We finished when the other teams started returning. Since today was Shruti’s last day before heading back to Mumbai the next day we decided to have a party in the team room. The party was a hit and a good time was had by all.
At 8:30am right after breakfast we – the Bharti Foundation Team (Alessandra, Bernardo and Rafal) and Shruti departed for the Bharti Foundation office which is located in an Airtel building close to PAU (Punjab Agricultural University). We were greeted by Mr. Vinay who showed us around the office and we were offered chai tea to get the day started. We were set up at the workstations and configured on the network which took some tweaking. We had a challenge to get onto both the regular and IBM network as the Bharti office connection has many services blocked. In the end we managed to access most things. We made a presentation to Mr. Vinay on our progress so far, and presented the requirements we will need for the SOW. At lunch we went for nice walk in the area.
The office was quiet that day as many people were out on assignments. We finished off some much needed research for our project and headed back to the hotel. For the next two days it is arranged for us to visit Ludhiana East and participate in Induction Training for new teachers.
We left in a taxi before 8am to make our way to Khanna where the Ludhiana East head office and training center is located. We arrived a few minutes before 9am. This trip was much better then the drive to Chandigarh, the highway had two or 3 lanes each way, and was separated by a median. Also at that time of day there was not much traffic. We were met by Mr. Ranjodth Singh (District Coordinator) and Mr. Pankaj Thakur (Trainer) and Mr. Harpreet Kabbye (Distict School Admninistrator). We had a chance to ask them all kinds of questions about the training and the Ludhiana East district. Shortly after 9am the class for the teachers (Induction training in which new teachers participate in) began and we sat in observing the process. In our opinion the curriculum of the training and the level of interaction between the trainer and teachers were of very high quality. The teachers interacted seamlessly with the trainer and seemed very eager to take part in the activities. We were served a very flavorful lunch and continued observing the training. We also had a chance to talk to the teachers. Everyone had a high opinion of the training.
At the end of the day we made plans to come back the next day and visit some schools with Mr. Ranjodth and Mr. Harpreet. We returned to the hotel and discussed the day.
Once again we left early and arrived at the Ludhiana East office where we were met by Mr. Pankaj and Mr. Harpreet. We departed for the first school with Mr. Harpreet, where we were met by Mr. Ranjodth. The school was in a rural area and in a very peaceful setting. This day happened to fall on a holiday (Guru’s Birthday), so there was lots of chanting and praying in the village which was broadcast over the loudspeaker so we only experienced the serenity in between prayers and it was quite a contrast compared to the loudness of urban Punjab. We met the teachers and students at the first school. This school had both primary and elementary classes. The first class we visited was pre-primary where the youngest of children start their learning. The classroom was very bright and had many teaching aids up on the walls. There were no desks or chairs as children at that age mainly learn by playing and furniture would just be in the way. We then visited third grade class where there were small desks appropriate for the children. Also the bottom parts of the walls were actually black boards all around, so that children can utilize them instead of wasting paper. This seemed very logical to us and students were utilizing them very well. The older grades had larger furniture and more advanced learning aids. There was also a room that was devoted to technology studies, creative writing, and reading. Each class was scheduled for a period in this room so they can take advantage of it. Overall the school was designed with a lot of thought and was extremely functional. The office/staff room was also decorated with motivational aids and displayed all the trophies and recognition that was awarded to the school. We were told about all the little details of how school spirit is built, how the infrastructure is maintained, and how teachers are very well treated at the schools. This was also apparent from our observations. Of course no visit would be complete without us being offered water, soda, chai, and this time also vegetable pokora. The staff was really very gracious and sincere. We have had a great reception from all our hosts at every place we visit.
After we drove over to a second school which was already empty of students as they were dismissed due to the holiday. This school also had a “kitchen garden” where students learn how to grow plants. We were shown a classroom that was designed and implemented by Disney and was very colorful. Once again we had a change to interact with teachers and staff.
On the way back to Ludhiana East office Mr. Harpreet took us to a Dharba (roadside restaurant) where they server very fresh, delicious and inexpensive food.
The day ended with us being welcomed to return any time and us thanking the hosts very much for their hospitality. We spent Friday night in 711, discussing the week and sharing some stories. It ended up being a late night, but since we knew that Saturday will be a bit more of a relaxed day we allowed ourselves to stay up way past midnight.
Today was a “catch up day”. I worked on the blog and some email. Some of the team went shopping in the morning. I went for a long walk exploring the city and to buy some work shirts. In the afternoon we all got together to go scarf shopping with Jaspreet. Jaspreet has a friend who has a shop with scarves and we got a 25% discount on everything. There were so many scarves. Everyone ended up getting something. I picked up 3 scarves but will likely come back for some more.
We decided not to do a big dinner since we were leaving at 7am the next day for Amritsar. As we need to have our heads covered we arranged to get turbans the next morning with a local shop owner. Tomorrow, the Golden Temple and the Wagah border ceremony, and many many hours on a bus.
We were texting with Mr. Vinay and Mr. Pankaj from Ludhiana office the previous evening, and the plan for today was decided. We started working from the hotel in the morning. We analyzed our visits to Ludhiana East, did further research and created a write up on the visits. The Bharti Foundation office was going to be minimally staffed as the VP of Bharti Foundation – Ms. Mamta Saikia was visiting Ludhiana. She wanted to meet with our team in the afternoon. We made our way to the office and set up at our workstations. Shortly after Mr. Vinay and Mr. Pankaj arrived and invited us down for a celebration downstairs. It turned out that there was a special group of teachers who just completed 5 years of employment with Bharti Foundation, and they were being recognized by the VP. After all the festivities and once commemorative plaques were handed out we were able to take pictures with Ms. Mamta. It turns out that it was also her 10 years at Bharti, and she was presented flowers, heart felt thank yous, and a slideshow presentations.
After this Ms. Mamta shared with us the vision of Bharti Foundation schools, what new pilots were taking place, what changes have been planned, and finally what part we play in this overall scheme. It was very informative for us and fortified our sense of direction in this project. After the meeting we received lots of documentation that we previously requested and dove right into studying it. We left the office after 6pm and headed back to the hotel. We went for dinner with the PAU team to the restaurant where we had our first lunch in Ludhiana and ended up ordering way too much food! So much we had to take it to go, but we ended up finding a great use for it as we gave it to a homeless older man who was happy to receive it. Another full day over, it was time to go to sleep and rest up. Tomorrow we head out to Ludhiana West for teacher training on grade 3 to 5 math education.
This morning we were up and off to the Ludhiana office at 8:15am same as previous days. From the morning until 2:30pm we attended the Math TLM training and as a bonus we had a chance to interview the teachers in the class setting and get some very helpful feedback.
The lunch was very good and right after we had to say goodbye and head back to the Ludhiana main office where we had a meeting with the District Head – Mr. Bharatdeep, State Head Trainer Mr. Pankaj, and Ludhiana East Trainer Mr. Vinay, and the Ludhiana Steel team (one of our other IBM CSC India 22 sister teams). The Ludhiana Steel team requested the meeting as they are trying to help get a CSR program off the ground with that client, whereas Bharti Foundation already has gone through those difficulties and established themselves as a very respectable organization in this field.
We finished off our day at the office after 6pm and headed back to the hotel. There we did some more work and then went out to a shop that makes custom tailored shirts and jackets to purchase some merchandise, and then out for dinner. We ate at an outdoor “Dharba” where we had some very tasty and spicy food, but also got to try an upcoming “Butter chicken” dish courtesy of the owner. It was very good and we will be back next week to have it once it’s out. We finished off our day at 711 discussing some final plans for our weekend trips to Shimla and Agra (8 team members are going to Shimla, 3 to Agra – Taj Mahal).