We all took the plane together to Mumbai. Gaston, Cordula and Saken already left us at the airport. After some 30 minutes at the counter of the left luggage department made me wonder whether it was a good idea to leave two bags behind and whether I will ever see them again. The remaining 7 of us checked in at the hotel and left for one final team dinner. We quickly realizes how spoiled we were in Coimbatore. Traffic in Mumbai is something else and it took us ages to get rickshaws.
More goodbyes after dinner and then I also made my way to the aiport to pick up my boyfriend for two more weeks of vacation. The next day, I said goodbye to the remaining team members: Alex was going to the airport after breakfast, Sverre and Benjamin were going to discover Mumbai together, until Ben’s flight left in the evening and Sverre’s friends arrived for their holiday. It was sad to say goodbye, but I had a fantastic time with everyone and hope we’ll see each other again.
Amazing how quick 4 weeks can pass and how good a time I had with my IBM colleagues from all over the world, the CDS crew and of course everyone at Siruthuli. The last few days in Coimbatore were packed with getting our work done for Siruthuli, a wonderful evening at the Sankara eye hospital and our good bye dinner at the Afghan grill.
Yesterday we presented our final results to Siruthuli. Vanitha Mohan had invited the trustees and the APEX members. Initially we thought we’d be able to use the meeting room that can host some 15 people. It quickly turned out that much more people would attend, but we certainly did not expect more than 30 people to turn up. We felt honoured that so many of the trustees and APEX members, representatives of the public works department and environmental consultants were interested in what we had to share with them. As the room filled I felt a healthy level of nervousness.
During our presentation we gave an overview of the current situation at Valankulam tank and its surroundings and the sources of pollution. We advised to carry out a thorough analysis of the situation, including longitudinal water analysis and topographic analysis. Only yesterday we were able to speak to a rather enthousiastic entomology professor of Tamil Nadu Agriculture University, who was thrilled to cooperate with Siruthuli and who has extensive experience in biological control agents. He confirmed that weevils could be an excellent longterm solution to control the waterhyacinth growth in Coimbatore’s tanks. We were happy to be able to include these results in our presentation. Finally we also advised Siruthuli on potential strategic partnerships for knowledge exchange and grant making.
After the presentation Vanitha Mohan thanked us for our efforts and handed us a present to remember Siruthuli by.
It feeels really strange to be done. I had such a good time at Siruthuli and everyone there made me feel so tremendously welcome. When Vanitha thanked us, she said she was sure we’d stay in touch because “We fell in love with them and they fell in love with Siruthuli”. I really hope to come back to Coimbatore and Siruthuli one day.
Today’s our second but last day at the office. Without fail Mr. Mylswami from the Siruthuli office would pick us up each morning at the hotel and bring us back in the evening. Usually we’d all be quite exhausted in the evenings. Mr. Mylswami quite effectively provided us with a much needed shot of adrenaline by taking a little shortcut on the wrong side of the road. That’s Indian driving for you! I was so happy to finally get an action picture just before our project ends.
Saturday, October 15th was a big day for Siruthuli. Dr. Abdul Kalam, the former president of India, came to Coimbatore to celebrate his 80th birthday. He is a strong supporter of the green movement and that is why the event was held at the Nandangarai Checkdam, that was built by Siruthuli and District Rural Development Agency in 2008 to provide drinking water and irrigation to many villages and farmers in the area. 3000 schoolchildren from rural as well as urban schools were invited next to lots of other guests. Cordula, Saken and I got VIP badges and were able to be really close to Dr. Kalam when he arrived. Vanitha pointed us out to him and we were able to speak to him really briefly. Well, “speak” is maybe a little exaggerated. He asked whether we were in hard-or in software and I said “services”. After having planted a tree, Dr. Kalam held a inspiring speech in Tamil targeted towards the school children. From what I could gather, he encouraged them to have ambition in life and to be good members of society. After his speech,Dr. Kalam left and everyone present was invited for lunch. During the entire event, I was amazed by how smoothly everything went. Good job, Siruthuli! Countless volunteers helped to make this day a big success.
After Dr. Kalam left Cordula, Saken and I were by far the most interesting people left at the venue. Some of the rural school children had apparently not seen a foreigner before and were absolutely thrilled. They asked us for autographs, our email addresses, our facebook names, you name it. Everyone wanted to shake our hands or be in a picture. At some point we were beleaguered by some 30 school children. It was flattering and fun, but after a while also downright exhausting. So this is what it feels like to be a celebrity… Here are some pictures of the event, the venue and celebrity me: