No Problem, No Problem

by tuftsigl
Jan 03

Schoolchildren at Payir Trust

Written by Student Leaders Maya Kavaler and Vidya Srinivasan, BUILD India 2014


Vanakkam! Thanks for checking out the BUILD:India Winter 2014 Trip Team's blog! BUILD's winter and summer trips are crucial to our relationship with Payir and Thottiyapatti, and we hope, on this blog, to provide some running updates as our time on the ground unfolds.


Our first 24 hours together have definitely been unconventional. We have newfound familiarity with the Indian train system (I would say "never again," but that's not the case, unfortunately. -Maya), having learned that Chennai has multiple bustling train stations! Too bad we discovered this rather essential information at 10:10 pm, minutes before our train's departure. Once we realized this, we met some lovely fellows who, though not great at discerning how many bags one auto rickshaw can hold, were very skilled at navigating crowded streets. We were also charmed by their can-do attitude, and will definitely be making their favorite phrase–"No problem!"–part of our approach to our work over the next couple weeks.


Next, we tried to locate our train. Let's just say that in an IGL triathlon, it's very clear which program would take the gold. We even made time for an impromptu reenactment of an iconic scene from Chennai Express (2013), featuring Shobhita as Shahrukh and Vidya as Deepika (see for a clearer idea). Some people were convinced that chancing a light jog to the next train car down at an upcoming two-minute stop was in our best interests, but we held firm and found our berths. The following six-hour ride from Chennai to Srirangam marked the beginning of an alarming trend: Kristen and Shobhita seem to sleep through all situations, while we lie awake contemplating our existences.


The drive from Srirangam to Thenur, the larger village in Perambalur district in which Payir (BUILD's local partner NGO) is headquartered, introduced us to some daredevil taxi driving. We are thinking about bringing air horns back to campus to announce our presences in a friendly–but assertive–manner as we navigate the crowded Academic Quad during Open Block. We safely arrived at Payir at dawn and crashed, only to be awoken by some very loud toddlers. It turns out the other half of the building in which we're sleeping hosts Payir's nursery school for the toddlers of Thenur. It seems that our unanticipated roommates do not seem to want to learn very much today. Fortunately, despite our sleep deprivation, we are in good spirits, due to near-constant consumption of chapatis. Look out for an upcoming post on 101 Uses for a Chapati (so far we have "food" and "earplugs").


Though a bit disoriented and slightly alarmed by the fight that seems to be breaking out on the other side of the wall, we are so grateful and glad to be here. Our arrival in Thenur marks the end of a lot of travel, and it feels good to stand on steady ground. We had a productive meeting in Chennai with AID India, in which we discussed expanding the curricula currently being administered in Thottiyapatti's Learning Center. We also worked out some logistics regarding the continued monitoring and evaluation of these tuition sessions. Once we visit the Learning Center, we will update AID with a list of any needed supplies and trainings. We look forward to discussing this and so much more with Senthil and Preethi, the heads of Payir. We also await the start of our all-idli diet, though the chapatis will be sorely missed.


BUILD love, and hope you're learning as much about Tamil colors (tomatoes are red, peacocks are blue!) as we are right now,


Vidya & Maya