On Thursday the 17th, the three of us arrived in Mumbai in the evening with as much fanfare as could be expected after a completely full 14-hour flight that was made somewhat shorter than expected by an 80 mph tailwind most of the way. The Peace Park Hotel, where we stay in Panvel, was welcoming as always. Nelson has stayed here since 1997 and brings guests here each time, so some staff remembered both him and Will.
Our first couple days were all about getting adjusted, meeting people, and making plans. Communicating with people on the ground is always more effective than planning in advance. On the first day, we met up with Deep Lokhande, son of Nelson’s friend Vijay, and Deep’s wife, Siddhi. After introductory conversations we toured their paper factory. While at the paper factory we had the opportunity to attend the dedication of their new printing press for making lined notebooks. It can process 250 meters of paper per minute. Deep broke a coconut on the base of the machine as is the Indian tradition and we all shared in the sweets that were passed around.
That afternoon, we had lunch and got groceries at the nearby shopping mall where proof of vaccination is required for entry. The food court could’ve come out of any American mall, complete with a Pizza Hut and a Burger King – although it was missing what most Americans would expect for a burger!
On Saturday, we met up with Vijay Lokhande and got a chance to really sharpen up our plans for the following week, from our work at the Chikhale School to our visit to the Environmental Education Center in Talegaon. In the evening, we toured Vijay’s new medical building, construction of which is being sponsored by the Panvel Maternity & Infant Welfare League where the Shushrusha hospital is located. The new facility is quite impressive and will make a huge difference in people’s lives in Panvel.
We ended Saturday refreshed and with a plan for at least 3 days at the Chikhale School and 3 days at the EEC.