Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Land of Connections

India is a land of many things: diverse cultures, rich spiritual history, rapid urbanization, abject poverty, and most recently, world class female sprinters. But I've also found that it is a place where really interesting personal connections are made. I think that the circle of socially-minded NRIs doing work in India is a lot smaller than one may first think. While in Delhi I ran into a bunch of interesting people who had quirky connections to me. For example, Jay introduced me over email to his friend Anuj from Berkeley, who was doing work in microfinance. I went out to meet him on a night that he had organized a dinner with a bunch of other kids who were in Delhi from the U.S. At dinner, sitting next to me was a girl Smita, who went to Penn and knew Pavi, Viral, and some of the other CF crew.

On another night I met up with Raj's InSPIRE group. I was really excited to see them since I think the experience that these kids are getting will be life-altering. They are so lucky and also really smart for doing a program like this at their stage in life. I invited Krista to join as well, and she brought along one of her co-workers at the W.H.O. named Naman. And of course, we soon found out that there was a connection between myself and Naman. But it was a totally weird one: Naman's full name is Naman Shah, which is also the exact name of a friend/Bhangra teammate from Stanford. As it turned out, the WHO Naman knew my Naman because he had tried contacting him because my Naman owned the domain So then they start exchanging emails and realized that they have really similar career interests (healthcare in rural developing regions). My Naman Shah also happens to be working in Ahmedabad this summer on a startup dealing with delivering clean drinking water to rural areas.

So Krista, Naman, and I are introduced to the InSPIRE bunch, and as I had secretly hoped all along, the connections start sparking! It was a really valuable meeting for the InSPIRE students because they are recent or soon-to-be grads, and here is Krista (a rockstar law student at Boalt) and Naman (a rockstar M.D./PhD student at UNC) to chat with and get advice about career paths. I also think that Krista and Naman enjoyed making connections with the youngsters. In terms of other connections (through Raj/InSPIRE), I also met Neil Vora, who went to Stanford but who I'd never met but heard a lot about... he is an InSPIRE coordinator and was thinking of following a similar to my own startup-to-social initiatives route. And there was Shital, another coordinator who happened to be a staff member at thinkchangeindia, which I had done a guest blog post for some time ago because I had met one of the cofounders Vinay who is a classmate of Maneka's at NYU. She was like, "Wait, you're the Neil Patel from Siksha? I know you!" Random, but really cool connections.

While in Delhi it was also great to connect more deeply with Krista. She is an amazing, warm-hearted person. We had some really fun adventures touring around Delhi. We went to CP, the Ramakrishna Mission, and Humayon Tomb. I was curious whether walking around the city with an attractive white woman would produce stares and comments, but there was nothing like that. We did however, have an interesting episode at Humayon Tomb, where we haggled with the ticket seller to avoid having to buy the much more expensive foreign visitor ticket. One of our tactics was to tell them that Krista was my wife. It's funny that these ticket sellers are quick to hassle white people, but they never question whether I am a foreigner even though it's pretty obvious from my accent and clothes. But it was cool having Krista as my pretend wife for the day. Below is a pretend newlywed pic we took. Ajay, feel free to airbrush your face in.


  1. What a nice picture - Neil you can be my back-up. Thanks for looking out for Krista while you're in Delhi!

  2. Heard some dirty stuff went down in A-bad..just let us know that all is well.