By the second week, the majority of the group have learned the ropes and acclimatized to both the people of India and their immersive culture. This week felt significantly shorter than our first, mainly because it was filled with an assortment of different activities and lectures. On Saturday we ventured out to the Phoenix Mall, which is an upscale mall with many Western outlets and restaurants located near the airport toward the northeast of Pune. We treated ourselves to a competitive game of bowling as well as to the delicious Western food that our stomachs have yearned for after almost 2 weeks of Indian cuisine.
On Sunday, the group split in two with Jiseop and Luz going to our mentor Ramani’s house for avacaya rice and tea. The rest of the boys went to visit Pataleshwar, which is a 7th century cave temple located near the Reserve Bank of India campus. After exploring the cave temple, we ventured to the Shaniwar Wada Palace, which is a historical Marathan fort located in the center of Pune. To top off our day of cultural immersion, David had a traditional red dot painted on his forehead by a local, partially without his consent.
The weekdays were a stark contrast to the office life in the first week as we had many different members of faculty come in to provide lectures discussing topics such as financial inclusion, agricultural banking, and the overall culture of Pune as well as the many different states of India. These lectures were very informative and helped us gain a fantastic historical and cultural insight into India and the Central Bank that we otherwise might not have learnt.
In addition to our lectures, on Thursday we had an unexpected field trip to Solu, which is a small village about an hour’s car ride from the RBI headquarters. We visited the Business Correspondent who provides banking and financial services to the local village of a population approximately 2,000. It was a one-man job conducted by a man whom we called “BC” that provided a service similar to an ATM, with the nearest bank being over 5km away. Over 500 people in this village hold an account with the Business Correspondent, providing financial capabilities to those in rural India. There are over 133,000 similar set-ups in villages across India with over 200 million accounts created in the 5 years since its inception. Afterward, we got a chance to visit the local temple in Alandi where we adhered to local customs and removed our shoes and took many photos with the locals as well as bowed to Ganesh, the Indian deity. We then ventured down to the river for more group photos before returning to the campus.