The morning came early with the time change. Michelle got up at 5am, about the time I was finally able to fall asleep. She headed to the gym, came back, showered and went back to bed. At 7:30 am my alarm went off and it was time to get up and get to the gym. The weather was warm, but the smoke from pollution and the Diwali celebrations hung in the air like the San Francisco morning fog.
Our hotel, close to the airport is beautifully decorated with fresh flowers, and it is a pure joy to see the beauty inside. From the gym, it is the first glimpse I get to see the day light of India. The pool is tranquil lined with palm trees and a yoga class outside is taking place. A small girl joins her father in the yoga area. The air is still heavy and it is my understanding it will not clear.
By 10 am we are waiting in the lobby headed to our first adventure. Parth, our Indian friend and host, is ready to transport us to our first venue of three. We are meeting with FICCI Flo – 100 top CEO’s of India.
What happened next is crazy. Getting on the freeway in Delhi India. First, there are not just cars on the freeway, but there are people walking, bicycles, small taxis, and then cars. The white lines are merely suggestions – yes that’s right suggestions, and everyone just kind of goes with the flow. A honk is a polite way of communicating, yes you go, yes I am next to you, yes, please let me pass. So everyone honks and the noise pollution from this polite gesture can be maddening. As the traffic comes to a stop, we are immediately approached by young children trying to sell merchandise. India is an earn and spend economy. The average person earns $2.00 per day and then immediately spending it. This happens every day and this is their economy. Military has a strong presence in the city, and we feel safe.
As we pull into the FICCI flo event, the largest sign I have ever had my name on greets us. YUVA Unstoppable has put together a book tour for me that is beyond impressive. I am forever grateful. Before the event begins, it is Indian tradition to give gifts. Many women of the FICCI flo have brought me gifts, some gave me books, and FICCA flow has planted 5 trees in my honor. At each event my book has been gift wrapped and there is a tradition to unwrap my book and celebrate it. I talk with the women about giving, and how the smallest gift can make a difference. I share with them the power of Impact 100, and how the giving circle can be just as powerful, if not more powerful that a large foundation. The more women who have a seat at the table the better.
After the speech we are all treated to an amazing Indian lunch and Michelle and I are falling in love with the Indian food. Being vegan isn’t easy in America, but very doable. Being vegan in India is very easy as they don’t eat meat. There is a large gathering of women for the book signing, and learning to spell names in Indian is tricky for me. As they are spelling out their names for me, it is common for them to say Double e or Double i. This takes me a while to get the hang of, but I do.
Our next meeting is at the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. As I was arranging this trip, the Gates foundation were so warm and welcoming. Their great attitude about collaboration is impressive, and they put together a great group of folks to talk about sanitation. The Gates foundation has invested over $1B in India, and you can see their love for the country. With the work we are funding with YUVA Unstoppable access to clean water and privacy for girls is their top priority and the meeting is in great alignment. The conversation is rich, and we discuss how the Prime Minister is working on an Open Defecation Free (ODF) country. We learn that 16 children an hour die from lack of clean water, and diarrhea. We learn that the Gates have set up an X prize for sustainable toilets and 5 are now in prototype. One toilet produces electricity and one produces clean water to drink (Bill Gates has a video with him drinking the water).
From the Gates Foundation, we depart for our final speaking engagement of the night. The Comedy Club. This club is owned by Amitabh’s family, it is in the heart of a bustling center that is filled with youth and young business professionals. As I reach the entrance an Indian reaches out his hand and introduces himself as Harish. It only took a second to realize I was talking with Harish of Cisco. He had made it. Thanks to the help of John Chambers, Harish works at Cisco and works very tight with the Prime Minister on the newly passed law of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) tax. Harish and I had been emailing for a few weeks and were trying to connect. He had been in Tokyo just two days earlier and did not think we could meet face to face. We spent some time together in the Green Room before the event began.
Amitabh is close with Coca Cola and the president of India joined me on the stage to launch my book, as did a very well-known oil and gas gentleman. A group of school girls were invited to the event and they performed a song for me before my speech. The MC of the night was our host and he shared this story. “As he and Amitabh were walking by some beggars, Amitabh told the beggar, I am raising money for girls in schools that have no bathroom and no clean water. How about if you give me some of your money? And the beggar looked at Amitabh, opened her hand were there we many rupees and give him one. As she did this gesture, other beggars stepped up and gave one rupee. 13 beggars gave money to the girl project – and we celebrated that “Every Gift Matters.”
The talk was very well received and the folks who came all received a book, and I enjoyed signing it to them personally and taking many photos. What happened next was a great act of kindness. The oil and gas gentleman and his wife decided to fund 50 schools, and donated a half a million to the Unstoppable organization. What an incredible day. I am so happy that we came to this country. To celebrate the day, the owners of the comedy treated all of us to great wine and wonderful food. We are enjoying our hosts and their friendship very much.
As we drove back to our hotel at the JW we enjoyed watching a wedding. The carriage was lit up and the groom was in the horse drawn buggy. We enjoyed watching all the beautiful gowns proceed into the ballroom.