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SWE Affiliates, Temples, & Sari Shopping: A Day Trip to Pune

Today was an amazing day packed with adventures! We started at 6:30 AM with our always-delicious breakfast made by our favorite cooks who we will miss dearly when we leave Walchandnagar tomorrow. We drove to Pune to meet with the first and only SWE Affiliate section in India, which is based in Pune and has 32 members to date. We met at John Deere Pune office with several SWE Affiliate Pune members, who work at multinational corporations including John Deere and Cummins. We met with these women engineers and learned about their section and shared about our SWE section’s outreach, especially our outreach in Walchandnagar this past week. We learned that the SWE Affiliate Pune section focuses on engineering outreach to girls in the Pune area and professional development for its members. It was really great to discuss with these women how they came to be the successful engineers they are today. My personal favorite quote came from an engineer who travels a lot and has a 6 year old child. When asked about work-life balance, she said, “You should rely on the 3 M’s in your life: your Man, your Mother or Mother-in-law, and your Maid!”

On our way to Pune, we stopped at the peacock temple for Lord Ganesh. We offered coconuts, grass, and sweets to Lord Ganesh and prayed before the idol in the temple, and learned a lot about Hindu traditions. The temple is entirely carved out of stone. One thing that Principal Sir taught us is that the entrances to temples are very small so that you have to bow down in order to enter, which symbolizes humility. We saw a Brahman (priest) saying chants and blessing children and Bharati Madam walked 5 laps around the temple as a form of worship. It was such an impactful experience and I hope to visit more temples next week!

We were very thankful to Walchandnagar Industries for transporting us to Pune and back and extremely grateful to Principal Sir, Bharati Madam, and the computer science teacher and preschool teacher who accompanied us. They took us to the mall afterwards which we really enjoyed! The mall in Pune was very nice and lots of us bought clothes and other things. After going to the mall they took us to a wholesale sari store where we all bought saris! After trying on the teachers’ saris yesterday we became obsessed with them and several of us are planning on wearing them when we visit the Taj Mahal. Principal Sir, Bharati Madam, and the teachers were so patient and helpful as we tried on dozens of saris in a frenzy and tried to understand how the blouses and petticoats worked. Everyone in Walchandnagar is so kind to us and I’m going to miss them so much.

After a long day of shopping, SWE networking, temple visiting, and a lot of driving, we returned to our home sweet home for the last time. Our beloved cooks had dinner waiting for us even though it was after 9 PM. But the night wasn’t over yet, as a reporter from the largest newspaper in Maharashtra came to interview us. The chairman of the school also came for the interview. The newspaper has 1.3 million copies in circulation every day, so it is really great for SWE and Bharat Children’s Academy and Walchandnagar Industries to get this publicity.

When we were sitting on the bus outside the sari store getting ready to drive back to Walchandnagar, I happily said, “I love India.” Akanksha said, “Me too – people are so happy here.” And they are! Maybe it’s just me, but I can’t imagine any principal and teachers in the US taking their entire Sunday from 7 AM to 9 PM to take 14 foreign college girls shopping for hours with smiles on their faces. But this is the kindness the people of Walchandnagar have shown us all week. Tomorrow we leave for Aurangabad at 5 AM, and we will be so sad to say goodbye. As I told the students and teachers in our goodbye ceremony, for today, goodbye; for tomorrow, good luck; and forever, go BCA!

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