Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Today was a busy day. In the morning I met with key human resources staff for the Trident Oberoi Hotel.

I arrived early to walk around and take in the general tenor of the area, something I find to be very informative and helpful in terms of familiarizing myself with the physical territory. On the embankment for the Arabian Sea, life appeared pretty normal, with people strolling and camped out chatting.

I took a picture of a bird taking flight.

...and met some construction business travellers who live near Goa. They were interested in my digital SLR and were surprised at the cost, and impressed by the megapixels. They described life in their town as "cool" (meaning mellow) and the area in which they live as lush and verdant. They don't enjoy the concrete jungle of Mumbai. We also discussed the recent terrorists attacks, and they expressed the same anger at government falling down on the job, and advocated for a decisive, once-and-for-all (indicated with a curt flick of the hand) with Pakistan. They plan to come to the USA for a month this summer, and we exchanged cards, and I emailed them the photos we took. I enjoyed meeting them.

After strolling around posh South Mumbai (Nariman Point) and checking out the local mall, noting evidence of increased security and cordoned off areas, I went to meet with the Oberoi HR leadership. As elsewhere, unexpectedly, there were no shrines as are sometimes erected after attacks. Security was very tight, and the lobby was bustling with business people from around the world. Oberoi is beautiful and elegant, only steps away from abject poverty across the street. This visit was the shortest and yet the most impactful, poignant, and moving in many ways. Imagining what had just happened compared to how it is at present is quite... quite difficult to render into words.

We discussed how Oberoi had addressed staff needs with a large group relaxation and cognitive therapy-type training, and follow up re-enforcement activities, and individual care as appropriate. They were polite but were not seeking any additional services, and we had a psycho-educative discussion and left it to them to follow-up as desired.

After that I met with folks from Breach Candy Hospital, nearby, also in a posh area. With the CEO Major General Vijay Krishna, and psychiatrist Dr. Vihang Vahia, and social worker Ashika Pohoomul (DPO's primary contact), we made initial plans and discussed design for a public forum basic screening and outreach event for families in the hospital's catchment area, largerly "upper social strata". Our discussion was interesting and informative, and the hospital quite lovely with a long and rich history.
I returned back to the guest house in Lower Parel, located in a popular mid-level shopping district (giving me ready access to a mall for my self-care and tie shopping needs). Dr. Siddharth Shah arrived after a gruelling delayed flight from Delhi, and we shortly thereafter met over dinner with (left to right) Dr. Jayita Deodhar, Dr. Kersi Chavda, and Dr. Sanjay Kumawat of the Bombay Psychiatric Society. We further sketched out plans for Sunday's day long training at which we expect up to 100 people (though this may be attenuated by the long weekend from Republic Day). In spite of our shared fatigue, we had a stimulating conversation, and a good time, over an excellent meal at Pritam.

After a long day, we retired back to the guest house, concerned about solving a thorny problem - dry cleaning. We also are making final preparations for a variety of upcoming trainings. We have the next two days fairly light right now to plan and work.

Themes continue to emerge, and I continue to get more knowledgeable and aware of how to use my role effectively in this complex and multi-layered context. Questions on my mind: The people of Mumbai tend to quickly return to business as usual - in what ways does this support recovery and resilience, and in what ways does this perpetuate maladaptive coping? And still, further elaborations on the theme of why has this event created a shift in mindset, and will it endure? If so, what will emerge?

There is a palpable positive buzz and sense of relief at America's choice of Obama.

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