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India with JDB – 6

A Most Welcome Kindness

Just after I had tucked in to read for a bit before sleep, I got a Whatsapp message from Akshay saying “Dr. James we are coming to (your) hotel in 15 min to discuss something…is it okay?” Thankfully I didn’t say what I was thinking, and instead said yes, please come over for a quick chat.

We had a particularly productive session that morning, and they were working on several documents that were to be delivered the next day, so I assumed that was what they wanted to discuss. This group of pretty wonderful young conservation scientists has schedules that are shifted to the nocturnal and I get emailed documents from them after midnight.

After a surprisingly punctual 15 minutes (not normal, India-time), they knocked on the door and the four people with whom I’ve been working the most (Nalini, Akash, and Omkar, in addition to Akshay) most definitely had a surprise!

Their thank you party, complete with presents and a delicious snack, was one of the most kind and thoughtful gifts I have received in a long time. A lovely coffee mug from the Cotigao wildlife sanctuary in Goa visited on our trip there last weekend will be my coffee and tea delivery device for the foreseeable future. I had been admiring and (not-so-secretly) coveting a cool USB drive that could copy files directly from my phone to transfer to my computer. Evidently this had been long ago ordered online and fortunately arrived yesterday afternoon. However, the pièce de résistance was the amazing framed photomontage summarizing our last three weeks working together in our capacity building workshop.

In addition, the ever-thoughtful and generous Omkar (Omkar: think about a second career as a chef) had also created a dessert that I originally thought was ice cream. When I put the expected cold and creamy spoonful in my mouth I was shocked to realize it was surprisingly warm, textured like a sweet grits dish, and wonderfully delicious. In my defense, it was in a tub labeled ice cream. Ice cream rarely tastes like this, nor is it as delicious!

These gifts were from the entire group of 11 researchers with whom I’ve been working the last three weeks. The generosity of the gifts was even more marked, given the typical income in India – even if they are paid more than most people their age here.

I am drinking coffee out of the mug, have the photomontage mounted on the wall, and have already used the drive to move my photos from this trip to this computer. Clearly, these are gifts that I will use frequently!

I’m glad that I didn’t respond with my initial inclinations to Akshay’s message. Sometimes a disruption in your sleep is worth a late night “discussion”.

I didn’t tear up at their thoughtfulness and generosity, but I was close.

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