Profiling the Unseen – New Delhi Edition – I

The last leg of this project, I’ll be sharing snippets from conversations with some of the people I met in New Delhi, India.

  1. Meet Kaalu, who works as a cobbler in New Delhi, India
Profiling the unseen

Kaalu works as a cobbler, on a street corner in New Delhi, India. At just 26 years of age, Kaalu is a master of his craft. So much so that many of his loyal customers save their shoes to be repaired by him, whenever they’re visiting the city from other cities and even other countries!
It is a hard job. Delhi heats can go up to more than 100 degrees, while winters can go down to 40 degrees. Despite the extreme weather, Kaalu seems happy that he is able to earn a sustained living.
His deepest desire is that things continue to go well and nothing untoward happens.

2. Meet Ramakant, who makes “Jalebis in New Delhi, India

Profiling the unseen Delhi India

Ramakant owns a sweet shop in an old part of Delhi called “Chandni Chowk”. He makes sweets called “Jalebis”. In fact, his version of the Jalebi is so big and juicy that it’s referred to as a “Jaleba”. Notice the spelling change ๐Ÿ™‚
Ramakant’s sweets are famous among his customers and he has many loyal fans. The art of making a delicious jaleba runs in his family. In fact, he carefully selects apprentices. Only the select few get to learn the craft from him
Worth a try if you ever visit Delhi.

3. Meet Asif, who collects waste material for recycling in New Delhi, India

Profiling the unseen Delhi India

Asif buys scrap from people that can be recycled. People give him stuff like newspapers, books, plastic, metallic items, electronics, etc.
Asif really wants to grow his business but doesn’t know how to do so. He has simple questions such as where can he get a loan from, that too in a way that he is not cheated? Can he make more money with his existing resources?
Asif typifies small entrepreneurs in India, in need of basic knowledge and resources to help them grow and succeed. Someone who can answer their simple questions.

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Profiling the Unseen – San Francisco Edition – IV

Continuing the series, here are three more people I’ve met through this project.

10. Meet Jennifer, who works as a Nanny

Profiling the Unseen

I met Jennifer at a diner along with the girls whom she takes care of as their Nanny. The girls fondly referred to her as “Super Nanny” ๐Ÿ™‚
Jennifer became a Nanny as a way to earn an income. She loves being with kids and she gets to literally raise these kids as her own. The job has its perks too. She has traveled across many countries, including countries in Europe, along with the families – all paid for by the family! The kids seem to know her inside out. As I asked her what she wanted to do as a child, before she could answer, one of the girls piped up that Jennifer wanted to be a bus driver! Turns out, it’s actually true because she had a crush on her high school bus driver.

Jennifer wants to work in a library. She likes reading a lot, and believes that once she loves this family, she won't work as a nanny anymore and start working at a library full time.

Jennifer wants to work in a library. She likes reading a lot, and believes that once she leaves this family, she won’t work as a nanny anymore and start working at a library full time.

11. Meet Gina, who works at a Laundromat

Profiling The Unseen

Gina works in a laundromat in The Mission area in San Francisco. She attends to customers, takes payments, answers their questions, etc.
She comes from a very diverse family – her mother is Mexican, her father is Italian, and her husband is from El Salvador! And that’s what she loves about San Francisco, the fact that it so diverse. In fact, one of her best friends is Indian!

Gina says that the Mission has changed a lot since she first came here in 1993. The area has become much more expensive, and there are a lot of people getting evicted. There are many immigrants from other cities and countries due to rise of the tech industry.  Gina wants to go back to El Salvador one day. Her family owns a salon and a martial arts school there and she wants to help expand these businesses.

Gina says that the Mission has changed a lot since she first came here in 1993. The area has become much more expensive, and there are a lot of people getting evicted. There are also many more immigrants from other cities and countries due to rise of the tech industry.
Gina wants to go back to El Salvador one day. Her family owns a salon and a martial arts school there and she wants to help expand these businesses.

12. Meetย Wang Tung, who works as a street musician in China Town

Wang Tung works as a street musician in Chinatown in San Francisco. Since he did not speak any English, our interaction was primarily via sign language. The name Wang Tung is my best guess at what his name sounded like to me. Wang Tung was playing what looked like a traditional Chinese version of a guitar. Despite it being fairly hot and sunny, he kept playing for a long time, as passers by dropped a few coins in his open case every now and then.  His music could be heard over several blocks in Chinatown, adding an air of "festivity" to the place. Unfortunately, I don't think he makes much despite being a talented performer.

Wang Tung works as a street musician in Chinatown in San Francisco. Since he did not speak any English, our interaction was primarily via sign language. The name Wang Tung is my best guess at what his name sounded like to me.
Wang Tung was playing what looked like a traditional Chinese version of a violin. Despite it being fairly hot and sunny, he kept playing for a long time, as passers by dropped a few coins in his open case every now and then.
His music could be heard over several blocks in Chinatown, adding an air of “festivity” to the place. Unfortunately, I don’t think he makes much despite being a talented performer. Wang Tung is perhaps among the many who come to the US in hopes of a better life, but not able to really find themselves here. Wonder if there’s a way to help.

 

Profiling the Unseen – San Francisco Edition – III

Today, we have three women with very inspiring stories to share.

7. Meet Alty, who runs a cyber cafe and computer repair shop

Alty is from Dominican Republic and is fondly called "The Dominican Lady who helps" by her customers. Starting from a small purse shop, she runs a successful cyber cafe and computer repair business today.  She has even gone through a major fire at her store, and had to rebuild everything from scratch.

Alty is from Dominican Republic and is fondly called “The Dominican Lady who helps” by her customers.
Starting from a small purse shop, she runs a successful cyber cafe and computer repair business today in The Mission. She has even gone through a major fire at her store, and had to rebuild everything from scratch.ย  She is a true entrepreneur at heart. When customers started asking her to let them use her computer every now and then to check stuff, she thought “why not put more computers in her shop?”. Now it’s a full fledged cyber cafe and more.

Through her cyber cafe, Alty is fulfilling a big need in the area - teaching people how to use the computer, getting them familiar with the internet and helping connect immigrants with their families back home. Alty has been witness to many tender moments - families celebrating birthdays together over Skype,  friends being able to see eachother after many years over video chat. She has been a part of many tears, many smiles, many emotional moments. Alty hopes to start a non-profit that would teach people how to use the internet.

Through her cyber cafe, Alty is fulfilling a big need in the area – teaching people how to use the computer, getting them familiar with the internet and helping connect immigrants with their families back home.
Alty has been witness to many tender moments – families celebrating birthdays together over Skype, friends being able to see eachother after many years over video chat. She has been a part of many tears, many smiles, many emotional moments.
Alty hopes to start a non-profit that would teach people how to use the internet.

8. Meet Metha, who has a started a second career teaching English at 70

Metha used to work in the Parks department of San Jose. When she retired, she was suddenly at a loss about what to do. "One day I was busy, next day I wasn't," she says. So upon the recommendation of a friend, she started teaching English, to students here as well as kids in China and Saudi Arabia, over Skype.

Metha used to work in the Parks department of San Jose. When she retired, she was suddenly at a loss about what to do. “One day I was busy, next day I wasn’t,” she says.
So upon the recommendation of a friend, she started teaching English, to students here as well as kids in China and Saudi Arabia, over Skype.

Today, Metha feels happy that she continues to lead a full and happy life, despite her "age". She has taught English to 3 year old kids in China, and grown up women here in the US, trying to adjust to the new culture after having moved here from a different country. Metha's advice to youngsters - "No matter how old you are, don't let the grass grow under your feet!"

Today, Metha feels happy that she continues to lead a full and happy life, despite her “age”. She has taught English to 3 year old kids in China, and grown up women here in the US, trying to adjust to the new culture after having moved here from a different country.
Metha’s advice to youngsters – “No matter how old you are, don’t let the grass grow under your feet!”

9. Meet Christine, a trained soprano turned ice skater

Christine wears many hats. She started out as a singer, and is in fact a trained soprano. However, she broke her front teeth during a boxing training session and lost her voice. After going through a period of depression, she picked herself up and became a production assistant in movies. She has helped bring costumes to life for movies like Matrix, Fast and Furious and The Avengers!

Christine wears many hats. She started out as a singer, and is in fact a trained soprano.
However, she broke her front teeth during a boxing training session and lost her voice.
After going through a period of depression, she picked herself up and became a production assistant in movies. She has helped bring costumes to life for movies like Matrix, Fast and Furious and The Avengers!

Christine's true passion is ice skating. She practices regularly for two hours, and has been doing so for the last 10 years. When she skates, she feels at peace and happy. Her dream is to compete internationally in ice skating.

Christine’s true passion is ice skating. She practices regularly for two hours, and has been doing so for the last 10 years. When she skates, she feels at peace and happy.
Her dream is to compete internationally in ice skating one day.

Profiling the Unseen – Taipei Edition – III

My third post in this exciting project on “Profiling the Unseen in Taipei”.

I’ve made a local friend who has also become my local guide and been kind enough to show me around Taipei ๐Ÿ™‚ Phoebe Cho, one of the people I met right in the beginning of this project, is one of the most inspiring people I have met here in Taipei – atย barely 20 and working as an intern, she has already taken time off to bike all around Taiwan in 11 days by herself, taken a solo trip to the US using all the money she had, taught herself three different languages and is full of zest for life. She wants to travel the whole world before she turns 28.

That sounds a little bit like the girl I wanted to be, and yet somehow Iโ€™ve managed to make my life very complicated.

Phoebe Cho - my local guide and friend here in Taipei. This project has also helped me realize how much better it is to travel with locals, than with just family and friends.  Traveling in Taipei with Phoebe and other locals has allowed me to visit places I wouldn't have been able to otherwise, and experience the city from their lens. It has changed my perspective on traveling forever.

Phoebe Cho – my local guide and friend here in Taipei. This project has also helped me realize how much better it is to travel with locals, than with just family and friends. Traveling in Taipei with Phoebe and other locals has allowed me to visit places I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, and experience the city from their lens. It has changed my perspective on traveling forever – traveling alone and immersing myself in the local culture would be the next step.

So, continuing with three more people I’ve met here in Taipei.

7. Meet Ms. Lijeng Lai and Mr. Cheng-Hai Hsieh, owners of a small organic tea farm in Taiwan

I met them on a weekend, in the farmer's market in Taipei. They own a team farm - it is now their third generation business. They sell all kinds of teas - Oolong tea, Black tea, Green tea, etc. They've recently added organic tea to their portfolio.

I met them on a weekend, in the farmer’s market in Taipei. They own a tea farm – it is now their third generation business. They sell all kinds of teas – Oolong tea, Black tea, Green tea, etc. They’ve recently added organic tea to their portfolio. They had to travel all the way from their farm in the middle of Taiwan the previous day, to come to farmer’s market in Taipei on Saturday.

 

Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai have discovered the wonders of the internet - through their online shop, they sell their tea even in London and China. Their business is doing reasonably well - enough to lead a decent life. Their goal is not to make a lot of money, but to sell good tea that makes customers happy.

Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai have discovered the wonders of the internet – through their online shop, they sell their tea even in London and China. Their business is doing reasonably well – enough to lead a decent life. Their goal is not to make a lot of money, but to sell good tea that makes customers happy.

 

Right now, it is just their family doing everything - so just 3 people taking care of the farm, selling online and offline, marketing, everything. That's a lot of work! Their children are in university and they're not sure right now if they'll carry on the business. But Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai are ok with whatever decision they take - whatever makes them happy :)

Right now, it is just their family doing everything – so just 3 people taking care of the farm, selling online and offline, marketing, everything. That’s a lot of work! Their children are in university and they’re not sure right now if they’ll carry on the business. But Ms. Lijeng and Mr. Cheng-Hai are ok with whatever decision they take – whatever makes them happy ๐Ÿ™‚

8. Meet Licar, who works at a local Electronics store in Taipei

Taipei is full of electronics stores selling all kinds of interesting little things for such cheap prices!

Licar works at one of these electronics stores - he takes care of the store, processes orders, runs the shop and makes sure the customers gets what they want. He has another job  - he works for a sports marketing company too, where he helps them write proposals, create campaigns, etc. But hang on, that's not the end of it! He has a third job - he teaches swimming! Yes, that's right, he has three jobs. He has taken no vacation for as long as he can remember. Once in a while he likes to go for surfing with his friends but that's it.  What does he dream of doing? He wants to own and run his own hostel for travelers in Taiwan - be his own boss :) A dream that many in Taiwan seem to have - be their own boss.

Licar works at one of these electronics stores – he takes care of the store, processes orders, runs the shop and makes sure the customers gets what they want. He has another job – he works for a sports marketing company too, where he helps them write proposals, create campaigns, etc. But hang on, that’s not the end of it! He has a third job – he teaches swimming! Yes, that’s right, he has three jobs. He has taken no vacation for as long as he can remember. Once in a while he likes to go for surfing with his friends but that’s it. What does he dream of doing? He wants to own and run his own hostel for travelers in Taiwan – be his own boss ๐Ÿ™‚ A dream that many in Taiwan seem to have – be their own boss.

9. Meet Ms. Tsai (or Yu-Jie in Chinese), who volunteers to help mentally less gifted people

On the streets of Taipei, it is common to see a volunteer helping a “mentally less gifted” person sell various things and help them interact with other people.

Ms. Tsai is one such volunteer. She works with  a local organization that helps mentally different people have a job and get the chance to interact with other people. Ms. Tsai's child is Mr. Chen - she helps him make cookies, and then stands with him for the whole day, making sure he gets a chance at a normal life too as he sells his hand made cookies and talks to people.

Ms. Tsai is one such volunteer. She works with a local organization that helps mentally different people (called “children”) have a job and get the chance to interact with other people. Ms. Tsai’s child is Mr. Chen – she helps him make cookies, and then stands with him for the whole day, making sure he gets a chance at a normal life too as he sells his hand made cookies and talks to people.

Ms. Tsai does this as her full time job, for no salary. She is only 22, and yet understands that a good life should involve helping other people. She says that on an average, they sell to about 10 or so people every day. Yet, her goal is not to help the child make money, but to give him the chance to interact with other people. It is clear she feels responsible for Mr. Chen and is protective of him. She doesn’t know yet what she wants to do in life, but she is sure it will involve helping other people.

Trip to Iceland

I went to Iceland over Thanksgiving break. It was a breathtaking trip – the island is still very much geologically active with lava fields and volcano craters everywhere! Snow and ice are a part and parcel of life, and although the scenery was beautiful, I got pretty tired of layering and un-layering as I moved in and out of the heated indoors into the icy outdoors ๐Ÿ™‚

We stayed in Reykjavik throughout and took day trips everyday. Here’s what our itinerary looked like –

Day 1 – Golden Circle. This covers the famous geysers, Gulfoss – a chilling frozen waterfall, and a visit to the only place in the world where you can see the American and the European tectonic plates!!

Day 2 – South Shore. Beautiful vistas with visits to beaches with volcanic sand and rocks, and strange cliff formations.

Day 3 – Whale watching. Amazing experience, although I got a fairly seasick towards the end. Saw a bunch of dolphins and whales though!

Day 4 – West Island. AMAZING. The scenery is very different from southern part of the island, with much warmer tones.

Day 5 – Blue Lagoon. A natural geothermal spa where the water is naturally heated due to volcanic activity ๐Ÿ™‚

The one thing we missed were the northern lights, even though we tried hunting around on two nights ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

This trip did make me realize though the importance of a tour that is geared solely towards photography. On a tour such as ours this time, I found it very hard to take good photos. Overall, I am not happy with what I got, even though the country is bursting with photographic moments. A photography tour would have much more hiking and walking, with more time spent at a place. It would have a smaller number of people. Which is why I plan on going to Iceland again on a photography tour ๐Ÿ™‚

Sharing some of the shots I took –

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