The intensity of my work has drastically picked up these last two weeks. I haven’t been leaving the office until around seven and will probably start working 6 days a week moving forward. The environment of SKA is very different from what I am used to. People tend to work seven days a week. Instead of every one sitting at their own computer station/cubicle to do work, people often sit together and are relatively social. The head of SKA, Mr. Wilson, has his own office, but whenever he is in it, the door remains open and people go in and out of it as they please. There are four chairs that sit in front of his desk and at least one of them is normally occupied whenever Mr. Wilson is at his desk. I am very used to having to ask for permission to enter someone’s office space, so it has felt very odd to be able to walk in and sit without being invited, especially considering my role as simply an intern.
This past week, SKA hosted a conference of people from field offices located in four separate states of India. There were maybe about 30 people who came. SKA specifically requested that each field office send an equal number of men and women. It was cool to see a space where an effort was made to ensure that the women received an equal standing as men, with no one person or gender dominating the conversation. After the conference, several attendees asked to take their pictures with me. I am used to this happening at tourist sights, but being in a professional setting, I was a bit nervous to comply. I wasn’t sure if it would be very professional of me to be put into the center of attention simply because I looked different and spoke with an odd accent. I also was unable to communicate with any of the people who wanted to take a picture with me because of the language barrier, so the interaction felt a little bit superficial. However, another person present explained that for these people, it was very significant to have someone not from India care about and be interested in these issues. Manual scavenging does not receive much attention outside of India as it is an issue that is pretty much prominent only in India. For someone whose entire career and often life is dedicated to the issue, it is memorable to have a foreigner willing to take the time to listen to their stories and help work for the same cause. Hearing this and thinking about my position from this perspective changed my view a bit. I am only an intern, and I am only with SKA for two months, but I hope that from this experience, I can share the stories and work of the people of SKA in places where they may not have been shared before.