Reflections and Introspection

Trip Start Jul 26, 2008
Trip End Sep 27, 2008

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Flag of India  ,
Thursday, August 7, 2008

I am now just four days into my visit to India and just two days into directly connecting with the poor being supported through microcredit and I am already reflecting on my experiences and going deeper into my thoughts.

A part of my reflection was precipitated by a helpful e-mail from Sarah "As for pix in the Third World: I hope you come home with some photos of the lived reality of India--not just picturesque eye candy of adorable big-eyed children looking into the camera and smiling. We have a mutual acquaintance who does this well. This sort of photo make Americans feel all warm and cozy, but it isn't the real Africa or India or wherever...."

I keep thinking about what Sarah shared and walking home from dinner last night (Pizza Hut) I was thinking about writing a private e-mail more completely sharing the experience of India - the India that Sarah knows correctly and asked that I capture and describe.

I then felt my own energy diminish and the overwhelming challenges that India has felt heavy upon my heart - the seeming futility of solving so many overwhelming challenges in the country with a population of nearly four times America.  I felt like I was losing my ability to make a real difference.

Then it occurred to me that I think that we American's do know and have heard/read (even if we haven't experienced) about the trash, the beggars, the horns/noise, the people living in the streets, the dogs running all over and living in the trash, the bad roads and on and on - I think we know these things and they are all true.  Then it occurred to me that what we may not know is the India that I am experiencing (albeit within all of the negative things) and reporting on - the India of great people making a positive difference and how microfinance is making a gigantic difference in many lives and is expanding at a incredible rate.  Grameen Koota that I am visiting now has nearly 150,000 borrowers and plans to expand to 2,000,000 in 2011 - amazing. I am interviewing borrowers (including video interview in some cases) and it is very clear that their lives are dramatically being improved through microcredit.  You don't even need to talk to them - you can see it in their radiance and their smiles.

Then there are people like my new special friend Vikash who is extremely talented and precocious and is moving from full time employee of Grameen Koota to part time consultant so that he can develop several marvelous programs that he is putting together and I hope to help him with. He is single and working night and day developing incredible leading edge ideas.  Then there is Mr. Mukundan - someone my age and in poor health that, like myself felt drawn to making a major difference in his 60's.  There are my two wonderful hosts - Niranjan in his 30's who created a new and fast expanding microfinance organization in the last two years and my other host Dr. Kulkarni nearly 60, who heads up Grameen Trust India which has already being significantly involved with creating 25 microfinance institutions in India and funded with $125 million raised in Bangladesh.

It is also true that I have not reported the other end of what I am observing - the incredible four month old airport here in Bangalore that is more beautiful, clean and modern then any airport I have ever seen in the US (and Niranjan tells me that the next airport that I will fly to in Hyderabad is even nicer) connected by a 6 lane freeway as nice as any in the US into Bangalore where the roads are poor and the driving is insane, the software and high tech companies here in Bangalore that look like the great buildings in Silicon Valley.

Thanks to you who are coming on this journey with me - it is very exciting and it wouldn't be the same if I didn't have people to share it with through this blog.

P.S. I too was calling India 3rd world and was told that it is "emerging world" and not third  world - it would be classified as nearing 2nd world if it was classified in those terms - but I am not satisfied that these definitions are clear - or at least they are not yet clear to me.
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