Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Namaste! Meera nam Bond hai, James Bond.

Greetings from India.

This is my fourth trip to India this year, my fifth in eighteen months, and at two weeks, its also my longest visit yet. You might think I’d be getting tired of it. But if anything, I’m loving this trip more than any other.

I’m almost wholly consumed with work, from getting up at 6am until getting back to the hotel at 7 or 8 in the evening. This suits me fine though. I’m getting so much out of the job at the moment. (And believe me – I’m not always this hard working!) The projects I’m here to develop are really starting to move forward and I’ve got plenty scope to shape the future of these initiatives myself.

I’m recycling photos again – for shame!

Plus, I’m more and more convinced that Opportunity is the right organisation to affect change in poverty in India. Not simply because we do microfinance but because, even within the Indian microfinance field (of which I saw a lot more this week), Opportunity seems to be most closely focused on social impact and really helping the poor. This is immensely empowering.

There will be a break from the work schedule tomorrow. I’ve got the day off and I’m going to the cinema in the morning. Not to see a Bollywood movie I’m afraid, but to catch the new Bond movie. It’s just out here so 11am was the only showing I could get a ticket for. Actually, I hope I bought a ticket for the English showing and not the Hindi-dubbed version. Yikes…

As with every trip to India, I’ve seen a few things that have brought me close to tears. I will never get comfortable with the children who beg at the car windows at Delhi’s main junctions, and live just a few feet from the traffic, perhaps 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I’ve also seen the manic development in and around Delhi (think ostentatious dark-glass tower blocks and luxury malls to rival anything in the UK), which seems if anything to be intensifying in pace. It’s impossible to see a positive connection between these two things – the poverty and the opulence. Some people say that India doesn’t need aid because it is a high growth, rapidly developing country. No-one who spent any time here could make that argument and sleep soundly at night.

Next week will be pretty crazy – Monday is Delhi, Tuesday – Chennai, Wednesday – Hyderabad, Thursday – Bangalore, and Friday – Kerala. Chennai, formerly Madras and sitting in SE India on the edge of the Indian Ocean, and Kerala, on the SW coast of India, will both be new to me. I’ll fly home exhausted on Saturday but I should be pretty happy at this rate. I’m sure I’ll sleep soundly at any rate. Oooh… mind you, I’ve just remembered that dead dog I saw at the side of the road on Monday (and Wednesday). That will haunt my dreams for weeks…