Hello From Chennai, India
Trip Start Jul 26, 2008
64Trip End Sep 27, 2008
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At the departure lounge in Kuala Lumpur I met an Indian Managing Director of a shipping and warehousing company who does business in Dubai. As it turns out - he had heard Muhammad Yunus speak in Dubai - as well as his associate from India - whose own name is Muhammad Yunus J. This Muhammad Yunus met us at the Chennai airport and provided me a private driver to my hotel. This was most appreciated by this somewhat nervous traveler entering India for the first time.
Niranjan was on the phone to me almost the minute I entered my room and he has called me twice a day since - which has been most helpful and relieving. Originally he had planned to join me in Bali and on this part of the trip - but business challenges have not allowed him to be with me in Bali or for the first days of the trip. He has made airline reservations for me to fly from Chennai to Bangalore this evening and my host today will take me to the airport. Niranjan has made hotel reservations and pick up from the airport for me in Bangalore through Grameen Koota a microfinance institution that I will be spending three days with. So I am becoming more comfortable with Niranjan overseeing all details of the trip - even when it is remote. Niranjan is sending a pre-paid SIMM card for my cell phone which I will get in a few days - and I will be relieved to be able to be in phone contact with Niranjan and Dr. K where I am. I am told that calls within India are very cheap.
Yesterday (Sunday) I had a day off to rest, catch up on computer work and tour. I am staying in a nice hotel that is clean; air conditioned, good TV with CNN, the Olympics, etc. It costs $50 per day. It has a couple of tennis courts and a pool. I almost worked my way into a tennis match last night - but without having a racket with me it did not work out. It does not have internet.
For a tour I hired a motor rickshaw driven by a 32 year old very personable driver/guide who spoke fluent English. You can see the pictures from that tour on this blog. At the end of the 3.5 hour tour my guide took me to where he lives (see photos) which was a very small room, sleeping on a mat on the floor, the communal latrine (if it is a latrine?) is outside his room, a place for a shower is in his room and he has to carry the water into it. It was extremely densely populated and would no doubt be called a slum. He then told me about how he had been in the hospital for 2 months and was not able to pay his rent on his room or to rent on the motor rickshaw. He then stopped at a place to go see his boss and came back holding his face and saying that his boss had just hit him for not paying his rental of the motor rickshaw. What should one believe about all this? Niranjan and Dr. K have both warned me to be very careful about these and other similar things.
In the evening I drifted off looking for a reasonable restaurant that I could hopefully find something that I could eat. On the way I found a shop where I bought a small suitcase for my overflow. At the restaurant I had a "non spicy" (it was still a bit spicy) half chicken, garlic paan (Indian bread) and vanilla ice cream - $4.
I am very excited to start the business portion of my India trip momentarily. Niranjan has lots of great friends in the microcredit and associated businesses. There would be no way that one could make a trip like this without Niranjan and Dr. K being so well connected and so willing to be helpful to me.
My next blog will tell you about my first business visit with Mr. P Munkundan of Servals Ltd.