Hello From Chennai, India

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


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Monday, August 4, 2008

Chennai

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.
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Comments

deborah22
deborah22 on

Welcome to India
Hi Marty! Glad to hear you made it to India safely and had a little time for rest and to catch up with yourself, sounded great! Also, good to hear that you are starting your business portion of the trip. I am excited to learn even more about poverty alleviation! Thanks again for the time you shared with Diego and I before you left to further educate us on this. Take care and much love ~ Deborah :)

sarahblackmun
sarahblackmun on

The importance of having a cell phone
Marty, I can't overstate how important this was to me the last time I was in Ghana! Feeling connected and relatively safe made a huge difference. Silly thing, but there you have it.

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....

Blessings, Sarah

sarahblackmun
sarahblackmun on

Sri Aurobindo ashram at Pondicherry
I am wondering if you have thought of going here. It's about 100 miles south of Chennai. It's a world-renowned ashram of devotees of Sri Aurobindo. He was the creator of integral yoga and also an early proponent of Indian independence. The web site is here: http://www.sriaurobindoashram.org/visitors/index.php

Blessings, Sarah

steveeskow
steveeskow on

You're doing it right!
Entering a new culture needs modesty and a few friends. And the kind of caution you're displaying.

I was much younger and so was India when I worked there in the 1970's.

I left a meeting, was walking to the garage for my car, when a well-dressed Indian joined me. 'What do you think of that?,' he asked. 'Think of what,' I said, 'the meeting?' 'Yes, the meeting,' he said. And I proceeded to lecture him on what was right and what was wrong about the meeting.
We got to the garage, and as we separated he turned back to me and said,'I've left my wallet in the car. Can you let me have $25 for a minute?' I did, and that was one of my early lessons about well-dressed men who appear at your side when you leave a hotel. Of cours he had no idea what I was about, but his standard approach got me and all his victims to tell him 'what we thought of that.'
It may be different now.
Come back with all sorts of new ideas and possibilities.

Steve Eskow

martysb
martysb on

Re: The importance of having a cell phone
Hi Sarah: Even before receiving your comment on PIX I have thought about the fact that I am only showing positive photos and it is a delema for me. I am aware that this blog is only showing and describing the good I see and hear. I am shooting photos of the prettiest scenes and prettiest and most attractive people and you are correct that it only shows one perspective. I am sensitive to what wonderful hosts I am having and would never want to be hurtful of them in any way. I am also reluctant to pull out the camera and shoot pictures of the withered leg beggers. I am more drawn to shoot pictures of attractive women or women and men with character on their faces then those who do not.

For the moment I will leave it that your point is well taken - and I acknowledge that this blog is showing the trip throgh filtered eyes.

I think that I have a tendency to do the same when shooting photos in the U.S.
------------------------------
In reply to:

Marty, I can't overstate how important this was to me the last time I was in Ghana! Feeling connected and relatively safe made a huge difference. Silly thing, but there you have it.

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....

Blessings, Sarah

martysb
martysb on

Re: Sri Aurobindo ashram at Pondicherry
Hi Sarah:

Thanks for the suggestion - had I received in last weekend I might have been able to work it in when I had a free day in Chennai - but now I am headed west and will not be back in the Chennai area.

mzaman
mzaman on

Nice to meet you in Bali
Hi Marty:

It was nice to meet you in Bali. Hope you are enjoying your India trip and will be enjoying Bangladesh trip. I am flying back to London in 15 Hours. It would be nice if I could be in Dhaka during your trip.

Anyway, we are going to host a meeting of 1000 peoples in London as inauguration of Yunus Forum [www.yunusforum.net] where Yunus is expected to be a Key Note Speaker. Most welcome to join us in London.

You know we are going to make a global debate on Microcredit and Social Business among 10,000 university students and social activists.

It would love to introduce you with a group who working as Yunus promoter.

Have a good trip

Mostofa Zaman

sarahblackmun
sarahblackmun on

Can't wait till you get home
and tell us more about your journey and adventures. Sarah

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