Like a tap on the shoulder, there is always something that reminds you that you have arrived in India. And this time, it happened before I even left Bangalore airport. It was 1am local time. After a long day's work, the tired carousel trudged around in perpetual circles as bags were snatched up by their eager owners. But something remained. An orphaned silver padlock. Unlocked. As I waited endlessly for my pack to arrive, I stared. What was it telling me? Was it saying that Indians will pilfer all they can from white people, but do so playfully before their very eyes? Was it saying something more symbolic about what India does to the soul? Or was it a sign for the very purpose I came to Bangalore- something about unlocking the answers to the monstrous problem of poverty?
Three days ago, the moon lit the path for me as I walked from the congested train station to my Sydney home in a tie, suit and shiny shoes. Tonight, I am in the village of Anagalapura in rural north-east Bangalore, and the same moon lit the path for me as I walked home. But now, my home is a concrete room that lacks more than it has. My toilet is a communal 'Indian Style' hole in the floor down the hallway. My shower is a bucket. And it is quiet. To combat the stillness of village life, I bought a white Siamese fighting fish today. I cut a 2 litre empty coke bottle in half as its tank. I called it Minu ('fish' in the local language, Kannada- recommended to me by a local man with a bushy black moustache who helped me restart my scooter when it broke down again this afternoon).
I am here as President of the 40K Home Foundation, an NGO which is building one of the world's first ever eco-homes and learning centre for orphaned and severely underprivileged kids. Having bought land, we've got Bangalore's best eco-architects now working on it. So we're here to see those plans get completed. Oh, and to raise $150,000 inside 6 weeks so we can get this puppy built. So this blog will tell you about all the highs and frustrating lows that will be inevitable in smashing a project in the developing world. Tell us your thoughts at www.40khome.org.
Claz and Minu the Siamese fighting fish.
For more about 40K Home's Project in Bangalore, including weekly videos, see www.40khome.org.