First, Gauthama, our NGO leader directing some 250 activists across India will not be with us this trip. His new wife of 5 months has just come down with typhoid fever and he’s on immediate nursing duty. Please keep them in your hearts. It’s serious. They’ve been warned that they are wearing themselves out (and they are only in their 30’s.) Mugil, the local activist is competent and will do just fine.
So, it’s challenging, yet wonderful to be back in India! This trip is really an adventure because I’m traveling part of the trip alone while Coleman (the professor) and his 14 University of Texas (Austin) architecture students accompanying me take a class at Auroville’s Earth Institute and discuss the master plan they have drafted for this experimental K-adult educational/entrepreneurial campus for Dalits (Untouchables) with the staff there. We will meet up at the village in Kanji in a few days to present the renderings and preliminary drawings for the 10- acre eco-friendly and energy efficient project to the village chief, villagers and educational committee. Villagers will learn brick-making and laying putting the new machinery we bought in December to good use. This will substantially reduce our materials and contractor costs although villagers will receive apprentice stipends. Its amazing how a simple idea of helping has turned into this major undertaking that will transform an entire village….We’ve had so many contributors of helps and funding to date. Thank you all….and don’t stop!
After a 35 hour flight (including delays), with lost baggage (I received $48 in compensation from the airline) and 5 hours sleep at the Savera hotel (google it…plush but my bones needed it at only $50 a night), the day in Chennai started. I walked up and down the street trying to converse with each rickshaw driver. Each nodded he understood English and would promptly take me to the next driver for translation! But, suddenly, Anand was there and he both understands and speaks excellent English. So, for the next 3 days, he will be my driver and translator as we negotiate with officials, community leaders and suppliers over….well EVERYTHING! That’s the Indian way.