I’m back in India again after a brilliant month in the UK: getting to spend some quality time with my family, catch up with a lot of great friends and attend two weddings.
I’ve just been granted my visa extension, giving me another year in India and allowing me to finish my contract with SELCO. Getting the 40+ page paperwork together provided the usual adventure through Indian bureaucracy with multiple trips to the Foreigners Regional Registration Office and a slight moment of panic when they’d finally accepted my documents and I was told I needed to bring a bankers ‘demand draft’ for the payment by the next day or the application would be discarded, only to find out that most of the banks in Bangalore were on strike.
SELCO Foundation has just launched a Sustainable Energy Challenge (http://sustainableenergychallenge.org/) to encourage students in Bangalore to engage with issues of poverty and energy security, and hopefully give us some ideas for new projects we can start up. I gave a few talks at some universities in Bangalore during the launch and so, along with my need to be there for my visa application, I’ve spent a fair bit of time in Bangalore recently. This resulted in the first time in a long time that I’ve managed to make two consecutive church services, and I tried to make the most of being able to meet up with various church friends which has been a real blessing and I feel I’ve got to know people a lot better.
I also managed my first proper clubbing in Bangalore. All venues in Karnataka have to close by 11pm, as dictated by the rather draconian, right wing Hindu ruling party. This rule is interestingly very well enforced by the police, but it turned out one of our interns in the Bangalore office, Emmy, knew the right people and took us along to a private club at a hotel. It was still finished by 1.30 but we felt pretty cool/rebellious being out so late and certainly had a lot of fun.
I was welcomed back to Ujire by lots of rain and a mouldy flat. We’re pretty close to 100% humidity most of the time during the monsoon and everything, including books, clothes, walls and even furniture, develops a tendency to grow mould. It’s a constant battle during this period to keep things aerated and keep the moisture out so I was fully expecting to find things as they were, having not been able to fight it while back in the UK, but it was still a bit of a miserable reception.
We’ve got several new interns here at the moment including Seb and Graeme, two guys from the UK who are doing a placement through Engineers Without Borders, similar to the one I started out with here back in 2010. It’s nice to have so much activity again and lots of people to do stuff with in the evenings and weekends. I’d forgotten how much fun you can have just playing cards and board games, but without much else to do around town, they’ve taken a fairly prominent position in our social life.
I’m not planning to leave India for the next year or so now. It was strange to think, as I boarded the plane, that I wouldn’t be back for so long, although not nearly as daunting as I’d expected it would be. I’m feeling very settled here now and even though it may lack a lot of the comforts I’m used to in the UK, and I still find it difficult to communicate properly with a lot of people here, I feel somehow at home.
Seb, Graeme, Vishal and me visiting one of the many local waterfalls
Turns out we chose the wrong day to visit this viewpoint
I’d given the dehusker to a bunch of students to complete the manufacture and run some tests as part of their master’s project. This is them when they’d just finished the manufacture:
And this is rice that came through after the very first run. Actually a better rate of dehusking than I was expecting:
Seb has now taken on this project and is testing various materials for the dehusking plates; trying to maximise durability without compromising on the quality of dehusking.
Here are some women using a manual areca dehusker that we were trialling
And here is a little girl having a go