Friday, February 2, 2007

Winding Down India in Mumbai (Bombay)

The day before yesterday we caught our final 3rd class Indian train from Pune to Mumbai. Having been to a zillion temples and museums during most of the trip, I've felt perfectly content to take in the Mumbai ocean breeze and go shopping. Through Kathleen's contacts we were invited to stay in the home of a wonderful Indian family. They live in a high rise apartment building with wonderful ocean views.

Last night they took us to hear Mohammad Yunus, the recipient of the nobel prize for his work with extending micro-loans to impoverished women in Bangladesh. I was absolutely captivated. Finally a leap from all of the spiritual stuff I've endeavored to be open to to a very tangible discussion of what poor women do when they are extended credit. They do very practical things like buy chickens so they can generate a profit selling eggs, or buy a cow and sell milk. And very rarely do they default on their loans. And who benefits first? Well, their children...who rapidly become better nourished, finish school, etc. More recently the women have been invited to take out loans to buy cell phones...which has led them to be village phone entrepreneurs. And overnight illiterate women figure out how to read the numbers on their handsets...and can even dial with their eyes closed!

Afterwards our hosts screened a DVD they'd produced on water issues in remote Indian villages. Considering that often women may spend upwards of 4 hours a day carrying water back to their homes, the need for safe available village-based wells has made a dramatic difference in their lives. Partnerships with village women and potable water technologies were beautifully documented in their production. I was given a copy of their DVD which I'd be delighted to share with you.

Tomorrow we fly back to America...a long journey back through Malaysia, Taipei and then into LAX, arriving midday on Monday Feb. 5.