Monday, August 16, 2010

So I'm here.

I made it to India and have started work for an engineering NGO called SELCO. It’s this sort of spiritual, social, political exchange thing. Yah. SELCO’s main thing is setting up photovoltaic systems in rural parts which don’t have access to electricity. They have innovative methods to help the villagers pay for the systems and to maintain them, and have won several prestigious development awards. For the last few years they’ve been developing other projects to help alleviate rural poverty and it’s one of these that I’m working on.

There are various methods people here use to remove the husks from rice (including throwing it on the road so the trucks drive over it), although most farmers travel miles to large processing plants in order to get it done. I’ll be trying to design a smaller, cheaper version of this de-husker that can be bought by a farmer or village entrepreneur. I take the project on from two interns who worked on it previously but despite their efforts they haven’t managed to achieve anything that works. I’ve been warned that the odds are against me, but they obviously think it’s worth continuing. I’m also likely to get involved in some of the other projects they have on the go.


I arrived into Bangalore at 5.30 local time on Tuesday morning. After a day spent visiting the SELCO headquarters and various other sights of Bangalore I took an overnight bus to rural Ujire where the innovations lab is based. It’s monsoon season and almost 100% humidity but all the locals tell me it’s the best time to visit: it gets a lot hotter without the clouds and the rain is beautiful as long as you don’t mind getting wet occasionally.

The lab is on the top floor of an engineering college and has spectacular views out onto the tropical forests surrounding. I share it with another intern from England called Lincoln and two local employees: Sandeep and Manju. The guy in charge is called Anand and seems to be very switched on.

I’m sharing a simple room with Lincoln in the college accommodation, which means we’re surrounded by students and I’ve become quite friendly with a lot of them already. We end up spending most spare time with them: eating in the college mess; going to the shops in the town and spending most evenings chatting or playing cards. I was expecting to have a lot of time to myself here and sometimes find myself feeling a bit crowded. I’ve found a rock 10 minutes from the hostel that looks down onto a semi-clearing in the forest where I’m enjoying my quiet times, but I feel I haven’t really had time to digest where I am and a lot of the things I’ve seen. As I write this (Saturday evening) the others are upstairs in someone’s room but I decided to be antisocial tonight so I could start this blog. I have a great time with them but I may need to take a bit more time out next week.

             Our room

The food here is actually very nice, especially considering it only costs 50 rupees (72p) per day for four all-you-eat meals (they have the additional fun-named ‘snack time’ at 5.30pm and then a late dinner). Although every meal is curry. Even breakfast. The food is entirely vegetarian and eating meat here is considered a bit rebellious, in line with smoking or getting a tattoo in England. And drinking alcohol is even worse, but I hear there are some seedy bars in the cities if I get desperate. The curry is a lot more watery here in the south than curries we get in England although I’m becoming better and better at eating it with my fingers thanks to my daily tuition.

Work so far has mostly involved looking at old patents and playing around with rice grains for de-huskers although it’s so far taken me to some interesting places outside of the office including a rural farm, a steel workshop and a rice mill. Hopefully lots more visits to come.

And here are a few more photos:

             My first Indian curry. Tasted a lot nicer than it looked.

             My first ride in a rickshaw

             The SELCO paddy de-husker so far. Those things that have just come out are
             grains of rice with the husks still on by the way.

                          And this is what a commercial paddy de-husker looks like

                          A local helping build Lincoln's prototype food dryer

             On my fourth day they decided that I was ready to give my first presentation
             on the project. Unfortunately there wasn't a lot of progress to report but they
             seemed interested in the idea.

             There have been a lot more signs of Christianity here than I was expecting,
             although many have been in an unorthodox form. Some Hindus have
             adopted aspects of Christianity on top of their own beliefs and hold Jesus
             as one god among many.

             The best way to get around on work visits

             Ice creams in Ujire

I don’t have internet access at the weekends so I plan put new entries up every Monday morning. Stay tuned.


  1. Very good! Can't wait to hear more!

  2. love the photo of you on the back of a motorbike! haha! will be keeping you in my prayers x

  3. Wow Sam, it sounds amazing!!!! I'm glad you're doing a blog! Really good to hear what you're doing and great to see pictures too! :) :) :)
    Look forward to tomorrow's installment!
    Lots of Love, Anna xxxxxxxxx

  4. YES SAM! Love the photos - you did well getting that camera! have you taken any video yet? Really great hearing what you're up to - can't wait to hear more!

    Ur Bro Steve