Thursday, December 8, 2011


It seems like there aren’t many weeks that go by without some kind of festival or celebration here in India, but last week held Lakshadeepa, one of the larger ones in this region. It’s another festival of light and is famously celebrated in Dharmasthala, the next town along, with a four day carnival which thousands flock to from the surrounding area. The streets become filled with various stalls and entertainments (including a rather perilous looking funfair) and the whole town is covered in tiny lightbulbs. I ended up spending a reasonable bit of time there helping to man the SELCO stall, which was mainly advertising our solar lighting systems but we had a bit showing off some agricultural machines too in the hope of catching some farmers to talk to.

Tommy, Roger and I decided to partake in Movember this year. I would love to say that we did our bit in raising awareness for men’s health issues but unfortunately, with about 90% of the blokes here sporting a tash, I think our efforts were slightly lost in translation. Before finally shaving it off, I thought it would be sensible to get my moustache professionally trimmed. And I figured there were probably few places in the world more experienced at doing it than a South Indian barber’s. I was indeed very impressed with my 25 rupee cut (about 35p), which left my tash in top shape and came with a free (very vigorous) head massage, about 6 different face ointments, and no cuts!

The design for the next prototype of the thresher is now finished and it’s ready to be built. As of yet we’ve always used workshops in Ujire to do the fabrication for prototypes but they can be quite slow and aren’t great at more detailed parts so as the designs start to get more advanced we need to investigate new options. Mangalore is a much larger city and holds lots of workshops which are ideal for the kind of work we need but many of these larger places are only interested in big orders so it can be tough to find workshops willing to make one-off prototypes. I needed to get some bearings and pulleys from Mangalore last Wednesday so I took the opportunity to search out somewhere to get our thresher made and through a suggestion from one of SELCO's contacts managed to find a workshop willing. It's run by a qualified mechanical engineer who seems very interested in our projects and keen to be involved (and also speaks good English which simplifies things a lot) so if it all works out this could make manufacturing a lot easier in the future.

At the weekend I had to make another trip to Bangalore to open a bank account and got to spend a nice bit of time with David and Kevin again. The bank I was recommended is everything you expect and Indian bank should be: a chaotic, stuffy room with barricades of women at desks which you need to navigate before you can get anything done, endless forms and run on an archaic system of paper and floppy disks (that's not actually a joke: there were stacks of paper and genuine floppy disks all over the clerks' desks). In order to open a bank account, you need to be proposed by someone already holding an account with that bank (as well as provide all the letters and other pieces of paperwork of course), but the bank manager had kindly agreed to propose me when I visited on a previous trip to Bangalore so that wasn't too much of a problem in the end. What was more of an issue was that due to a technical fault, a large number of people could't withdraw any money from the ATMs that day and so were coming into the bank to get their cash. And the protocol seems to be that it is the bank managers job to deal with withdrawals so I ended up stuck in his office for over two hours while he tried to complete my paperwork amid dishing out payments of anything from £10 upwards to disgruntled customers and running the bank. Anyway, I now have my very own Indian bank account which feels quite cool; let's hope the bank doesn't lose all my money!

-Oh, and I've made it into my first Indian paper (click here), which is published all over Karnataka. I'll try to get in one that's written in English next time though...

             Now that we've kitted the kitchen out, we've been cooking a bit more for
             ourselves. This is an attempt at pasta sauce: difficult without any herbs but
             it just about works.

And some other photos...

             One of the thresher tests rained off

             A farmer's kids collecting tender coconuts for us to drink

                           An ox

             And a little chick

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