Monday, February 16, 2009

Field trip

Last week I got the opportunity to check out my friend Sandeep's concert in Mylapore. Sadly, I had not yet been to a concert since coming to India, so the chance to hear some of South India's finest music performed by my LA born, Indian brother- Sandeep (aka-"the man") seemed like a great deal. Sandeep had told me he came to India two years ago to pursue his passion- South Indian carnatic music.
I went, and quickly discovered that Sandeep has an amazing voice. The music was absolutely beautiful...I've been trying to post a video of the show online but haven't had much success yet. When I have more time, I'll upload photos and video this weekend.
I've been really busy with work recently, as this entire week is RIN's annual induction program. Basically, the week is filled with speakers, workshops, field visits, and introductions to the many projects that go on at RIN. Myself, along with about 10 other people whom are new to RIN, have attended the presentations so far. Although RIN isn't such a large organization, there are numerous different projects that RIN works with that I have not had a sound understanding of thus far. It's been interesting to become more familiar with what the organization does as a whole, especially since the majority of my work doesn't involve interacting with other RIN staff.
Today we visited the office of one of RIN's innovators, as well as his factory, located about 1/2 hour outside of Chennai. Mr. Mukunthan has been made "famous" by creating a more efficient and affordable kerosene stove. The stove seems to be doing quite well in the marketplace and has been made accessible to the rural poor. It was interesting to see an example of an Indian factory as well; approximately 20 or so people were crammed into a small warehouse with machines all over the place. Some of the machinery looked dangerous (open flames, sharp tools, etc) but there was a complete lack of safety equipment. Someone in the group made an observation that they actually spotted a pair of safety goggles but they were just lying on the ground next to the workbench. The work conditions are obviously quite different here..
I'm making this quick because I leave in about a half hour for the Central train station- my first overnight train journey in India! Don't know if this is something I should be excited for or not- I'm exhausted and just hoping I manage to fall asleep on the sleeper! The group and I are heading to Gobichettipalayam (name is a mouthful) for the next three days. I have no idea exactly how far "Gobi" is from Chennai, I only know that it's going to be a 7 hour or so train ride. In Gobi, we'll be visiting the field site of Samruddhi, one of RIN's projects. Samruddhi focuses on improving affordability and accessability of innovations for rural markets. From my understanding, they have a retail shop that's made by and for poor people. In addition to the Samruddhi project, we'll be visiting with UCID, a project that focuses on "user centered innovation development." I'm excited to actually visit some of these field areas where the projects are taking place. It's one thing to just talk about the implications some of RIN's activities have on rural populations, but it will be that much more rewarding to understand the issues from the field itself.
Anyhow, I'll write more when I get back, and hopefully post some pics!
adios amigos

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