Monday, April 30, 2012

Special social...innovative...entrepreneurial week in India

that starts with a bus that does not stop for me, waiting in the middle of the night at Kayamkullam stop because the guy from the travel agency in Valekau, village in front of the ashram, where I booked my trip, has inverted the dates: 07-04 instead of 04-07... (don't book travels with Malabar travels!)

So, I end up having to stop a random bus in the middle of the street to travel north, in the direction of Bangalore, and negotiate a last minute fare with the bus driver (of course no receipt!).
A few hours of 'awake sleep' and round 3AM next bus...trying to find another bus in the direction of Ettimidai, my final destination south of Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu.
And after 3 buses and 1 rickshaw I finally get to Ettimidai Amrita University, round 7AM.

The good surprise is that I meet with Swami Y and Akilesh right away at the kitchen of the ashram side.

Ettimidai University is simply huge: 800 acres, 4000 students, 2000 people living there. And very clean! bins everywhere!
 Magnificent gardens, facilities, amazing mountains around, peacocks, monkeys, wild elephants...very peaceful place.

Amazing Olympic swimming pool!

So we go and swim for a couple of hours. The presence of an Olympic swimmer, my roommate Matti-Akilesh, is a great attraction to kids who all want to see/ swim with him. Great feeling!

Not always easy to share a room with a playboy, but to be honest he is so humble and 27...saving girls from drowning in the ashram and remaining very quiet, very humble!

Just put your shirt back on brov, please!... or we will get all the girl coming around again, lining up to get CPR from you!!!
 Sunday is easter day: prayers in a small temple near the tropical gardens, loaded with mangos, papayas... with swamiji and Akilesh.

Another meditation time is our visit of Isha's ashram, not too far from Ettimidai. Amazing, magnificent place: humongous palaces, stones, statues, gold...everywhere.
Quite in contradiction with the poverty of the villages around... too much for me.
Why spend 3Mio dollars in a new temple? How many people around could this money save?
The coffee shop is a replication of a Starbucks...the minimum recommended donation is 10000Rs, 150euros....a lot of money here!     Quite disturbing for me.

Quite far from the projects of Amma, Ettimidai, for example here, recycling, composting, 0 Waste...

Monday through wednesday: Social entrepreneurship workshop held by a local NGO: Icreate...
Great job in teaching the teachers: case studies and practical business planning of social entrepreneurship projects coming from the field, from local people, and students in social work field.

 And interesting classes, workshops on social entrepreneurship projects, business planning ...

And then the pleasure to wander in fabulous tropical gardens...

The magic of peacocks hopping and playing around...

Wednesday: decision to go and attend the Sankalp summit in Mumbai and promote Amrita projects with investors, business people in India...

After 3 days in a wonderful, quite, peaceful place, the plane that lands in Mumbai leaves me with anxieties of the kilometers of buildings, slums all around big Mumbai! dirty, busy, noisy...
The the chock of Mad Mumbai. Nothing like a train in Mumbai!!!

 2 days of social entrepreneurship summit in one of the poshest hotel in town: Taj Land's End! Rolls Royce in front...
Weird now to go from grassroots level projects to upper class India! 10000Rs  entrance fee! 150 euros compared to the 35$ of the Insead social innovation conference I am attending in Jakarta next month!
95% of the people here are upper class and have probably never really been exposed to real poverty, to BoP sorrows.

Feels like this is a marketing symposium on ways to address a new market, not really to bring solutions. Little place for compassion and selfless service here. ROI more than SROI!

Quite a contrast with the other projects I am involved in, but as a matter of fact very interesting.
Fundings opportunities, technologies, models...
Bu in many ways a very inspiring brainstorm!
The nicest hotels, near the dirtiest places I have seen in my life!
How will I ever be able to have the slightest influence on such a chaos??

Only Amma's grace can do anything on cleaning India!

But after 5 days in Mumbai time to go back...
Not really a place where I could ever live: 2000 slums in Mumbai, 55% of the population living in slums, in real poverty...contrasting with the most expensive building in the world, owned by one indian magnat, 7 first floors for the family cars....

The $1 billion (£630 million), 27 storey tower block in Mumbai is the home of Mukesh Ambani — the richest man in India, fourth richest man in the world –, his wife and their 3 children.


TII: This Is India, a country of contrasts... and .... kharma!


  1. Diego;
    Being also a part of the 'BRICKS', make your statements sound very familiar for me; we do have all kinds of social and economics contrasts, although our GNP is always increasing.
    "How will you ever be able to have the slightest influence on such a chaos?"
    You are already doing a huge difference, my dear! Educational and teaching programs are the best answer for that!
    Be sure you are doing your share, honorably!!! And at the end, you will have the rewarding sensation of accomplishment.
    Take care and keep your great job!
    Your New Yorker friend,

  2. Yes! Follow you passion brother! That's the answer to all your questions!
    Your Amritapurian friend
    Akhilesh ;)

  3. Diego !! que buen camino estas haciendo! Felicitaciones totales, sigo tu aventura desde Patagonia. Esperando verte pronto y hacer algo mas de musica! Segui asi, que buen camino!!!