Thursday, May 29, 2014

Another day of contrasts

We ate rice and spicy gravies from a banana leaf for lunch, and then visited a Bangalore slum. During an interview with community men and women, we learned about their situation and lack of water resources.
After our meeting with Biome and a tour of Rainbow Road, Team Minnesota piled back into our caravan and headed out to our next site visit.

On the way, we stopped for lunch at a South Indian restaurant, where we were served rice and spicy gravies on a banana leaf. For many of us, it was the first time we had eaten rice with only our hands.

Jamie, who has been working in Maduri for the past three months, gave our table a quick tutorial on the most effective strategy for getting rice from the banana leaf into our mouths, which included a three-finger scoop and thumb shovel motion.

At the end of the meal, we folded our banana leaves in half (toward us, not away from us, because that would have shown dissatisfaction with the meal), and went on our merry way.


Our next stop was at an official slum in another part of Bangalore. In stark contrast to the beautiful, stately houses and luscious gardens of Rainbow Road, the slum consisted of tarpaulin lean-tos, flies, and muddy lanes.

A single glance around the slum told us that the solutions implemented on Rainbow Road would not be easily translated to a community lacking space for borewells and storage tanks, sturdy structures to hold tanks, solid roofs to harvest water from, and money to purchase all these things.

We sat down for an interview with a handful of women and men from the community, while a large crowd of curious children looked on.

After learning about the effectiveness of Biome's water strategy, it was shocking to hear about the water situation in this community. A single public tap supplies water to about 400 people. Most days, water is available for a few hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening, and the whole community shared a single storage tank.

Such a distinct contrast between the haves and the have-nots is apparent in many facets of Indian society. With ineffective infrastructure and promised-but-not-delivered government services, the people of India are all too often left to employ their own resources and fill in the gaps.

Those who have resources are able to create sustainable and healthy living communities. Those who do not, can not.