Blog Post

05

2014 - India Update 6

12-10-2014

Dear Friends,                                                                                                                                          

I am now in Kolar where all of our clean water efforts began more than 9 years ago, reflecting upon my experiences over the years. At that time I was 58 years old and wondered what a person of that age could do to solve the severe water contamination issues in India. I had many doubts and the challenges seemed enormous. There is a saying that if you want to eat an elephant, you merely have to take one small bite at a time. That image is not attractive but the lesson of taking on an enormous task one step at a time is a lesson hard earned in this country. We have faced many challenges and setbacks over the years but we have persisted and endured.

Through our efforts and the generous support of our filter friends, Rotary initiatives and a few special donors we have affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in India. All of you have played a part in saving lives and improving the well-being of the poorest people in India. Cathy and I are forever grateful for the support you have given us. Some of you have just given us a few words of encouragement which at times has been enough to see us through some difficult situations. We just wanted you to know how much it means to us to have your support.

Now we are entering a new phase of our project development. We are trying to roll out our BioSand filter technology country-wide by training like-minded organizations in India to do what we have been doing for years. After all of our experience facing the severe water quality issues here, we are more convinced than ever that the BioSand water filter technology is a cost effective and appropriate water quality intervention for a large segment of the Indian population. We are appealing to the largest companies here to devote some of their corporate charity to our cause. We are meeting with and trying to set appointments with industry leaders, spiritual leaders, government officials, Bollywood stars and even the office of the Prime Minister to gain support for this technology.

Traveling the width and breath of this country is not an easy task especially with all the equipment we carry that a normal person wouldn’t even think of taking. Along with all the communication gear – smartphones, computers and IPads, there is a demonstration filter, full of sand and gravel, water testing equipment, pamphlets and brochures as well as personal items not normally carried. A pillow case, sheet, wash cloth, oil mosquito lamp, enough medications to stock a medium sized pharmacy and of course a roll of toilet paper because…well, you can imagine!

Although we can get through check-in on the international flights, domestic flights limit baggage to 35 pounds. The excess baggage charges then have to be negotiated and paid for, not at the ticket counter but in a bursar’s office some distance from the counter. After paying the fee and waiting for the 20 minute transaction to complete, we still have to retrieve our boarding passes back at the counter, fighting our way through the crowds one more time. Now it’s on to security! Let me tell you it is not easy to explain a demonstration water filter to a Hindi speaking security official. I think we finally wear them down with explanations, presentation of our business cards and the threat that if they confiscate our demo, India will never have clean water!

After all of that, air travel is our easiest form of transportation! Driving is a grueling, slow process over bad roads, bumper to bumper traffic, diversions, dust, and mud with no facilities to stop at to get refreshed. At our hotel in Patna, in the state of Bihar, we arranged for the hotel taxi to drop us off at the airport for an early morning flight from Bihar to Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh state with a three hour layover in New Delhi. There are three of us traveling on this leg so the luggage makes it challenging for small cars. We happened to have an SUV for this leg and three of the hotel employees packed the automobile with our stuff. Fully loaded and ready to go to the airport, the vehicle wouldn’t start! After recruiting more hotel employees, six guys pushed the SUV down the driveway and into the street to jump start the car. No luck. Now they decided to push it up the street and that worked. Off we went to the airport laughing, just another morning in India!

Every day is an adventure here and there are so many stories to tell but so little time to tell them!

Your Fried,

Mike