I can scarcely believe my ears. Apparently, providing I’m not too far from the server, which essentially means sitting under the huge tamarind tree in the yard just outside the computer room, I can actually use wireless internet on my lap top AT RUHSA. What is the world coming to? Next they’ll be telling me I can have piped hot water into my bathroom every morning to shower in.
But it is true. RUHSA has gone all modern and joined the internet revolution. No longer is there a need for a wire to dangle from the concrete ledge above my window. A wire, which, in the few short weeks I was able to have the luxury of internet in my room, wove it’s way through a hole under the mosquito netting - providing a shortcut for canny insects of all varieties into my private space - where it plugged into my laptop looking efficient and internet highway-like. However, it was not in India for nothing and much like the highways of the vehicular type in this wonderful country, the means by which data transmitted itself down the line was unpredictable, jam-packed and moving at a chaotic, but barely perceptible forward pace with enormous quantities of noise.
Now however, although the luxury of internet is still not realisable from my bijou boudoir, I did fire off a furious email sitting in the warmth of the Indian sun, with dusty dogs fighting over a scrap of vadai at my feet and a man in the Vellore Winter Wardrobe combo of balaclava and lunghi watching interestedly, dividing his attention fairly between his peeing child and my flying fingers. All this without having to lug my computer into dusty Vellore on a hours cramped bus ride, to sit in the sweaty library at CMC, full of students, half of whom usually were looking at facebook or playing solitaire, whilst the other half were researching obscure means of treating hypertension in people with leprosy or some such. No, now I can sit in a rural idyll, googling away, the peace broken only by the frequent and slowly moving trains driven by men with the unusual affliction of having their hands welded to the horn, the numerous crows who all seem to have hearing difficulties judging by the volume at which they communicate with one another and the tidal stream of chattering women and children surging through the overflowing hospital. It’s bliss.
However, despite this communications revolution, there is a minor counter-rebellion going on at a more personal level, whereby certain people who have received emails about my arrival have failed to pass them on to certain other individuals who might like to know I was coming AT ALL, let alone the boring specifics like date, time etc, in order to prepare the room, rent the bike, get enough towels in, not have to mask astonishment at my unexpected arrival, yada, yada. Hence the furious emails. But it’s only a minor blip and it’s all smoothed over now, but it would be nice to arrive one day and actually have people a) know I was coming and also b) pleased I was coming. I only ever seem to get one out of two at each visit. Next time I plan on a full house.
Nonetheless, it is lovely to be here. I am back in my little room which has been spruced up somewhat. As well as the new curtains, there is now a plush desk that can fit my whole laptop and a piece of paper on at the same time; there are a couple more “comfy” chairs and a new side table which is now my “dressing table”. Sadly, the thickness of the mattresses is unchanged and I am once again going to be a large dollop of Philadelphia to their crispy crackerness.
Owing to the “unexpectedness” of my arrival, I haven’t seen much yet, but the advantage of not being a trumpeted bigwig is that I can slip in under the radar (a little bit too effectively sometimes) and that gives me a chance to talk to people on the ground more and find out what is really going on. In short, the answer is quite a lot. I have yet to speak to Mathew to find out about the welfare projects specifically, but I have had some interesting discussions aready and there is lots to be hopeful about. Today I will find out more about the elderly welfare projects as well as make some plans for the future. I would like there to be a clear agenda for 2009 with regard to VRCT funds and relationship, but I’m not sure that will be a possible outcome, so we might have to make a longer plan.
There are several other ongoing projects which might be suitable for us to get involved in, especially if the welfare projects become self-sustainable, which is ultimately the aim. One discussion which has taken place is about micro-finance, where RUHSA provides a legitimate, reliable and non-corrupt lending scheme for small projects which local self-help groups want to set up. At present it costs a lot extra to get a loan due to interest rates, palm-greasing and cream-skimming. RUHSA has an unimpeachable reputation for honesty and rightly deserved, which would make it a popular place for people to come and borrow money. This sounds like a wonderfully empowering idea but does need extremely careful planning and infrastructure development. VRCT is not keen to dish out the dough until that undertaking can be guaranteed, but it will be interesting to become involved in. I heard whisper also of a mental health project which got my ears pricking up, I am going today to find out a little more about it. In addition, there are plans for a much needed revamp for the outpatients’ department, which is totally unable to cope with demand at present and refers almost everything to CMC, increasing rather than reducing the tertiary care burden. I personally would like to see evolution of a primary health care set up, but this may be the start of it which is very exciting.