I learned today that there are many villages in rural areas that only have power for four or five hours per day. That astonished me. How in 2016 is that a real situation? I get it that in extremely remote villages they might not have power at all, but somehow, only having it for a few hours a day doesn’t seem much better. That’s important because any social enterprise proposing solutions for rural India have to design in a way that does not require continuous electricity. For example, one innovator created a product that will keep milk cool without access to power. Another created a manual crank device that greatly reduces the time it takes to husk coconuts, which is big business around India. So now I see that the innovators not only have to identify a gap that will improve the lives of the poor and design a solution, they also have to plan for some of those solutions to be offered in places with limited electricity.
I grew up in a small village that is surrounded by farm land. I wasn’t naive enough to expect rural India to look exactly like my home town, with its cute little town area and restaurants. However, I didn’t even consider that it could be so different. That there are farmers and laborers working without electricity for most of the day. That they can’t even have a freezer, refrigerator, or lighting. To me, growing up in a small village was idyllic and pretty darn awesome. Yes everyone knew what everyone else was up to (and when you were in trouble, which happened to me more than most would believe, the whole town knew). But there was also a comfort in knowing that 3,500 other people cared about us as students, musicians, athletes (except me, stop laughing), and as humans in general. On top of it, I still had every opportunity that anyone in a large city had. Maybe I couldn’t walk to a world-class museum, but I had the same education and career choices as everyone else. I just had much less crime and poverty as city folks had. Like I said, idyllic.
In India, when you grow up in these remote villages, you have the deck stacked against you. They are rarely taught English, and in a country with 24 official languages and more than 2,000 dialects, being able to speak English is mandatory for any kind of professional career. Most of the street signs are even in English! Kids have to work because their families are dependant either on the income or their farm work, so they are only able to study at night if at all. So how do you study at night with no power? Anyone else picturing Abe Lincoln 200 years ago studying by candlelight? How is that necessary in 2016?!
Ok, off my soap box. It just feels like every time I think I understand the challenges faced here, a new one comes up. And as I sit in a hotel room with central air, running water, lit lamps and a tv on in the background, I’m feeling pretty guilty and fortunate.
I will try for a more cheerful topic tomorrow. Don’t want to depress myself and any readers! 🙂