What a relief Bengaluru (Bangalore) is after Mumbai, with abundant signs of better urban management. We fly in on Jet Airways 2112, then make the long trip into town to see Rohini Nilekani – and learn more about her various initiatives, among them Arghyam, the India Water Portal and Pratham Books. Lovely to see her again and to see how her team is growing and her agenda evolving.
Next we headed over to another of my favourite social enterprises, SELCO, to see Harish Hande and his colleagues. I really like their pragmatic approach to appropriate solar energy. For more details, see here. Then we headed across in the dark to see Chatri Vishwanath at Biome Solutions, where we had a lovely informal supper with him and his team.
Afterwards, very late, we were driven into town to a top-flight hotel, only realising at the last moment – and after some 45 minutes of driving – that we were booked into a hotel near where we had started. So we retraced our steps, finally turning off onto a side road that became progressively more pot-holed, and where it seemed that the driver was having to steer around cows in their farmyards, while my heart progressively sank. Finally, we arrived at the Olde Bangalore Resort & Convention Centre, where it turned out that we our bookings had been switched to the original hotel we had arrived at an hour or so previously.
Too tired to retrace our steps yet again, we checked in – only to find that we were sleeping in tents, albeit ones appropriate to a very up-market African safari, with TVs (on which at least one of the team watched the World Cup ) and showers. I went to sleep with the sound of dogs howling, planes roaring overhead, and a rat or chipmunk gnawing at something under the platform on which my tent stood (I recalled my father saying that when he was in India in WWII he was kept awake by the sound of rats crunching their way through cockroaches).
The one thing to be said about it all was that the morning light gradually illuminating the fabric of the tent was lovely – and I prefer waking to the tropical dawn chorus rather than an alarm clock, even if it is several hours before I would normally fall out of bed. Compared to previous tented nights I have spent – including one with a grumbling appendix in Wales aged around 13 or 14, and another in France in 1970 where we pitched our tent atop a nest of the most vicious ants I have ever come across, that got inside our eyes and even more sensitive places – this was tented heaven. Biome Solutions had helped design the place, which is – or is next to – somewhere called Utopia. Hmmm.