Where's the 'Real' India? – ACCION Ambassadors Blog the World – June 27, 2011

> Posted by Center Staff
Where, what, or who is the “real” India? Or for that matter, the real China, Paraguay, or Tanzania?
ACCION International’s Ambassadors are mulling such questions from their financial and philosophical angles, not to mention culinary and meteorological.  We’re cross-posting their blog insights from time to time, and you can go straight to the source by subscribing.
We recently highlighted Jason Loughnane and Leah Vinton‘s takes on events on the ground in Tanzania and Paraguay;  this week, David Firth Bard grapples with the “what’s the real?” question from Bihar.
His June 20 post starts out:
 At last I have arrived in Patna, the home of ACCION partner Saija Finance Private Limited. At ACCION, we frequently and proudly note that Saija is at work in one of the most challenging and underserved places on earth: Bihar, India’s poorest state. With an overall literacy rate hovering below 50% (and among women, only 33%), lagging infrastructure, high incidence of crime, and a legacy of political corruption, there are certainly many challenges to overcome here, and not just for microenterpreneurs.

So it was no surprise when I received a whole litany of advice and opinions about Bihar before I began my journey, focusing mainly on my safety (or lack thereof). But the idea that stuck with me the most, far more than the warnings, was the promise that in Bihar I would be able to glimpse the “real” India.
This idea of “realness,” which I took to mean “authenticity” or “purity of experience,” first surfaced during the Ambassador training week in Boston. Stephen was on his way to Bangalore, the shining nexus of the Silicon Plateau? That’s not the real India! And Nirav and Ruhi were preparing for their summer in cosmopolitan Mumbai, where they even have a Hard Rock Cafe!* So we began a conversation about what, exactly, the “real India” could be, and together we considered what might constitute “authenticity” in this particular context. Some of this discussion is already reflected on our blog: see Stephen’s first post from Bangalore, including the comments. The dialogue is far from closed at this point, so here are some additional ideas and resources to consider…

Read the rest of Bard’s post, and check out the other Ambassadors’ reports, by clicking here.
Image credit: bdesham

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