Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Friend from Britain

The visit of a family friend from Britain gave me an opportunity to enjoy a short holiday in the midst of hectic work last week. We visited Srirangapatnam and Bylekuppe. That’s the reason I’d almost gone off blogging.

Mr Henry Whitfield has been a fairly regular visitor to India, one of the objectives being to climb mountains in the Himalayan region. This time too he spent some three weeks in the soothing and energising environs of the Spiti valley and adjoining regions of Himachal Pradesh.

Mr Whitfield was my father’s colleague in the chemistry department of Sainik School, Kazhakootam, Kerala, back in 1968. At that time, the government had a wonderful teacher-exchange programme with Commonwealth countries. It was discontinued as the government became paranoid of “foreign hand”.

Though he was a chemistry teacher he used to teach English also. I was a small child then, and I have very vague memories of him. After the completion of his tenure, he and my father kept up correspondence through letters and the relationship has survived the test of time.

It’s not very often one can find a person like Mr Whitfield. He is so unassuming, down to earth, humble and caring: a very simple man who lives in New Castle in the northeast of England. Though his background is chemistry and worked in a technical capacity, now he has given them up all and pursues what is more dear to his heart -- building construction and repairs. At the age of 59 he is fit like a fiddle. He told me he goes on long walks, some 10 miles, twice in a year. There aren’t opportunities for him to trek like he can in India.

What's more; he is an Indophile. He is very knowledgeable about India. In some respects he looks more Indian than some of us. He can understand some of our customs and traditions so well that there’sn’t so much of explaining to do. Having been a regular visitor, he can tell us how greatly we have changed over the years.

The swelling number of people on the streets is what has struck him the most. He had been in Bangalore some 15 years back. He can barely recognise the city. The crowds, congestion on the road and noise are what depress him. He wishes we did something more to keep the public places clean and have better roads.

But he is totally impressed by the technological progress Bangalore in particular, and India in general, has been making. In fact, his visit to Bangalore was not just to meet us and spend a few days with us, but also to pursue his interest in alternative sources of energy. He has been looking for a small wind turbine of 1 to 1.5 KW that he can install on top of his house or a solar module to generate electricity for his house.

He firmly believes that Bangalore, being the Knowledge Capital of India, will help him acquire one which is far better than what would be available back in Britain. He kept telling me that importing something from Bangalore would be far better than getting on in his place. I still can't believe this. His perception is a result of hype or reality?

Right from the day he came, on Wednesday, he and I have been pursuing leads on this. We did lot of research on the Internet and made phone calls. He was amazed at the sort of options that he got in Bangalore. He was successful in zeroing in on one company and plans to follow it up with them.

Next, the trip to Srirangapatnam with him.


  1. Good. I also believe that alternate energy sources has a lot of opp in India. We need to look not if there is an energy crisis, but what an extra energy can help. It could translate into better lit roads, cleaner toilets and what not. MOst of the alternate energy sources are localised and hence cannot really quench the energy crisis.

  2. Wow what a wonderful post, I travel to india every year to meet my friend and family members. Its always joyful when you meet some one after such a long time.

    I had learne din my life..Good friends are those who care without hesitation! Whotolerate without frustration! Who remember with out limitation and love even with out communication.

    have safe and enjoyable journey...