I’ve always wanted to explore the issues of rural development and women’s empowerment in India. Yet I found it impossible to approach the subjects without some apprehension. As an educated, middle class, overseas Indian, I was in effect an outsider. How could I possibly have a sufficient understanding of the issues facing India’s poor? It’s bad enough when Westerners make patronizing “poverty porn” on India, but what if the condescension came from a fellow countryman?
Then one day a friend sent me an article on Muruganantham. Talk about an Outsider. You know how social entrepreneurship increasingly seems like the pastime of the rich? Affluent-types “giving something back to society” and so forth? Well here was someone who was giving back without having taken/received anything in the first place.
Oh and then there was the ‘lil bit about him tackling “a female issue.” He was taking menstrual matters head on and I was worried about my limited understanding of a subject?
I contacted Muruganantham the next day. “I’m only an illiterate man,” he said as we began our first interview a week later. Yes. An illiterate man who’s made us all a little more humble, and a whole lot more inspired.
December 1, 2012