Expecting the Unexpected: India 2012

Nearly a year ago, I was chatting with a 2012 Clinton Fellow at a wedding in rural Madhya Pradesh. We were working on similar research on the cooperative dairying system, I on a grant from my school, and he through AIF. A year after what turned into a very influential conversation, I’m preparing to return to India as a Fellow myself and am evaluating just what I hope to gain from this experience.

I was originally attracted to the Clinton Fellowship for the community of like-minded individuals I would be able to meet and learn from.  I also see it as a platform on which I can combine my interests in Anthropology, clean energy and economic development. In my past studies of development issues in Nepal and India, I’ve seen the way that many issues, from health, to food security, to energy intersect as many different threads in one huge ball of yarn. At some point you realize that finding the end of the yarn isn’t really the goal, it’s laying out the knots to see where issues overlap and what new dialogues you can start. I’m hoping that in the next year I’ll be able to see the way that renewable technologies change social dynamics and the way that they disprove common assumptions about village life in India. Ethnography and qualitative research methods enable technology companies, like those that manufacture solar products, to understand the broader range of influence that their products can achieve.

One thing I have learned about India is that it’s impossible to predict. In lieu of trying to control every detail, one must have faith that everything will turn out as it was supposed to. More than anything else, I expect the next ten months to be refreshingly unexpected. Until the end, the best I can do is to say sab thik ho jayega – everything will be all right, and get excited for what’s to come.

Elizabeth's interests in South Asia began while studying in Kathmandu, Nepal with the School for International Training. Following this experience, she worked on business development strategies with Promethean Power Systems, a Boston-based start-up focusing on cold-chain infrastructure in India, and conducted independent research on market expansion of the Indian dairy industry. Elizabeth is passionate about the need for renewable energy sources at both the household and industrial level and is excited to explore new options and applications with SwitchOn/ONergy in Kolkata.

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