It is really nice to be home after my month long trip as a guest lecturer for the US Department of State in India. I very much enjoyed the trip and my head is still swimming with all the interesting people I met and places I visited.

There were the advocates in Kolkata (Calcutta) working on rights for same sex couples (they recently won a important court case making sexual intimacy between same sex couples legal), the human rights groups in Gowahati working in the tea gardens to address female trafficking and tribal ostracism, the students in Tirunelvelli organizing democratic forums, the smart policy people in Dehli trying to shape the democratic debate, and dedicated officals like TS Krishnamurthy who have a deep understanding of the system and know where the changes are needed.

And while India, like any democracy has its problems, it is growing rapidly and has much to be proud of.  I am looking forward to returning early next year to continue my work with the groups I met with.  One thing I was very impressed by was the natural beauty in India.  I didn't have much time for sight seeing as the schedule was pretty hectic with six cities on my agenda but next time I want to get some hiking in.  Below are some pictures I managed to snap when I wasn't in a car, airplane, hotel, or conference room;)
 
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H.D. Shourie, Founder of Common Cause India
Finally a day off here and some time to rest and reflect on an interesting and intense week here in India.  I am travelling as a guest speaker with the US Department of State for nearly a month tour of the country.  One of the highlights of the week was my meeting with Common Cause India.  The groups has no formal relationship with Common Cause in the US although we hope to collaborate moving forward.  They were founded in 1980 and have a long list of accomplishments to be proud of.  They have won real change for millions of Indians in areas as diverse as pension reform, property tax reform, anti-corruption efforts, and utility board reform.

Common Cause India was founded by H.D. Shourie who served as its Executive Director for 25 years.  He passed away in 2005.  His death was mourned throughout the country. Prime Minister Manmoham Singh wrote of him, "He was one of the most prominent crusaders for a progressive social order.  In spite of his old age and ailments, he continued his struggle to clean our public life and sensitize people about our roles and responsibilities as vigilant citizens for safe guarding freedom and democracy."  I also thought it was inspring that at the age of 90 he published a book entitled, "The Funniest Jokes in the World."

Throughout my first week here I've met with a number of interesting think tanks, NGOs, and government officials.  I also spoke about Common Cause and advocacy in the US at the Hindu Colleage, the American Center in Delhi, and the Post Graduate Colleage out in Chandigarh, a couple of hours away in the Punjab.

Tomorrow Guwaharti.