Joanna Conlon, responsible for our Seeing Is Believing flight amongst her many other responsibilities for the charity, flew in this morning, and, from 1100 hours until 1650 hours we had almost non-stop press interviews in the hotel lobby, with continual processions with the accompanying photographers over the road to an embankment holding back the sea, to be photographed in every conceivable position and facial expressions, staring up into the sky, pointing towards "Australia", and even one persistent photographer wanting me to make flying motions with my hands, standing on top of the sea wall, with the sea surf down below. My only relief was to occasionally pretend to walk off the wall into the sea, that elicited immediate yells of horror and warnings, and I even managed to get the photographer to yell and stop shooting for several milliseconds- triumphantly I moved away a few feet, feeling very pleased with myself, and the inevitable passer-by's wondering why the blind man with the stick was parading up and down the wal, with Richard trying to look like an aviator in all the melee. Sweat running down our backs every time we left the air-conditioned hotel lobby to be hit by about 98% humidity and baking sun!
That evening I had the honour of speaking at the Standard Chartered Bank's prestigious annual Town Hall event, hosted by the CEO of all India and Nepal, Neeraj Swroop, attended by nearly a thousand bank employees from their national Head Office here, where the other half of the staff would meet the following evening for a similar presentation, but with an excerpt video clip from my presentation this evening.
What struck us as we came into the foyer of the impressive auditorium was a full scale model of our microlight, made with amazing ingenuity especially for this event, as we were not able to fly here ourselves!
It even had an impressive looking engine and propeller at the back, and Richard and I had great fun being photographed sitting in it, commenting on how much more space it had than ours! Top, top marks to the designers!
The Seeing Is Believing project has already been hugely successful in India, which contains 23.5% of all the worlds blind people.
Already, 78,000 blind people have received sight restoration through their vision and compassion, and they are surging ahead with new higher goals to be part of the 10 million dollars the bank is aiming at raising by 2010, seeking to impact the lives of 1 million blind people in 20 developing countries around the world in the process- highly, highly commendable and inspiring to me!
After a late supper we returned to the hotel for a final de-briefing with Joanna, and, whilst I attempted to get some sleep, lay awake with my mind full, waiting for a wake-up call at just gone 0300 hours to catch an early flight back to Bhopal via Delhi.
Jon Cook joined us, as he was getting a flight later to Delhi, sorting out a visa for Richard into Bangladesh. Our bumpy, fast ride was in a taxi identical to an Austin A40, that turned out to be made by Fiat in India- air conditioning via open windows, and myself, bumping around, using the time to transfer our latest photos on my computer onto Jon's memory stick en route- all of us more asleep than awake!
Richard read to me a sign as we were going through security, ensuring I had none of the following in my luggage: crow bars, axes, choppers, cricket bats, blasting caps, dynamite, hand grenades, plastic explosives, realistic replicas of explosives (unrealistic replicas presumably allowed!). The complimentary newspapers on the flight all had our smiling faces once again plastered over their front pages, a very pleasing result after the bank's very hard PR work yesterday, with good profiles about Seeing Is Believing…