A HULKING figure — half-man, half-tank and with a back you could project a movie onto — ambles over to a table in Ludhiana’s five-star Majestic Park Plaza and, in a voice as improbably shy as the question he’s about to pose, coos, “Spanish boltain ho?” (‘Do you speak Spanish?‘) The Spanish sardar, 27-year-old Sukhwinder Singh, is lolling around the hotel lobby, looking slightly confused as a battery of turbaned men brandishing impressive-looking cards anchored to lanyards buzz with an air of consequence. Singh manages Spain’s unlikely all-Punjabi kabaddi team (a motley assembly of shopkeepers, restaurateurs and jobbers) and the sprightly card-bearers are coordinators for the nation’s first-ever Kabaddi World Cup.
Susanna Huis grins, then breaks out into barely-controlled laughter. The 49-year-old Namibian can’t quite believe that she’s in India learning how to solder bits of electrical wire together to make a solar-powered lamp — finding the situation absurd. A little over three weeks ago, Susanna set off for Tilonia, Rajasthan, from her small farm in Tsaurob, a village in eastern Namibia, not knowing what to expect. “A man had come and said we must go to India to learn how we can have light,” she says in broken English, “Now I’m training to be a solar engineer.” The mother of five gingerly prods a lamp she has been working on and laughs again, “It’s good.”