Reinventing the toilet. That's what 56-year-old Bill Gates — Microsoft founder, tech whiz, philanthropist, innovator and world's second richest man — dreams of these days.
"Reinventing the toilet, that's my dream. I have many dreams: a world that's AIDS-free, polio-free, malaria-free, I'm an optimist. A low-cost toilet that doesn't require water, is sanitary… this flush toilet doesn't exist yet, but it will," says Gates, who is the co-chair of the $37 billion Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF),the largest philanthropic organisation in the world.
The BMGF has put money into his dream and asked people to come up with designs for cheap toilets, so 2.6 million of the world's poor may benefit.
Gates is in India on a three-day visit that will take him to four states for meetings with four Union ministers, UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, philathropists Ratan Tata and Azim Premji.
The highpoint of his itinerary till Day 2 was a visit to slums in Lucknow, on a mission to understand the contraception needs of women in the country's most populous states, where 4 million of India's 27 million babies are born each year.
Yet women, even conservative ones, stepped out to discuss their contraceptive needs with the rich foreign stranger who seemed very interested in their lives. "Anything to do with sex is complicated. I met a Muslim woman who told me her mother-in-law wouldn't drink water from her hands if she went for sterilisation," he says.
In meetings with Union ministers SM Krishna and Ghulam Nabi Azad, Gates explored possibility of open a new window of cooperation with Indian government in Africa. The talks were stressed on health sector in Africa.