I hope y’all are well, wherever you may be. Week four has come and gone, and I feel like I’m really getting into the rhythm of things.
I have been working with SPS’s Producer Company, a commodity aggregation system designed to free marginal farmers from the clutches of predatory traders and integrate them with larger markets. I’ll tell y’all more about the details of my project in the next post. In addition to traveling to remote villages to chat with the five directors of the Producer Company, I have also begrudgingly sat at a computer and combed through Excel spreadsheets, you know, doing my Wharton thang. Needless to say, I would muchhhh rather be out in the field every day—interviewing women leaders about their inspirational stories, sipping on candied chai, and watching farmers sow their seeds against the backdrop of a lovely village sky. I have had THE time of my life cruising on a motorcycle with Professor Mohanty at the wheel, as we fly through neon green hills studded with straw huts and beautiful brown people. I plan on traveling around India one day on a motorcycle—it’s the best way to really see the sights and smell the aromas of a country where the experience is completely sensory.
One early morning at 6 AM when Prasant and I went to interview a Company director in a village about 60 km from where I am staying, we came to a standstill as some men were attempting to repair a broken bridge under the steady onslaught of rain. There was no way we could pass. For a few minutes we almost decided to turn around and go home. Nevertheless, we decided road schmoad, we could not let this minor hiccup stop us! In India, where rules are to be bent, there is always a way. The bridge crossed a stream flowing into a wider river further down. One of the men observing the construction work eagerly helped Prasant maneuver the motorcycle through the water, and I followed, thigh deep in the cold river. After the bike got a good wash, we sat back on and pressed on. I’m so happy we did because talking to the indefatigable and affectionate director, Chintabai, was one of the most rewarding conversations I’ve had on this trip so far. She is a goatherder by early morning, inspector of farmer’s crops for price assessing by day, and single mother of three by night. What a boss.
On another note, Andrew and I recently watched Wes Anderson’s Darjeeling Limited. It’s a film about three brothers attempting to reconnect with each other through embarking on a “spiritual quest” against the backdrop of a bustling, mystifying, norm defying India. Throughout the movie, Owen Wilson’s character constantly strives to infect his brothers with his bubbling enthusiasm to embrace all things Indian, even as India turns his plans on their head and chucks them out a moving train. Andrew and I can relate.
At one point, after a mischievous shoeshine boy dashes away with Owen Wilson’s 3000-dollar loafer, he exclaims to his brothers while wildly hobbling on his cane, “I got my face smashed in, Jack’s heart got ripped to shreds, and Rubby’s having a child. Let’s get into it!” “Let’s get into it,” emphasis on the get with a fist pump if you want to do it right, is our motto for week 4. Our response to smacking heads with fellow bus travelers on a vehicle that reached maximum capacity 30 humans and about 8 goats ago, confronting yet another day of red chili loaded breakfast food, or, in Andrew’s case, getting about three bagfulls of fluid pumped into his system at the hospital, is always, “Let’s get into it.” And totally objectively speaking of course, I’m gonna say we definitely have. So that wraps up the first month of SPS! Talk to you soon!
I took this picture at a Self Help Group meeting, where each woman was contributing her monthly savings for the group.
What a cuteee goat! I am definitely planning on taking home a little bakri!Me and one of the directors of the Producer Company on my left, Burribai, along with her neighbors and family. I had gone to interview her as she was working on the fields, preparing the ground for sowing season.