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-Written by: Ellen Prior, ECOBAGS® Team Member

India

“Dear all, 

Over the past three days we have visited Indore which is northeast of Mumbai closer to Bhopal, and now we are in the far south, in Madarai.  We have seen the supply chain of the organic cotton – from the farmers’ cooperative to the cotton gin to the yarn factory, to where they fabricate the material.   Near Mumbai, we saw the manufacturing factory where they sew the products.   I will post pictures on Facebook.  

Sharon has called this our cotton safari.  

Some experiences: 

Arriving in the village, we were greeted by the elders, while the women of the village gave us leis of  chrysanthemums and blessed us with dots on our foreheads.  We sat across from the three elders who guessed their ages to be 70-80, 60-70…not sure.  They told us the farming had been in their families for as long as they know – no specifics but generations and generations.   In the community, their cows are marked as belonging to them by the paint stripes on the cows’ horns.   The cows and goats and chickens roam around freely.  Their houses are solid – made of wood and some bricks (made by hand).  They sleep on woven cots on metal frames and cook using bio-fuel which they make from the cow dung.  The men dump the dung into a concrete box with a drain covered by a rock in the base.  When it is full, they add water and slosh it around to remove the leaves and such.  They dry it into frisbee-sized patties which they use as fuel for cooking.  

We went into the fields, with the corny-sounding but very real and very adorable parade of giggling children following our steps and laughing at us trying to pick cotton.  The children were shy about the camera until the one bold one got to see his or her picture, then they all wanted their pictures taken.  The only ones who stuck to their fear were the infants who wailed when’s we came close or took a picture including them.  The infants’ eyes are often decorated with kohl and they have arm and ankle bracelets, dots, and other ways of marking them based on their faith.  

Between Indore and the farms, we visited the school that was established five years ago by the NGO formed by the manufacturer.  It is for the farmers’ children and is far superior to the local public school.  The more affluent farmers pay tuition.  For the balance, the school is free.  Children go to school for five and a half hours per day, six days a week.  There are schools with less hours in some areas, but these children have no place to study and no light in the evening, so they do all their work for school while at school.  It was like all the Save the Children, Laurence O’Donnell’s every child a desk videos – the kids got up, sang songs, and bowed to us. The little ones sang baa baa black sheep.  

When asked, 10 of 15 children raised their hands that they want to be engineers.  No hands for farmers, teachers, and even Bollywood actors.  

The road in the area of Indore are like Sicily – magnificent, esp by contrast with the conditions of the roads in and around Mumbai, which are a disaster.  The drivers throughout are masterful and exhibit not a little bravado in their beeping and swerving – short beeps to push motorbikes, tut-tuts (little tiny cabs), and bicycles out of the way; long beeps to hound the trucks who are hogging the right lane (in British style, the fast lane for drivers with steering wheels on the right side), and like the shofar, some long and some short to alert drivers coming head-on in the opposite direction that this driver will pass thru the sliver of space first.  Sitting in the front seat, you can only laugh.  Otherwise, you would get a heart attack.  Mind you, there is honking to remind the cows, pigs, goats, goatherds, pedestrians, and sleeping dogs to move it along.  The slow pace of traffic means that there a few accidents but many near misses.  

Some quick hits:  women of every class look pretty and demure – they wear fabrics of gorgeous colors and patterns, covering all their curves and irregularities with scarves and draping cloth.  The smiles in India are lovely.  The industriousness of the people – a barber on the side of the road (Sharon said very low overhead…), people carrying the most unwieldy baggage – five foot wide bales of timber on a bicycle, women carrying bags of cloth or buckets of water on their heads (dodging the beeping drivers) by the roadside, six guys working on the engine of an ancient motorcycle, four men on the women’s clothing sales floor, six guys dressing the mannequin in the store window, and on and on.  Gandhi’s quotes on walls of schools, religious icons and small temples on the factory site.  At the yarn factory today, they had an altar to the god of overcoming challenges and solving difficult problems.  My favorite beast of the wild – the monkeys climbing the rocks just next to the highway.  Across the way, the camel herd taking a leisurely walk. 

Btw, because India has so many religions and even though the country is 80% + Hindu, there are 22 government holidays to cover the Jain, Hindu, Muslim, Catholic, Parsi etc festivals.”

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The ECOBAGS team keeps a close relationship with our suppliers – Our CEO and Founder has worked with our team in India for  more than 16 years! Her children know their children.

Ever been to India? Tell us what you love about the country!