We have been in India six days. Our skin smells of sweat and spices and the fingernails on our right hands are yellow with turmeric. The heat and humidity is making our hair curl and we’ve started doing the endearing yet not always helpful Indian head wobble. It means, yes, or no, or maybe, or thankyou, or I don’t know. At the very least it means ‘I heard you and I acknowledge you said something and this is my reply.’
The kids look like they’ve been eating with their fingers all their lives. I wonder why? Oh yes, despite our food and eating rules, they HAVE been eating with their fingers all their lives!
Yesterday we went on a tourist boat ride on the famous Kerala backwaters. Had we not been relaxed and chilled already, the extremely slow pace may well have frustrated us. Two men, one at the front and one at the rear, poled us along the water ways. Never rushed, but never resting, they pushed the pole down to the bottom of the river, letting the rough bamboo slip through their calloused hands. Then they leaned hard on it, walked three paces to get maximum push, and deftly pulled the pole up again. Over and over, for about 6 hours!
We passed small fishing boats and one large river ferry.
The air was thick and heavy and the jungle thick and green.
We stopped to see how coir rope is made from coconut husks. All over town, we’e been seeing coir products; door mats, hanging baskets, and rope. All that stuff we normally see at Bunnings Hardware, for 500% mark up, is made right here, by hand, by ladies like this.
Then we saw the most low tech processing operation Chris had ever seen. As a metallurgist he used to visit a lime kiln in Dongara, near Perth, offering technical support to the processing plant. This was nothing like it.
Men in thongs (flip flops) and lungis shoveled clams shells and charcoal into a brick furnace and heated it to 500 degrees, by burning coconut husk. How many Occupational Health and Safety Hazards can you spot?
After five hours of tending the fire, fueling it with more coconut, and breathing in the thick smoke, the result is calcium oxide; used for making cement. Like coir mats, it’s cheap stuff, but look at the human cost!
We saw the process begin, but we were hurried out before it got smoky. I’d hate to think what condition the lungs of the workers are in, with hours and hours of exposure to the dust and smoke. Of course, their families live just outside, in hot smoky huts.
We can buy some stuff so cheaply, but the human cost is enormous. As wealthy westerners, we have so much money, and therefore I believe, so much responsibility to spend, save, and give ethically. As we prepare to go home for Christmas, the tempation to buy ‘stuff’ is mounting. Yes, its really cool funky stuff, but ‘stuff’ all the same! Recently we watched The Story of Stuff with our children. They are budding minimalists, which is just great. Lots to think about.
Our lunch was a Keralese thali on banana leaf in a pretty garden full of turmeric, vanilla, nutmeg and pepper trees. We pottered on down the river, Baby Boy trotted up and down the boat, pointing things out to the other guests. He also threw his new sippy cup over board! What fun.
Meena befriended a teenager from Delhi, and Tintin and Snowy sketched away.
Sparky loved the cool breeze and the sound of the water lapping.
A peaceful and thoughtful day. Have you watched the Story of Stuff? What did you think?
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