“Never again,” I said to Jeremy (Shared Earth MD) after our trip to Bali. “It’s too far, I can’t cope with the heat.” I was adamant that me and trips abroad were a one-off. An experience of a lifetime, not to be sullied by excessive time spent in airport departure lounges with swollen ankles, and yet, here I am sitting in my hotel room in New Delhi, with the air conditioning blasting out, eternally grateful to be granted this experience once again.
I have never been to India. I’ve seen it on TV, I’ve heard other people’s accounts, I’ve read all our producer stories and yet nothing was quite enough to prepare me for what I was seeing first hand; it really is a different world.
David (Wholesale Manager) and I arrived in Mumbai on a particularly hot day, not just hot for a pale-skinned British girl, but hot even by India standards. Straight off the plane we were driven to one of our oldest suppliers. I have to admit, I was a little intimidated. I found it hard conversing with suppliers as (to begin with) my background is not wholesale. I know nothing of individual wholesale figures per product, or when shipments are due, whether we can package something this way or that, so I sat in a corner, accepted my bottled water and smiled a lot. Despite my own insecurities though they were great.
In fact they all were. I was embraced and made to feel welcome at each one of our visits despite the fact none of them knew of me prior to the trip, just a name in the Shared Earth crowd.
I quickly learnt to not get side-tracked. David has seen a vast amount of the stock already but I hadn’t. There’s a lot to take in and not really that much time to do so. I had a blast looking round, feeling nostalgic reviving old products we no longer sell, wondering “why not?”. But I put my buyer’s hat on, and I don’t mean to brag but the July 2017 and January 2018 catalogues are going to be epic. I’m already super excited.
Work aside my favourite part has been the sheer hospitality and kindness of our suppliers. To those at Aspiration, thank you so much for inviting us to your home and putting on such a tasty meal, and the same to all our other suppliers who let us sample all their home cooked delights. I’ve never eaten so much Indian food in all my life. But then again… who says that’s a bad thing? For those not in the know, authentic Indian curry is quite different to our English versions. The Indians love Dahl and mostly eat vegetarian curry with chapatis as opposed to heavy rice and … naan.
The hardest part of being in India was seeing first hand the poverty. If you’ve ever questioned why you buy Fair Trade goods, don’t! Seeing children begging for food, seeing the squalid slums, people sleeping on the side of the busy highways, children rummaging through rubbish bins hoping to find something to eat or sell is heartbreaking. The conditions they face on a daily basis is the stuff from our nightmares. They have it tough and even though it’s impossible to save them all, I sleep better at night knowing together the job we do, the company we are, the choices we make, impact and change at least 500 of those lives. What I’ve brought home from this trip is the motivation and hunger to double that figure. Who’s with me?