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Fair Trade, Eco and Ethical

Trip to India 2018 - Part 1: Traffic and "Fork Handles"

Trip to India 2018 - Part 1: Traffic and
A first visit to a new country is always a mixture of excitement and trepidation. What will I experience? Will I get ill? This visit to meet our many suppliers in India is no exception. Five days into our journey I have a few moments to walk you through.

First of all, being ill. I can write this now because I feel much better, thank you. I had succumbed to Delhi Belly within twelve hours of arriving. Yes, I know, pathetic. You rush back and forth from what is politely called the washroom feeling stupid; your body has let you down and you cannot focus properly on the task in hand. Thankfully the world has invented Immodium and within six hours I was feeling better. 

So, my angry bowels out of the way, letís talk about what David and I are doing in India.

Tuktuks in DelhiWorking with a Fair Trade company we are here to meet the producers and suppliers of a huge and varied range of craft products from across India. Every day starts with a car journey. There appear to be no useful maps of Delhi and only occasional pavements. There are tuktuks but only chain smokers would appreciate what tuktuks do to your lungs.

Two days into our trip we visit Bali Mantra, a candle company. The car that picks us up is a Mercedes with air conditioning. Given the level of pollution in Delhi, keeping the windows closed and filtering the air is a lifesaver. I have brought an anti-pollution face mask with me but sitting comfortably in a car while David and the driver cough and splutter like a couple of dodgy mopeds choking on the last fumes in their petrol tanks is no fun. I just feel guilty. Not guilty enough to take my mask off but Ö 

A car horn cacophony for fanfare, we hiccup our way through traffic towards a village on the outskirts of Delhi. 

Recycling cycling!

As a newcomer, I notice things that Delhi residents no longer see: a man sleeping on the kerb beside his tricycle, worn out. Cyclists carrying ladders, or huge hoops of iron four times the length of their bikes. Skinny recycling cyclists with thighs as thin as spaghetti standing on their pedals as they coax refuse mountains the size of bus shelters uphill while the motorised traffic screams and streams around them. Families living in cardboard box huts beside the road. Small children weaving between the cars, trying to sell snacks. Pretty soon I know I will stop seeing this and all these people will become invisible. But not yet.

Living in boxes in Delhi

Animals on the roadWe turn off the multi-lane carriageway onto a smaller road. Suddenly there are animals in the road. Holy Cow! People digging holes - men, boys, girls, women - randomly buried up to their waists in dust and dirt, clutching metal bowls or picks/shovels. A monkey rummaging in plastic refuse. More cows. Glimpses of people living on the other side of doorways. And everywhere the whine of three-wheeler tuktuks, mini-taxis with no doors or windows, wobbling bravely as the rust tumbles in clouds around their dented bumpers.

Finally, we pull up outside a multi-coloured building with an ornate set of red double doors. We are greeted by Bali, the owner, a tall guy with dark flowing locks and white goatee beard.

We spend an hour looking at new candle products and discussing with Bali and his wife Shveta a Shared Earth idea for an amazing new concept in candles. (Canít tell you about it yet but watch this space!) While David discusses prices and logistics, I spend a further hour photographing the exciting ranges that will feature in our summer catalogue. Itís always good filming exotic products in their natural habitat! On previous visits the Shared Earth team has checked how the candles are made and how the craftsmen and women are treated.

Bali Mantra candles

The journey back into town coincides with school home time, hundreds of pupils in bright uniforms, walking home in the afternoon sun. Car horns pepper the air as we inch the slow-moving traffic back to our hotel.

Back in my room I have a couple of hours designing a range of hamsa hand duvet covers and it is time for David and I to grab some food in a mall half a kilometre from the hotel. David and I stuff naan, paratha and paneer dishes before we saunter back through the warm evening. Who needs cicadas when you have the happy melodies of a thousand car horns serenading each other through the night? 

Created On  26 Feb 2018 21:08  -  >>


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