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Trip to India 2018 - Part 2: The day Taja 8 met a ghost

Trip to India 2018 - Part 2: The day Taja 8 met a ghost
Q. What do camels and elephants have in common?

A. You find both of them on the wrong side of the road walking in the fast lane on dual carriageways in India.  

Today we are spending a second day at Tara, Tara has been a Fair Trade company for over 40 years, even longer than Shared Earth has been around … They supply us with jewellery, stoneware, bike chain giftware and more.

To be fair, on our way to Tara’s offices this morning we do not see much wildlife on the roads, though there is the usual transport chaos. The welcome breeze that swept away all the pollution yesterday is beginning to fade but visibility is still pretty good and the air smells better. How long before the brown mist envelops us again?

We spend the first few hours doing product selection, picking ranges for this summer and for next year’s January catalogue. I then have a visit to the crypt, the basement where all Tara products from the past are preserved in a mausoleum to giftware. Row upon row, graded by colour or by function: boxes, glass, ceramics, stone, figurines. It is a journey through design time. My job is to throw a fresh eye on this treasure in the chance that I might find a few jewels in the gloom. I do. Small chests with a patina. A metal and glass chalice. Some small stone heads.

After a late lunch I set off with Vikas Kumar on a trip to the village of Pataudi, 60 kilometres west of Delhi.

Taja8 workshop

It is hard to believe that a sixty kilometre journey (about 37 miles) can take two hours and more but it does. And, yes, we meet a camel sauntering towards us in the fast lane but the main problems are the number of lorries on the road and a general refusal to pay any attention to lane or direction of travel. It is bewildering to be heading along a three lane dual carriageway sharing the space with bicycles, tuktuks, carts pulled by cows (or camels), pedestrians, and tractors as well as the boringly conventional cars and lorries, all travelling in both directions on both sides of the road. No wonder everyone is continuously parping their horn.

Taja8 crew with ghost

The artisans at the workshop in Pataudi are delighted to see us even though we arrive at twenty past four and even though the entire workforce is due to attend a wedding at four forty-five. Patiently, one stage at a time, they take me through the entire 21 step process of producing the little pill boxes that we sell. It is humbling to see how much work and how many people (eight) are involved in producing a small item that we treat and value so lightly.

Soldering the pillboxesElectroplating the pillboxesApplying glue to pillbox

Pillboxes from start to finish

Filming each stage of the process takes an hour an a half, by which time the artisans are all an hour late for the wedding. I apologise but they are all very understanding because they know that I have travelled many thousands of miles to reach them. After a quick group photo, Vikas and I climb into the car and head back to Delhi. The sun is sinking towards the horizon as we stop start stop start, hemmed in on all sides by motorists who do not see a road as a series of lanes but rather as a series of spaces that must be filled.

Vikas is increasingly impatient, his fiancée is annoyed with him for being late to a family meal. So that’s an angry wedding and an angry fiancée.

"There is no need for this traffic jam,” Visak protests. "Why is it here? It’s pointless.” I decide not to explain why … you know … the number of cars equals … so I change the subject. Shane Warne or Murilitheran? Vikas brightens; he is a spin bowler at a local club. Cricket and Northern India are inseparable. He chats animatedly. Time flies. The next 30 kilometres feel like only 29.8 kilometres.

Which is when, after the last of the sun has slipped below the makeshift roadside stalls, that we see the elephant loom in the gloom, grey on grey in the fast lane. Luckily for us both the elephant is accompanied by a bright green tuktuk. Visak says "look, an elephant” the way someone in Yorkshire might say "look, a tree”.

I try not to look surprised about the elephant. I ask him instead about the camels. Where do they come from? 

We get them from Australia, he tells me. Of course, how stupid of me. They get their camels from Australia. And there was I thinking they came from the Middle East. 

Nothing worse than an innocent abroad.
Created On  1 Mar 2018 12:41  -  >>


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