Tuesday, February 19, 2013

This is How We Roll

Remember Tom Hanks’ movie Castaway starts out in a Russian “FedEx” office?  Remember that new-to-capitalism-venture-into-customer-service look?  Well, I found the office that pre-dates and one-ups that - the Mathura “FedEx” office!

They were a very friendly group; and after several minutes of searching by several standing around employees, I was handed the familiar blue and red “FedEx” envelope – familiar, yet artistically altered with a circular coffee cup stain; a strand of arithmetic additions in ink, and numerous folds that had permanently captured the dirt and dust – the Indian motif look.

I filled out all the necessary forms and was ready to pay.   I was presented with a bill of $47!! For an envelope and a light scarf on its way to Florida!! 

Are you kidding me?!?!?

Hitting the streets, I was the 12th passenger on the next shared three-wheeled auto rickshaw back to Vrindavan heading to the Indian Post Office.

(Back on familiar grounds at the official post office next to the Iskcon Temple.)  
After the two postmasters shuffled around behind the counter they were able to come up with a large “Axis” bank envelope for me to use – and it was pretty clean, just a bent corner, which as you will see, really doesn’t matter in the short run.   After addressing and carefully loading in the Florida bound scarf, the assistant post master took the envelop, folded it,  folded it again so it was exactly the size of the scarf inside, taped it, weighed it, crossed out “Axis” bank and logos and said;

“Three dollars; Three-fifty for registered.”  (Notice how I’ve been translating the currency for you, nice, eh?!)

I decided to take the expensive route.  But…he explains, I’ll have to come back tomorrow to register it because the guy who registers has already left the building...

I leave the package with orders to send it out tomorrow by registered post.  I’ll be by sometime later to pick-up the registration slip. 

You see, this is my first “Etsy” sale and I’m trying to make a good impression, do things right!  And this is how we roll in India.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Good Thing I Carry Hand Sanitizer!

I had turned the corner and was twenty feet down the alley way to Loi Bazaar before my brain registered what my ocular orbits had seen clearly 10 seconds ago.

“Cow.tail.tassel” ….

was the code that finally made the synaptic leap to connection.

I stopped.

Oh the possibilities…if I was brave – and quick - enough to retrace my steps and grab the dirty black clump of bovine hair.

“….and woven into the hemp, recycled silk sari and hand spun Kashmiri wool, is a little piece of sacred cow hair picked up on the streets of Vrindavan.”

The seductive imagery won.  Pivoting, eyes to the ground, brain fully connected and in on the hunt, I headed back the way I came.

Amid stares of astonishment and disbelief from the rickshaw drivers and Sunday afternoon shoppers, I scooped my treasure from the muddy ground and lovingly, carefully placed it in my purse as though I’d just found a 20-dollar bill.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Red Team, Blue Team

The two reoccurring issues I faced when first arriving back to Mahima Creations were:

1... "How come she's working, she has a husband and is not a widow!  Why then can't I work, too?"  and...
2. "What are you doing here today? It's not your day to work, your day is tomorrow!!"

One of the first things I did to try to quell the dispute over who could legitimately work and who couldn't was to require government issued IDs that stated clearly if one was a widow or not.  This worked well, though we did go through a rough time having to let go of some long time friends who clearly where never widows.  In the long run, the group seemed to appreciated the stated and enforced boundaries.

Next was the issue of the ladies showing up to work on their days off and creating a ruckus among the scheduled workers.  I can fully understand how this happens.  When my kids were in school and had summer breaks, often times I didn't have a clue what day it was without the regime of a school schedule to keep me on track.  How much harder must it be for these women with no calendars, no TVs, no radios, no electronic devices; shut-off and shunned by society in general and local shelters in 

particular...who can blame them for showing up on their days off?  They don't know what day it is!!  For most of them, their days just melt from one into the other with no seam of demarcation.  The highlight of their timeline is often coming to work at Mahima Creations.

To prevent further scraps from breaking out in our otherwise peaceful work circles, I gave each lady a card with a red or blue dot drawn on it, and unceremoniously the "Red Team" and the "Blue Team" were born.  On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, I'll hang a tag with the red dot on the front gate and also on our front door, letting the women know that if they are carrying a red dot card i.e. members of the "Red Team"  they are working that day.  Same goes for the "Blue Team" on alternate days.   This simple strategy has proven to be most efficient and well liked by all the women working here.  Peace has been restored!!  Of course, everyday, every widow is welcome to come and share tea and biscuits with us!!

I would highly recommend this method for anyone dealing with scheduling issues where the workers don't have on-going access to the times and dates, and English is not clearly spoken nor understood.