The little things | Milaap

The little things

The little things in life usually make up for the most important experiences. We underestimate its importance until it is pitched on a large screen in an amplified way, by people who have delved deeply into it. Now, this is applicable to any small moment in your life and also to the small scale industries in our villages. The hustle of city life leaves us in the position of being consumers and the monotony of it leaves us with very little time to think about where and how it all comes from. I am sure our school textbooks and Wikipedia has always helped us step an inch close to killing our thirst for questions but it sometimes steals your chance of witnessing things for real through your own quest for answers. When did you last travel? Has curiosity ever made you travel? Or was it stress that made you say." Oh man! this works got me dead! I need a holiday now", isn't it surprising how stress can make you ask for leave but not curiosity? Well, I respect and understand the monotony of the work nature today but if by any chance you get the privilege of not being stressed despite having a demanding job, try venturing out with a purpose of discovering something close by. Maybe if you have biscuit factory nearby, venture to ask them to give you a tour of their factory, or if there is a rice mill nearby or if there is any production unit nearby, do stop by and have a tour of it. You will not regret it.

Arecanut', botanically known as Areca catechu, is a tropical plant found all over South East Asia. This tree belongs to the palm tree species and is from the Arecaceae family. The fruit (nut) of this tree is popularly known as the betel nut or supari in India. This is an important commercial crop of the region and also forms part of ritual offerings in Hindu religion. Areca is taken up from the Malayan language which means ‘cluster of nuts'.
Globally it is primarily grown in India, Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, and Myanmar. India leads the production followed by China and Bangladesh. In India, it is grown in Karnataka, Kerala, Assam, Maharashtra, West Bengal and parts of Tripura.

Areca catechu

The villages in North Bengal grow plentiful of these trees. Initially one might mistake it to be a date tree or an ice apple tree as it is tall and bears the same kind of leaf. The fruit grows in clusters and is primarily used as supari which is used as a recreational drug as it speeds up the Central nervous system. Betel nut is also used as a digestive aid by wrapping it with slaked lime in a piper betel (paan) leaf. The village people mostly consume it for these two purposes. People claim that it can be used to that schizophrenia and glaucoma but there is yet no evidence to that.As I happened to visit a clients house, I spotted their neighbors peeling pots full of green fruit, struck by intrigue I asked them to explain the process in which they prepared and cut the betel nut. I promptly took out my camera and shot the entire process.
A commentary video of how the betel nuts are processed in the small village of Falakata.

The Areca nut production happens on a large scale in North Bengal, and while we passed large fields, despite curiosity being ignited I found my self killing it because time was a factor as I had to cover some clients, I passed some large scale workshops of its production and a feeling of regret set in. I wanted to see how it works with my own eyes but I was unsure if I would get to see any more of its production but to my good luck, I did get a chance. In this video, the women were more than happy to see people getting intrigued by the job, it gave them a sense of importance which most people yearn for, They were women who managed both their household and business and it taught them a sense of ethics and discipline.

My second intrigue was the weaving business. One of the clients had a man-made traditional weaving machine in which they weaved cloth with various prints for the mekhla chadar and the traditional Bengali sarees. As people from the city, we usually buy our products from the best of malls forgetting from where the linen and fabric come from. I had the privilege to see it all happen for real.

A Weaving machine

Set in the village of Falakata, with the farmlands adding scenic beauty to it and the smell of nature and a fresh breeze hitting my face, I was in wonderland for once. Looking at the threads intertwine was so fascinating. It was all happening in less than a fraction of a second. The people who use it may not understand the theoretical physics of it but practically, they could assemble the spare parts just to make another machine. Here is a commentary video of the weaving business done with manual machines in one of our clients' house.
In the village of Falakata, it is a common thing for people to have their own manual machines, some people do have electric machines but those are the people who can afford to pay some current bills. All these sarees that are woven in these places have some traditional ethnic designs etched on them, and the quality of the cloth is excellent but the prices are meager. The simple people of the village sell these garments from door to door and sometimes in the local markets. Despite being micro financed, these people lack the knowledge and guidance to expand and boost their business. We cannot even pit them against a drain theory because most of them have not been exploited by giant firms, they are just simple people who produce excellent products sold at cheap rates for daily survival.
Just like a child needs to be guided so that the can make their own decisions, so do these people need to be guided. A lot of them need to be told and showed the way to actually start a business that would give them a decent life.
The villages of India is full of potential that is why when Gandhi Ji spoke of Democracy he said that it could be healthy if we chose to focus on institutional foundations which promoted inequality, dependency, and fear and try our bit to eradicate it. At this point, the people need to learn how to channelize their money to make large industries and not just be micro-industries that are drowned and gnawed in a market of giants. These people must not be made objects of domination by their so-called emancipators.
The pursuit is to remove the ignorance of the poor and teach them to know when it is time to break free from the notion of dependency. A little enlightenment from people who have the knowledge would help a villager see things with a much brighter perspective.
So if you wish to help our country evolve and see it blossom, maybe just try venturing out and help the ones closest to you by embarking knowledge.. The industry is the bread and butter of the villages so if you have the knowledge and the skills to make people stand on their own, I urge you to travel with that purpose and I promise, you will not have to hunt for these people.
When we educate our children in villages, we are content with the fact that they have books and a uniform to wear, but let's have a reality check, most of them are dropouts, most of them are have the education of important subjects which they will never use in their life, given the population, it would be ignorant to say it they work hard they will all get a job because as a matter of fact they will not. Do you realize how insignificant their education becomes to them when it is not giving them a chance to have a better life? The solution is to educate them with subjects that they need most for them to flourish in their circumstances.
These people need to be taught about how to start a business, how to efficiently run an agriculture business, how to effectively start a flower garden with maximum profit in such unsteady temperatures, or how to start a modern farm which can be drought resistant, etc.
As Indians, I believe we are all intelligent and we don't  need to ask the world for assistance when it comes to knowledge, so why can't we go to all these places in our country and give the people the education they need instead of plaguing people with Aristotle and Venn-diagrams when what they actually need is solid course in agricultural sciences or whatever business they wish to choose?