During my last visit to India, I managed to do enough sightseeing to last several lifetimes, and still found that I’d only barely touched the surface of what the country has to offer!
My favourite destination has always been Rajasthan, that old majestic kingdom of the maharajahs of old, complete with palatial palaces, some having been reincarnated as 5 star hotels, whilst others falling apart in disrepair.
The maharajahs were dealt a serious blow by successive governments, who sought to reel in their virtually autonomous reigns, as well as the almost limitless riches that went hand-in-hand with their status.
Thats why some entrepreneurial guys decided to keep their palaces open as hotels, thus ensuring a steady flow of income for their estates.
Whilst in Rajasthan, I decided to pay a visit to a remote temple built in a mountainous region. It involved several hours of strenuous, hot walking and is not to be recommended unless you are used to walking in very hot, dry weather. I myself am a creature of northern latitudes, and my walking and hiking is mostly done in cool, moist mountains of the Pacific Northwest, the complete opposite of what I had to face in India. Nevertheless, it was fun.
During my walk, I stopped at a little village, where I suddenly became the centre of attention, with little children shouting “angrez, angrez”, which I knew meant Englishman, or more likely, white man! I asked for a cool drink and was immediately given an ice cold bottle of Coca-Cola…damn it, I thought, western culture is found even here in this remote village!
Anyway, I got chatting to a young guy who spoke very good english, and he told me how very difficult life is in the village. I could see that for myself; the houses were built of mud brick and hay, not a single proper brick to be seen anywhere.
But despite that, the village people have created a small scale cottage factory where they produce little notebook type journals, completely handmade. I asked to see how they were made, so he took me to a large building, again mud brick, that had been separated into several sections.
Some of the people were curing leather for notebook covers, others were preparing off-cuts of scrap paper, while another group were pressing the mashed up paper pulp into sheets of paper.
Everything there was done by hand, no machinery used at all. All the profit they made from selling these items went straight back into the community and has enabled many houses there to get better cookers for preparing food, several hand pumps for fresh water, where before the whole village relied on just one well. And most important of all, the meagre income has been so carefully channeled, that kids can now attend school and medicines can be bought, even though it may cost a family the equivalent of a week’s wages to buy a bottle of antibiotics.
The guy I was talking to asked me if I could help their community, by selling their notebooks overseas, to which I replied that I could try but couldn’t guarantee anything.
So that’s how I have ended up with a whole load of those notebook journals everywhere!
If you can help that simple community put food on their tables, please take a look here for more information.