Monday Morning Musings

Posted on November 7, 2016 under Monday Morning Musings with no comments yet

tomato-market

Mundy Tomato Market in Madanapalle , India

 

 

“ Life only begins at the end of one’s comfort zone.”

A young female colleague at the APMAS office, Madhu, shared this gem with me the other day. She is young, very bright and has an excellent command of the English language.  It’s so true. Most of us get into our comfort zone and rarely deviate. We like things structured and change is to be avoided. But if you want to discover who you really are, take a step outside your comfort zone. You will encounter some remarkable things.

Quite simply, after a week and a half in India, my head is spinning… but in a good way. I scarcely know where to start. Most have you have been following my antics on Facebook but if not, here’s a brief snapshot of the last several days.

I will be attending a traditional Indian wedding later this week on Thursday morning at 3:00 a.m. No, that’s not a typo. Apparently the ceremony takes a long time and for some reason starting in the wee hours of the morning is supposed to be a good omen. Truth be told, I inadvertently attended an Indian wedding a few nights ago in Madanapalle. I was staying at a local hotel during a field visit. After a bumpy train ride the previous evening and a long day of visiting farms, I arrived at the hotel at 6:00,  barely able to keep upright. I lay on the bed and like a bolt of electricity, a deafening noise emanated from the adjoining room. It was the beginning of an Indian wedding ceremony. Blaring horns and thundering drumming greeted the new bride. After an hour, I went to the front desk and asked when I could expect the music to stop. The clerk assured me that it would be 9:00. He just didn’t say which day! The music lasted until 6:00 a.m. the following day. Oh do I have a story to tell. Stay tuned in the days to come.

In order to get to Madanapalle, I had to take a 13 hour train ride. Half of the ride was extremely bumpy. While I cannot claim to have ever been inside a washing machine during the “ agitate cycle”, I think this must be what it feels like. Our bodies were thrown from one end of the berth to the other.

I was taken on many field visits by the affable and accommodating APMAS staff. Many thanks to my colleagues, Vinayaka, Praballabh, and Jegan.  I saw the amazing work that was being carried out to improve the lives of many farmers. While each and every visit was interesting, the two hours that I spent with the women farmer’s group is the one that I will long remember. These women have very little and in many cases are supporting extended families. Several of them are widows. They were gracious, witty and intelligent. They provided me with snacks like fresh coconut and a mixture of warmed ( fresh ) peanuts, fresh garlic and salt…yummy. I will fill you in later on how you folks back home might want to get involved in helping these women.

The most mind boggling thing I saw ( and trust me, I saw a LOT of them ), was the wholesale tomato market where upwards of 1000 metric tonnes of tomatoes exchange hands every day. It is the largest wholesale distributor of tomatoes in Asia. Farmers, commission agents and buyers get together to establish prices for different grades of tomatoes. Covering 19 acres, the site employs over 5000 workers. A picture cannot convey the scope of the operation.

After my visit with the women farmers yesterday, I had no choice but to travel from the village of Embadi to Madanapalle by motorcycle. I have had an inherent fear of this mode of transportation as my one and only time on a bike was when a dear ( deceased ) friend “ Slim” convinced me to go for a ride after school in grade X11. We had scarcely left the premises when he hit some gravel and we went “ arse over tea kettle.” I had many scrapes and bruises and vowed to never get on one again. Now, when you’re in Embadi and you have no other choice… well… I hopped on the back of the bike ( no helmet – there wasn’t one available ) and had one of the most pleasant experiences of my life as we cruised through the countryside in 30+ temperatures. Even when we got into the city , amidst all the traffic chaos, I was very serene.

I travelled back to Hyderabad Saturday evening, an overnight trip of 11 hours. This was my first solo venture with no field staff or colleagues. I wasn’t nervous but these trains are very busy and English is not the working language. When I got to my seat ( a lower berth ) there were two guys occupying my seat. They were having their supper. Somebody in the next seat suggested I just take any available seat and wait till they were done. Of course, as has become the case everywhere I went, I drew a crowd… bees to honey ( there are other analogies that I won’t use! ). I ended up having a lively discussion with 4 university professors. They were quickly joined by three incredibly bright children and about 15 other people ( standing room only! ) as I answered every possible question about Canada for two solid hours. I managed to make it to my seat and then encountered many more people who wanted to shake my hand and take selfies.  Indian people are unbelievably friendly.

So, somehow, one of the local papers found out that I was in the area. They did a write up about my visit and referred to me as Dr. Len MacDonald, a visiting professor from Germany. Their fact checker must have been on lunch break when the story was being prepared!

Have a great week. I know I will.

 

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