India, My Love

Week 2: Reflections, Projections and the Present Moment

Seema has just taken off (with Osho’s The Book of Woman in hand) to join her family in the central Kerala city of Ernakulam, and left me here in Thiruvananthapuram at CDS for 5 days of researching and interviews. I’m being encouraged to visit in another part of India (Anand, Gujarat)

Week 1: Seema and Egypt Interview Each Other on the Road in Kerala

Seema and I met up at the Kerala airport one week ago today, after a plane-ride worth of schmoozing on my smooth, conversation-filled day and a half’s journey (New York, London, New Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi).

Seema: So, what have we learned about Kerala cooperatives after our first week here together?

Egypt: Well, the biggie is that most all of them are controlled by the government. That was news to me. I suppose once you get a successful model of anything up and running it runs the risk of being co-opted by those in power, which always saddens me. On the other hand, at least the government recognizes their value, and “buys-in” rather than destroying them. Another thing I didn’t realize is that India started the concept of cooperatives back in the 17th and 18th centuries. I’d also forgotten how crucial cooperatives were to Gandhi’s liberation plan for India. It’s really inspiring to be in the place where it all began, and to see the word “cooperative” everywhere with as much frequency as we see the word “corporation” in the States.

S: Has anything piqued your interest for CEC?

E: Well, I’m excited to talk to Thomas Issac, the Kerala Minister of Finance, and the other contacts from the milk cooperatives that Mr. Soman Nair mentioned in our conversation with him today. Mr. Nair gave us such phenomenal background on cooperatives and their relationship here in Kerala and historically in India. I’m also really glad that Dr. Rajan at CDS (the Center for Development Studies) gave us such great support in terms of local co-op leads, and authorizing my use of the CDS library during our stay. I can’t wait to go in there and delve into what the library’s got on the subject of worker-controlled entities and worker self-management. I’m also really looking forward to hanging out with the CDS canteen ladies and learning about how their cooperative works tomorrow afternoon.

S: So, if Bush and his people stay in power do you think I can move back here?

E: Bush and his people will not stay in power. I hereby create that reality.

E: Okay Seems, what stands out to you about our first week?

S: Ahhh, my therapy sessions with you, that were free. Can’t get better than that!

E: LOL. What else?

S: Let me get serious. It’s great to have someone with me who has been in other tropical environments that have similar issues, to break down and analyze the dense situations. I mean, we talk about all aspects, don’t we? All dimensions.

E: Okay, people are gonna think I’m making this up…

S: LOL. True. I feel like it’s been a transition week, adjusting and getting ready to embark on the work we’re doing now. Yeah, sure, sometimes we have a mismatch in energy. And I think it’s just adjusting to each other’s styles. I think this is the most time I’ve ever spent with you. I think the longest we’ve spent together straight is like 3 or 4 days. But that was still different. Now we’re spending a lot of time together in uncomfortable conditions.

E: You mean, avoiding the ills of the mosquito population, flowing with constant power outages, sloshing our way down muddy monsoon streets, co-habitating with an un-pertubable rat, avoiding beach hustlers and ayurvedic massage drama, jostling in harrowing auto-rickshaw rides through rush hour traffic, and slam dunking our first interview?

S: It hasn’t been boring, let’s say that. It’s been intense. Our week has been filled with characters, kinda like a mini-soap opera with some really weird curve-balls. You have to admit it’s been a new experience being treated like a superstar. It’s like you’re a celebrity, it’s gotten so bad you have to wear your sunglasses around, even in the rain.

E: Yeah, but that’s just because I’m so light skinned, right?

S: And’ve got T and A…

E: Alright, alright…

S: You know I like Dave Chappelle, so…

E: And the rough stuff?

S: I guess it’s interesting to see how we have issues so similar but diametrically opposite – like people constantly grilling us on how come you’re so light and how come I’m so dark. Just stupid stuff…

S: So how have you been handling the overwhelming sensory experience? From the noises of the constant horns honking to the colors to the smells to the downpours of rain?

E: Well, surprisingly I’m not feeling maxed-out or overwhelmed. I mean, I’m tired at the end of the day, but I just feel that we’re getting along with each other so well that it’s making the entire experience fun. I mean, we’re talking through the little and big glitches that come up and just being really responsible and considerate of one another. So, it’s great.

E: So Seems, what do you need for the next week to feel like a success?

S: Making the needed contacts to get whatever information, whatever articles, forming relationships so you could call or email the people we meet to continue asking questions. Because there are some things you won’t know to ask for a while. Right now it’s getting the context, the big picture. Also, for the next week to be a success you need to give me that Osho book about women, so I can read it before you take off with it.

E: I’ll think on it.

S: Thanks Chechie. (That means older sister, or wise one in Malayalam – Seema pretty much has to call me that when she refers to me wherever we go). [sarcasm noted]

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