Transglobal Trade Transparency

Isn’t that title just thrillingly trillable? So is the notion that consumers can use information to purchase products supporting their tastes in environmentalism and social justice. “October is Free Trade Month,” a billboard reminded me at the Berkeley BART station–also reminding me that dhaavak owes me a tip on a Rajasthani fair trade NGO.  Taking up where the beloved Cicatrix left off, let us examine the possibilities for a mutiny of the wallet.

Cotton is crucial: ever since Megasthenes told Seleucus of  ”there being trees on which wool grows” in Indika, it’s been one of the subcontinent’s great exports.  For many diasporic desi dads, soft cotton wifebeaters are a must-not-forget purchase on trips back to the homeland. From Gandhi’s spinning days, the ties between social justice and khadi are apparently enshrined in a requirement that the Indian Flag be made only from khadi. Socially conscientious clothing is a constant work in progress, at home and abroad:  ETC India.org  and Dutch development group Solidaridad have announced that they will collaborate to create a Fair Trade Organic Cotton Supply Chain, connecting individual farmers, mills, clothing factories, and markets:

So far, 405 farmers have been enrolled in the programme, who are producing organic cotton in an extent of 1,352 acres of land spread over five rainfed districts in the Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh and two rainfed districts in the Vidharbha region of Maharashtra. . .He said that Rajalakshmi Mills of Kolkata was currently supporting farmers by purchasing cotton and marketing it in the US and Europe. Last fiscal, over 100 tonnes of lint cotton was sold at a premium of Rs 200 to Rs 250 per tonne over the prevailing market rates. (Link)

It’s the kind of support that’s vitally necessary to small famers whose plight has been highlighted by a plague of suicides.

Raise your hands if your parents usually have a giant bag of rice sitting in the kitchen. Basmati is a key ingredient in making our home away from home, and TransFairUSA now certifies fair traded rice from India, Thailand, and Egypt,:

Traditionally, these farmers have sold their rice to local middlemen rather than developing relationships with exporters. The low prices they receive often do not cover their costs of production, leaving them unable to repay the loans they need to buy seeds and fertilizer and further impoverishing their families. Fair Trade certification ensures that rice farmers receive a fair price for their harvest, creates direct trade links between farmers and buyers, and provides access to affordable credit. Through Fair Trade, farmers and their families are earning a better income for their hard work – allowing them to hold on to their land, keep their kids in school, and invest in the quality of their harvest.

There are three licensed west coast distributors of this fair trade rice, including this supplier of organic basmati rice. Consider taking contact information to your local grocer next time you go shopping.

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All the World’s A Stage

There I was, shivering in the winds of the great plains, trying to figure out how, exactly, the Mutineers were going to haze me. Downing a glass of sweet and salty lime water to calm my fluttery stomach, I tried to imagine the worst. Would Abhi race me in rappelling down the face of the North Dakota headquarters? Perhaps Vinod and Manish might make me read aloud from the works of Ayn Rand while standing on one leg? Might Anna challenge me to a literary write-off?  Could Sajit make me play some hyped up diasporic version of the Filmigame? Perhaps in the mountain headquarters’ darkened corridors, Ennis would torment me with a tantalizing, mirrored glimpse of a single eye, stirring up Sepia speculation about the rest of his mysterious visage. 

Somehow, all these were not so scary. The Ig Nobel prize post, however, reminded me of last year’s peace prize–and the dreaded combination of Karaoke and Antakshari. What could possibly be worse than being made to perform in public like that?

Except, I suppose, that’s what blogging is. Hey, look at me, I’ve got something to say. Well, might as well make it an entertaining group activity. If I had to describe the culture of the South-Asian American community in a single sentence, I might very well hit on this: We’re very supportive–perhaps too supportive–of our children’s performance-related self-esteem. It only takes two or three Diwali shows with a hundred klutzy butterballs bouncing around the stage, adorably off-beat, to realize that we start drinking in theater with our mothers’ milk. This season brings a fresh batch. 

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