Village Report: March – Business Beginnings

Wishing you a happy month of March from the AV Team in Jharkhand, India.
The latest news, just received, is the development of business plans that were revealed to us by our business administrator, Ashok Datta.
He and his colleagues in the AV team worked on researching a number of options and narrowed the possibilities to three business that could be started and made profitable within a short timeframe. As this is a rural area, it is only natural to consider a business that involves animals. The many tribal populations and farmers are all familiar with the cattle, goats, pigs and cows. It is common for families to have all of them in small quantities.
But if one was intent on doing this for business purposes, what’s the best choice given those circumstances?  After weighing a considerable number of factors which included market demand, where to keep the animals, and the care taking requirements, they reached conclusion that goats are the winner. The next steps involve obtaining the initial herd of goats. The AV team will then hire a caretaker who will perform the daily responsibilities. Beyond that there is also the matter of where to house the herd in the night. As one can tell from just this brief report, the team is faced with considerable setup before they can get started. There could even be room to experiment with some other animals as well. Stay tuned to find out how it goes, and how quickly they are able to recover their investment and break into the realm of profits!
baby goat
 As we see this business begin, we will be sharing the photos and the experiences as they unfold week after week.
If one is to look at further options for starting small businesses, there is another eco-friendly option. This is a fascinating one which is unknown to almost anybody outside of India. Instead of the familiar paper plate as known in the United States, they have the leaf plate.  It is not new in any way, but the demand is not expected to decrease at all. This business also helps the local community with employment as well reducing pollution since the alternative would be plastic products.
One of the attractive aspects of this product is that it is manufactured using leaves from the nearby jungle. Community members from the area can be hired to collect the specific type of leaves from the jungle. Somebody then gets the privilege of handling the fancy machine that forms the leaves into plates. At last the final product of leaf plates is then sold to local shops.
example of leaf plates
 There are even a few other approaches to the leaf plates to cater to other customers. As mentioned above, there is a leaf plate making machine. The traditional method of making the plates involves no such machine, but is instead all handmade. Let’s see if we can obtain some photos of what these look like side-by-side.
For now, the key concern for getting started in this business is the investment in the machine and the availability of electricity. Given the costs of the machine and the uncertain nature of the electricity supply, this plan will be on the back burner until we generate some investment capital.
bricks outside the AV office 
The final idea the AV team unveiled was a brick production business. Brick demand remains steady and is probably even growing. Most homes are built with bricks and the government even helps to fund brick house construction. The problem with this business is the start up costs. There is also considerable paperwork with the government. Despite all this, the idea has the potential of being profitable, but the risk is viewed currently as high. It will continue to be evaluated by the team. With some improvement this plan could be viable in another year or more. As we learn more, we will keep you all posted.

Village Report: February – Breaking the long silence

Despite the absence of blog posts these last months, the AV team has been hard at work making regular visits to the residents of the Mohulpahari, Pokhoria and Rambani villages.

Between January and February the AV team conducted research in serveral areas that will be beneficial for the health and well being of the nearby population. The solutions being discussed at this moment are bound to even save lives.

The first aspect of the research involves personal safety of everyone in the area

Having now performed interviews with residents of the three villages, their greatest concern were uncovered. It was all about the trucks and their ear drum blasting horns. If that weren’t enough, there are also race car drivers attempting to qualify. The situation has gotten totally out of control in the last couple years. Until recently this road problem was not much of a concern at all as the road surface was not consistently paved.
That damaged road controlled as effectively as speed bumps. Though not ideal for drivers, the advantage for residents was that it provided reasonable road safety. Vehicles simply could not speed due to ruts on and alongside the road. With the smooth pavement came the current speed problem that grips our three villages.

Referencing the map one sees that our three villages are Mohulpahari, Pokhoria, and Rambani as viewed from East to West.
Note that this single highway runs straight through the village landscape. Each village borders this busy road to a greater or lesser extent. The road sadly even cuts right through the middle of Mohulpahari village. They have the greatest impact by a long shot. The residents of Rambani fortunately are quite a bit more insulated than our other two member villages.

The tragedy of it all is that anybody living here is frequently walking along this road to visit the other villages at some point in the week, if not every day several times. No matter when you’re on the roadside, there are always the trucks with the loud engines and even louder horns. They are the air horns that are probably outlawed in most countries.
Then come the speeding cars when you least suspect it. Looks like some animals don’t anticipate the cars in time. It is very unfortunate since historically the village roads have been safe for both people and animals. So by now everyone’s had more than enough of the torture imposed by vehicles. The situation has to be brought under control of the village citizens.
The powerful role of village leader we understand has more authority than the police to enforce laws.

We are anticipating a show-down between village leaders and the vehicle traffic. What role if any will the police have in all of this? The answers will soon be revealed by our AV team.

For now, those who must traverse the road are now taking their lives into their hands; especially considering that there are no sidewalks.

We are praying for a solution and everyone’s safety

January 26th, 2018 – Home Sweet Home

Yes, we are finally back, and I am over with all the jet lag and the time lapses between the two worlds. I can hardly remember getting back as I was feeling like a sleep-deprived zombie, but who cares about that. We are safe, and we are getting back to our familiar US lifestyle again. What bothered me the most was the fact that I had to start school. The good part was that nobody was sick except for my parents. My parents had to go briefly to the urgent care to take care of their health. They are old, and it affects them more than it does to us anymore. But now they are fine. So, to my readers. How exactly did you survive this grey, cold and rainy weather? The moment I stepped out of the airport, I could not believe what I was getting into. It was so quiet, so grey, so wet, and cold, as if there was no light in life. The first thing I did once I got over the jet lag and sleep was we ordered pizza and ate until we were satisfied. My father gulped down a big cup of coffee. The next thing we ate was burgers, and cheese. We drove in our nice, comfy car. I realized what a difference it was to finally drive in a paved road. The traffic rules, the lights, and it was almost like the US lifestyle worked in such a mechanical way with accuracy like a Swiss watch, like there was no mistake. Red light, stop, and green light, go. If you go to any grocery store, there is everything available from produce, to personal care, to coffee shop, to a shoe store, to gardens, to everything. It is so convenient, and easy. The life is designed here to have time, but honestly, do we really have time given our overflowing to-do lists? Despite having a washing machine, car, dishwasher, and every resource. Seems there is abundant material wealth, yet many people here are at the same time very poor on time. That goes for me at least.

 

Oh how badly I already miss the 80 degree, sunny weather in India. I don’t know when I am going to go back. It’s better to force myself to get back into how it is here. That’s the best approach in life. Grow where I am planted, and make the best of it all. So here I am with my smartphone, smart TV, smart computer and smart mouth. What can I say, I am a product of the life here in Bellevue, USA? So I will see you at some point, at least the ones who are following me.

 

This is Vishal, signing off

 

January 3rd 2018 – List of To-Do’s

Places that I want to visit:

 

  1. Birthplace of the Buddha – not far from where we were
  2. Hindu Pilgrimage – Baskinath, Devhgarh, Tarapith,
  3. Bolpur – Shanti Nekethan Univerisity – where Indira Gandhi studied and the founder was the famous poet Rabindranath Tagore.
  4. Visit the hot water springs.
  5. Visit the Jaher (Santal worshipping place)
  6. Attend a Sohrai (Santal festival)
  7. Visit the Paharia people

 

This is my list of things to do next time I visit India. These are the things I like to bring.

 

  1. Jumbo sized Nutella
  2. Jumbo sized Peanut Butter
  3. Hot chocolate
  4. More books (at least 6 or 7)
  5. Over the counter medicine (every one I can find)
  6. Board Games/Soccer Ball
  7. A diary to write down a lot of things

 

I have a huge list but these are some of the things I have. So, this will be my last blog post, and I am going to return to the US, to my readers, who have followed me. I will see you in 2018. Have a happy new year and goodbye.

 

This is Vishal, signing off

 

January 2nd, 2018 – Chasing Gudra Bonga (the dwarf devil)

Yes yes yes, you did read the title right. I just learned a very interesting story/myth, and I don’t even know if it is true or not, because not everyone can confirm or deny it. Some people do claim that they have seen it, and others say that it is a myth. So understand it as you will. The Gudra Bonga strictly belongs to the Santal tribal culture. It is a powerful evil demigod, and is the size of a dwarf. Today, we are going to a place where we’re really remote, and we are not coming back to Mohulpahari anymore this trip. We are going to chase and find the Gudra Bonga if we can, and after that we will go back to the US. Now this place is so remote, that there are no buses and roads, and no electricity and running water. But somewhere there is a village, and we are going to stay there for possibly a whole week, or at least a few days depending on how stuff goes. So back to the Gudra Bonga. Apparently, I’m told that Gudra Bongas can actually make one rich and keep a person healthy and young forever. Also, whatever one’s problems are, whether sickness, money, education, feuds with others, whatever it is, they claim to solve it. In another words, they are problem solvers. So once I learned that, I thought that I wanted a Gudra Bonga, so it can solve all of my life’s misery. I started asking people where I could find it, and one of the ladies, came and asked me why I wanted to find it. So I told her that I wanted to eliminate all of my problems. You see, my God just doesn’t seem to help me sometimes. Here, in the land of Vedh, I have an opportunity to find this so-called god who can help me, so I might as well take it. This lady happened to be very knowledgeable about the Gudra Bonga. I also learned that my uncle has actually once chased a Gudra Bonga as well. We were all attentively listening to her, and that lady asked me,

 

“So, you want to make a deal with the Gudra Bonga?” I said yes, how do I do that?

 

She said that it was sort of easy, but told me to remember that nothing comes for free. I asked what I had to do in return, and she, fixing her eyes on me, took a sigh, and asked me,

 

“Are you sure you are ready to make a deal?” I said again, yes.

 

She then asked me what I could give in return. I asked her what the Gudra Bonga wanted, and I could give anything it wanted. She said that they wanted your first born.

 

“What? What do you mean first born?”

 

She said, “Your first born. To be sacrificed.”

 

“You mean a human sacrifice?

 

“Yes.” She replied.

 

Alex, sitting right there, abruptly stood up and strictly told me that I was not to make a deal on his life. My older cousin was also there, and stood up and said that I was not to make a deal on his life either. I couldn’t believe was I was hearing. Don’t we live in a digital world? 21st century? And we’re talking about human sacrifices? A couple other village people also came, and then I asked some more questions. I said that I wasn’t married, and I wasn’t the first born, so they told me that since I was the one making the deal, the first born had to come from the family that I belonged to. If you were to be married and have a first born, then that was the one that needed to be sacrificed.

 

“What if I have a girl?” I asked.

 

They told me that if it is a male, he will be the one to bring the next generation’s seed. If it is a girl, she will be the one to bear the seed that bears fruit for the new generation. In both cases, they are the first born, and they are needed to be sacrificed.

 

“What a crooked god.” I remarked. “Has anybody ever made a deal before?”

 

Well apparently many do make the deal. And yes, many people have witnessed people’s first born dying before. So the story seems to line up in many cases. My mom asked me why in the earth I wanted to make a deal with the devil.

“You never ever make deals with the devil, because you will never win. The only way to make a victory, is to make a slave of the devil.”  were her words.

In this case, it was a Gudra Bonga. And the village people all laughed and said that my mother was right. You never make a deal with the devil. Instead you make the devil your slave.

 

“Well, how do I do that?” I asked promptly.

Everybody fell silent. They were looking at my mother and asking, “What kind of kid do you have, one who is so interested in the devil?” My mother replied, “What can I say, he is born in sin, lived in sin, and will die in sin. We can’t always resist temptation, can we? Why don’t you guys just tell him how to catch a devil so he can move on from the subject?” Then they finally told me. “Go ahead and capture a lock of hair from the Gudra Bonga. Then the Gudra Bonga will be a lifelong slave to you. You will have the upper hand on the devil.”

“Well, how do I do that?”

 

“Put traps in tiny places in your house, wherever the Gudra Bonga could be found.”

 

I asked my mom whether Gudra Bongas come to our house, but she said no because our house was purified and sealed with holy water. But she did say I would find them in the rice fields. But just remember that they will only come if they want to find you.

 

I asked them, “Couldn’t Gudra Bongas be found inside of the house?”

 

But they said that no, Gudra Bongas are always outside of the house. They never stay at anybody’s home. They are fast, with awesome and evil powers. They are harmless, until you make a deal with them. Usually you could sit down with them for a 3 minute chat, or just play with them. If you have their hair, they will try to take it back from you. However, once they take it, they will kill you. They don’t like to be a slave to humans, but they like humans as being their slave. 

 

“So what do they do, drink blood and eat flesh?” I asked.

 

“No my son, they claim your soul forever.” They replied. Sounds pretty bad and good at the same time.

“You guys worship this Gudra Bonga?” I asked.

 

They said that they didn’t worship the god, but instead they said that they liked to make deals now and then, even though they knew it was a bad deal and idea.

Why not work hard and work to get rich to solve the problem? But they replied with another question, “Don’t you make deals with your god?” I said no, and instead I ask for everything, whatever I need. They asked me whether I got it in return, and I told them, yes and no. Then they said that, “Well then there is no guarantee whether you are going to get it or not.” I just said “Let’s see, I need good grades. For that I need to study hard, so I ask my God to help me memorize and study. I also want to be rich. For that I need to work hard. For example, I need to acquire a job that pays lots of money, or invest so I can get a big return. For staying healthy, I need to take care of myself with a healthy lifestyle, such as exercising, nutritious food, keeping a stress free life, and then I ask God to help me with all of these things. So usually those are the things that I ask God for. So did I get it right? Do you people understand what I’m talking about?

 

Those village people said “Oh wow. We never heard such an explanation. Sounds about right. So you believe in your God, and in return your God doesn’t ask you to give anything?”

“No, my God does ask me to give in return, a lot of things, such as not lying, or stealing, or envy my neighbors, or their materials, or children or education. I also should honor my elders and parents and grandparents. I should only have one God, worship one God, and believe in one God. Some of these types of things I have to do in return for him. They were absolutely in awe, and puzzled about the whole thing. They turned to my mother and asked if what I was talking about was correct. She said yes. They asked, “How come we didn’t know?” She told them that their parents and grandparents knew, but they are just the new generation who don’t know, because the world has changed. Time has changed, and there is no more storytelling happening. Therefore, you lost the history, but when I come back, you guys are more than welcome to come in the evening to my house, and I will tell you the stories. And you can tell me some of your stories that I have forgotten about. Your God, your rituals, traditions, can we do that? They were very happy to hear that, and they wanted to continue the exchange of knowledge.”

 

Anyway, back to the Gudra Bonga. As you can see, I couldn’t make any deals with the Gudra Bonga even though Alex mercilessly teased me and bossed me around. I still couldn’t bring myself to sacrifice him, but I still do want to meet this god, and I still would like to capture a lock of hair. Maybe I could bring it to the US, and I’m sure that in the US the Gudra Bonga would not follow me. Therefore, we are going to this village, and we are going to stay there, and try to find and chase the Gudra Bonga. Honestly, I could direct a movie knowing what I know about the dwarf demigod now. Turns out, there are a couple other stories which I need to write down at some point. There is really a ton of things to learn.

 

But my question is, how many of you seriously want to make a deal with the Gudra Bonga? And how would you do that? I would seriously like to know, combining the science, technology, and plans, how one could capture it, and how to make a deal with it. I would really like to hear that. And on that note, I’m going to sign off and start packing.

 

This is Vishal, signing off.

January 1st, 2018 – Happy New Year and Dobo

It’s 80+ degrees people. I woke up with a sweat, and my parents greeted me with a happy new year. But before we started our work we sat down and prayed, just like any other day. My mom’s New Year feast was halfway cooked, and the rest she was going to cook after the service. After breakfast, she rushed everybody to get ready for church, and then we finally went to church. After church, it was a marathon of greetings, and seriously I greeted people over and over. It seemed like they couldn’t get enough greetings. You see, Indian greetings is that you bow down 90 degrees, and make a fist on your forehead if you are the younger. It’s called Dobo’ [last vowel is pronounced as a half-vowel that doesn’t exist in the English language]

I got really tired of doing it. I quickly switched to shaking hands. A question arose, how many Dobo should someone do a day? After asking my mom, she laughed and said that I was asking it like a doctor’s prescription. Her answer was as many as times as you can, because in return you get a blessing, and that never leaves you empty handed. “Your blessings will be fulfilled in life, trust me on that one.” was what she said. Then, after lunch, I had to go to a picnic. Everybody had to bring snack food, and it was for a gathering of hundreds of people. There was a sharing of all the food together, so lots of eating and drinking tea. There was also sports, and bible quizzes, and general knowledge quizzes. All of these were in a group, so it was a team effort to win. People seemed to really get into these kinds of things. I was also told that back then, when my mom was youth in this congregation, she and her sister were always wanted in the group, because they always seemed to win. After enjoying all that we went again to the Jali. And that you very much know about already.

 

This is Vishal, signing off

 

December 31st, 2017 – Marathon of Church Services

Yes, you heard me. We go to a regular church service today, which is 3 hours, then in the evening we go to the New Year’s Eve church service, which is also 2 and a half hours, so between the two church services, you day is practically over. The youth will ring the bell at midnight to tell all that the new year is here. One thing I did notice was that today was the day that every single person around the community had to take a shower, and clean their home. After that, they pray, regardless of their religion. Why, you ask? It is a way to say goodbye to 2017. They pray for God to keep them safe towards the end of the year, and keep them safe as they merge into 2018. People make plans for the New Year’s picnic, and get ready to welcome 2018. I learned that we will also be going to the New Year’s picnic, just like during Christmas time when everybody was planning for the feast. You could see the local people in the Hatya buying all sorts of food, such as chicken, beef, pork, fish, or vegetables, if you are vegetarian. What I noticed was that whether you are vegetarian or not, people tend to eat a lot of vegetables. What they don’t eat, is fruits. Turns out, they actually don’t have the availability of fruit like we do in the US. In America, if you want mangoes and strawberries in winter, you will get it. Here however, everything is seasonal, and people respect that seasonal availability and prosperity. Indian summers is an abundance of fruit, and Indian winters are an abundance of vegetables. There were times when I read about how foods were available for 100 miles in the US, but I never realized how that mattered until now. But that did make me realize how spoiled and blessed I was at the same time, to have that availability of whatever food I want. In India, I could not tell you how many times I just craved for some Nutella, or some cereal. I did luckily happen to bring my Nutella, but it went so fast. Next time I’m going to have to double up on that. I guess I have nothing much to tell you other than what I just did. I’m kind of frustrated and bored right now. Can’t pinpoint why.

 

This is Vishal, signing off

 

December 30th, 2017

Alex and I often wondered how old the girls were in India. We asked our Mom, and she said that the girls we were talking about were 25 and above. But I tell you, to us, they looked like they were teenagers. My mom then said that we should blame the Indian DNA. They age gracefully. However, they get dark circles faster than anybody in the world, which is actually true. Almost every young girl had dark circles, yet they did look really young. Then we asked how a 15 or 16 year old girl looked like, and when she showed us, we couldn’t believe our eyes because they looked like my sister! They are not tall at all, nor are they heavyset. In fact, it is the other way, very short, and very very petite. It seemed like they couldn’t do things on their own. If they go somewhere, they had to tell their parents, and they had to come back a certain time. If not, then somebody would have to go after them. This would never fly in the US, would it? But the rules simply didn’t apply to boys. Again, will this fly in the US? Indian boys and girls and family are very focused on education, and sometimes it felt like they lived in a hollow world, in terms of showing forward thinking. But in reality, they just couldn’t seem to escape from their traditional thinking and doing. That put them in an odd place, and sometimes, if you could see it, it made them seem ridiculous. Smartphones obviously don’t help. Indians are also very keen on being photographed. Now that practically everybody has smartphones, even beggars (and I’m not exaggerating about this, I witnessed it) they take photos left and right even though the photos are really crappy and bad. They like to photoshop themselves portraying themselves as absolutely rich and famous. As we were talking, my mother explained, why do you think Indian movies have everything? Action, romance, and drama. Because Indians like to escape from the reality by watching movies that have everything. That’s when they get their money’s worth. If it is only action, Indian people face and experience those actions 365 days a year 24/7. Therefore, they need that hollow escape. So in Facebook, why should I profile myself as a real person? Why not photoshop myself with a background of a Bugatti, or with a famous celebrity? Because it feels good, and it’s my escape haven. Then we understand how real it is, and we understand why we do it. It’s a hard life. What do US people do for escaping their reality? Binge-eating? Compulsive exercise? Maybe compulsive Netflix watching. I don’t know. For some perhaps gaming.

 

This is Vishal, signing off

December 29th, 2017 – “Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, then it’s not the end.”

Today we decided to not do anything, and instead stay at home. I posted a couple more blogs, and made some notes. I then went to the field, and I stopped at a place called “Jaher” in the middle of the field. I couldn’t find any people who could explain to me what it was, so I started to walk back when I saw lots of cattle grazing. Cute goats and sweet little calves. I played with them, There were also water buffalos, and I spotted a “Sarh,” or bull. It was one of the largest animals I had seen in a while, bigger than a full grown horse. It looked like nothing but a powerhouse animal. Don’t even mess with it. I asked whether anybody got killed by the animal, and they said that people did get injured, but they didn’t die. You mess with the bull, you get the horns. Hah. I saw that a lady brought a huge bucket of water for the cow, and those two full buckets were gone in minutes. I also asked a farmer why he was putting his rice paddies on the ground, and he answered that it was easy for them to harvest it like that. There are so many things to know and learn, and back home I feel like my classroom is so boring. Yes, I am learning how to do math, but what I have learned right now, that education, there is simply no way I could have acquired it in the classroom. Surprisingly, I didn’t even miss my smartphone. I was so busy. I didn’t even realize that I was cut off from so called “civilization.” All I had there was people, and no running water, no electricity, and periodic buses, and just about anywhere and everywhere there were people walking. I don’t even have medical access if something were to happen to me. Yet, I was blissfully unaware of all of what I mentioned. Which is, in this case good, because by the grace of God, I was healthy, happy, and safe. As in India they say, “Everything will be ok in the end. If it’s not ok, then it’s not the end.”

 

This is Vishal, signing off