In my last post I mentioned about two French students, who arrived in Wardha on 17th October from France to explore problems of Vidarbha farmers. I wish to introduce Miss Perrine Deschellette, a student of Business Management in Edhec Business School Lille, France and Miss Mathilde Spini, a student of Ancient Languages (Dead Languages) in University d’Aix En Provence, France. They are in India for a six month exploration tour to understand the cultural aspects and problems of the Indian sub-continent in the grass-root levels. Vidarbha was high on their priority list as French farmers are also facing similar problems with GM Crops and organic farming.
These two were introduced to me through Mitesh Thakkar, Mumbai. They arrived late in the evening and we had a lengthy discussion about various issues connected with farmers in both the countries. While I have been reading a lot about farmers from all around the world, who are facing similar problems, they stated that even in France, the situation is no different. People are more conscious to prefer organic produce (for healthy living) in their everyday lives in France and don’t hesitate to pay more for organic vegetable or fruits... however, the organic movement is yet to catch up in a big way there. Cost of production, high labour wages, high seeds’ rates, costly poisonous chemical fertilizers & pesticides, the middle men and traders’ lobby are similar in both the countries with the only difference that the French farmers don’t commit suicide unlike farmers in Vidarbha.
They had arrived from Ahmedabad after exploring half of Gujarat and Mumbai. Both the young girls are a very good student of Hindi and in their one month stay had picked up very well the basic sentences to interact with shopkeepers and strangers on the street. Their efforts and wonderful pronunciation of Hindi surely amazed me to a great deal and I was very impressed with their zeal to learn more about nation’s amazing culture and language. The next day, I took them to Gitai Mandir in Wardha on a short walk in the evening. We surely became the centre of attraction wherever we went in Wardha.
Perrine reveals, “This is one of the first times in India where we saw people praying together, which was really a nice experience. The manner was different as compared to other Buddhist’s followers but it was nice to see the gathering in the temple.” When I told them Wardha is a small town, they were surprised. They were amazed to hear the facts and state the following about the small town, “Wardha is amazing in many aspects and for us it is a big city but you people call it a small town. It’s very strange because with so much population and area Wardha is still a small town of India, where as in France with so much population it would be called a big city. Wardha is a classical city in many ways, couldn’t see big-big government office buildings unlike other Indian cities. It has interesting daily experiences with various occupations like visiting market every day to buy vegetables or snacks etc etc... People are very nice and helpful in the markets and, shopkeepers were very helpful to guide us... to buy at the right price, something we have not witnessed so far in Bombay or Gujarat.”
Perrine & Mathilde interacting with villagers in Naigaon (Gugus)
At home, they were enjoying Indian cuisine and loved the chillies pickle that I make. Honestly, I was very surprised to see them enjoying spicy Indian food and chillies pickle because French cannot just live without their cheeses and here were two beautiful girls enjoying spicy vegetables curry made in mustard oil. What I liked about Perrine and Mathilde is their approach to learn more about the grass-root problems and how we live in extreme conditions with no hangs up of a tourist. One thing I must say, while I cooked Indian cuisine for them, they in turn cooked some interesting French cuisine for me.
The next day, we planned to visit the two villages – Salod and Khurjadi (Fort) to interact with the farmers’ widows and their children.