One would imagine that sitting in a building with a glass façade, surrounded by cubicle walls on three sides makes people forget the realities of the world. But as often is the case, people end up surprising us.
As we stood in front of the glass façade of the Koramangala office of Optum on a chilly morning, we were heartened by the constant stream of employees who gathered to take a 6 hour bus ride to Heggodu, a small village near Shimoga. Not that their enthusiasm was surprising.
Optum and their employees have now been supporting Rang De’s cause for close to a year and have significantly helped us spread our message.
As the sun came up over Bangalore city, a group of 30 individuals left on a bus in anticipation of visiting one of our Impact Partners, Charaka and meeting the women there who have started their journey out of poverty and claimed the freedom to work for themselves.
An early breakfast was followed by a long ride through roads that cut through a lush green landscape interspersed with small towns. We reached Charaka at around 2.30 pm, more than a little famished after the long journey.
At Charaka, we found an appetising lunch of boiled rice, fragrant sambar and boiled vegetables waiting. All of us stood in queue with our plates and glasses to get our portion of this simple and sumptuous fare. Well-fed and happy, the group dispersed to take in the surroundings and talk to the women there. The constant clacking of tailoring machines and the sight of women deeply engrossed in their work made them hesitate, but only for a while. It was not long before curiosity kicked in and the wariness morphed into friendly banter, pictures being clicked and processes being explained.
Our next stop was a short 10 minute ride to the place where the cotton is spun, dyed and block printed.
At this place, with charakas spinning and yarn being spun, we had a distinct feeling of entering a hallowed space, a place where work was accorded a space of prominence, of worship. Most of us stood and stared with fascination, loath to disturb the women as they worked.
Considering we were at a weavers co-operative, what could be the logical step but to set out on a shopping spree? A little distance away from where the cloth was being spun, the cashier’s skills at the small Desi store were seriously tested as a small troop was let loose, buying everything in sight, from shirts, to kurtas and quilts.
By this point, just when we felt that people would be fatigued from the journey, the team from Optum suprised us by turning up the energy a couple of notches and insisted on a trip to the majestic Jog Falls. The team from Optum sang, swapped stories and laughed, keeping up the energy as we got back on our way.
Our hopes of reaching Bangalore at 1 am had now been rubbished by the driver who told us to sleep in peace. We would only make it back to Koramangala at the same time we left the previous day, just in time to see the sun rise.
Were the 24 hours worth it? An employee summed it up for us beautifully, when in all humility, she said that what she had witnessed made her feel she had made the right choice with Rang De and that this journey helped her find inspiration in a typical village woman, whom most city folk have inadvertently ignored till today.
Would you like to go on a field trip with us? Write in to firstname.lastname@example.org to enquire about upcoming field visits. Also, you can support Rang De’s borrowers in Karnataka by making a social investment here.