I came back to the farm and–already–things had changed. Some people had left, more had arrived, some had arrived while I was gone and were about to leave… Here at the farm it is this ever-changing atmosphere of leaving and arriving, and, as sad as it can be sometimes, that’s one of the reasons why it is so wonderful.
One girl that had arrived was named Typhaine (all of the Indian workers laughed at this. Pronounced “Tea-Fun,” in Hindi, it translates to “Lunchbox”.) She was from this small little French colony and had been traveling on her own throughout India. We immediately connected and I was so excited to make another really awesome, really inspirational friend. We spent the rest of the day weeding and trying our hardest to communicate between her choppy (but very good) English and my rather impressive charades (due to my lack of French language knowledge). I was rather frustrated with my lack of knowledge of the rest of the world’s languages. To give myself credit, I know Spanish, but coming to this farm where all of these people from around the world (India, Brazil, Switzerland, France, Denmark, and the list continues to grow everyday) know my language, English, but I don’t know theirs is incredible frustrating; frustrating because (1) it’s difficult to communicate and (2) I feel like it’s almost a certain level of respect to know basics of the language of the country you are traveling to. The amount of times I wished I could implant the Google Translator app into my head is ridiculous. Even learning only a few words and phrases–from “hello” to “how are you?” to “it is very hot outside”–makes everyone smile with appreciation. At least you are trying to learn something.
All of this has only pushed me to learn more languages. I’m determined to be able to communicate with more people from all over the world.
That night, after weeding and napping and avoiding the sun, we made pizzas! It was one of the interns birthdays and all he wanted, more than anything in the world, was pizza. Seeing as the farm is a vegan farm, we had to avoid the beauty that is pepperoni and sausage (although I’m not really sure where we would find that in India), but one of the other interns at the farm lived in Italy for six months at a pizzeria. We feasted like kings that night.
They even made sure to make me my own gluten free pizza, for which I almost cried out of thanks.
Sitting around the oven, adding veggies and oils and whatever else we wanted on top, it was one of my favorite memories being at Navdanya. Someone snuck out her computer and we jammed to Spotify, playing non-Bollywood music, munching on non-Indian food.
Giggles and laughs and stories were shared as we all celebrated the Birthday Boy. As the night continued on, Typhaine and I bonded more and she confided with me something that was horribly troubling her.
“He was a holy man, so I thought it was fine,” she began, “but then his hands started trailing to areas that I no longer felt comfortable with.” As she told me about her travels to one of the holy cities, I could read the conflicting emotions in her eyes: “I just feel as if part of it is my fault. Everyone warned me to be careful. And I thought I was… I guess not enough.” I was horrified, shocked, and empathetic, assuring her over and over that it is not her fault, that he should be ashamed for doing anything like that, that he should be ashamed for calling himself a holy man.
In this moment it seemed to click for me about the problems women face here in India, especially with having their voices heard. They aren’t always seen as people with important opinions and thoughts and feelings… that is, unless they are married or connected to a man. Of course, there are exceptions where women are seen as equals or even cherished for being women, but, from my and other’s experience, it’s hard to be taken seriously if you aren’t connected to a man. A woman traveling on her own, like Typhaine, isn’t taken seriously because she isn’t with a man, and, therefore, may be taken advantage of like she was. On matters as simple as booking a hotel, you had to write either your husband’s name or your father’s name in order to get a room. In order to get a phone SIM, you had to have proof of your father’s last name or else you wouldn’t be able to purchase it. A friend of mine would wear a fake wedding ring just so other men would see, “Oh, she’s connected to a man,” and would see her with more importance.
This could be a big reason why there are so few women working on the Navdanya farm. Even on the farm, where international people filter in and out all of the time with their up-and-coming, turn-of-the-century ideas about the economy, environment, and/or society, it is evident that the women aren’t taken as seriously by the men. I wouldn’t want to work in an area that didn’t hold my opinion of importance either!! It’s difficult to change this, though, because it is not a “Navdanya issue” but a “society issue.” As much of a bubble the farm can be, it is not completely sheltered. This is something I’ll be looking to research when I return to see if there is anything anyone has done anywhere to ail this problem.
After a good night of eating and celebrating, we all went to sleep stuffed and happy, simply pleased to be in each others’ company. Despite the troubles we had all faced on our own individual journeys, we had all come to Navdanya to help each other heal. And I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of it.