The way we have started processing information, specially the emotional side of it, was an area I never really bothered about until I encountered an experience a few weeks back, here in Odisha.
A man bought a shirt, which could be any other regular incident but for me, it wasn’t. As a part of the project on which I am working, my supervisor and I were visiting farm lands in tribal regions of Odisha in order to promote and support organic practices of farming. One of the farmers involved in our project told us how this year, the yield did not meet his expectations and his earning from selling the millet he grew this season, was only Rs 800. Later, we saw the same farmer buying a shirt for Rs 600 from a vendor who gets these items in the village on a bike.
Thinking about it, I feel strange. Why would this make me upset!
Could it be because my urban trained mind could not accept the transaction in which that farmer spent a major portion of his income on a shirt which according to me, wasn’t even of great quality? In my ideal world, he was supposed to utilize that money for other important purposes such as food or education for his children. Also, if we check Fab stores of India or even Amazon, the same millet could have fetched a far higher price such as Rs 120 per kg instead of the meager Rs 20 for which he sold it. I could conclude his choice as irrational because he was not in a position to afford that shirt.
The degree certificate I earned and all the formal education I had received, shouted in my head “Dude! It’s your duty to guide him, show him how to manage money”, and I diligently set out following that voice, but was fortunately careful enough not to pour myself directly onto the farmer. This time I thought I will try to list out the facts from what I heard, saw and observed, rather than directly getting into a manipulative discussion. The end result was the following three points:
- The transportation facilities available are minimum here, and expensive for farmers to access nearby market
- There are no food processing or storage facilities available to them
- He wanted that shirt and so, he bought it
There are many things which will make sense only in his universe and it’s better to accept that none of us can ever march into it. Getting a grasp of the limitations of our senses and knowledge is in one way, a relief, in this chaotic life. On the other hand, it makes me question everything that I imagine for others, especially while working in the development sector.