Monthly Archives: February 2015

The “White Man’s” Tax

Today as I visited a “bargaining” market, Sarojini, here in New Delhi, I got to see just how starkly different the white woman is treated from the Indian woman.  It is common knowledge that an expat is going to be price gouged in many ways and it is often called the “white man’s tax.”  Today, a couple of down to earth Indian women got to see first hand the experience.

In our church, I am involved in the women’s organization, the Relief Society, and I work closely with three other women in planning for our meetings and looking after the women in our organization.  One woman is getting married and the four of us thought it would be a very kind gesture to buy a wedding gift for the bride from the Relief Society organization.  Knowing the limited resources that these other three women have, I offered to purchase the gift if I could get some direction on what to buy.  Clothing for the bride was the unanimous suggestion, which really put me at a loss, as I knew I was the wrong woman of the four of us to be making that decision.  So we made it a group effort and we headed to the market together.

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One of the women with me in the stall bargaining.

Before meeting this morning, one of the women called me to let me know it would probably be best if the Indian women did the bargaining.  I have lived in India long enough to have understood that reasoning.  As we got out of the car at the market, I let them know that I would just stand to the side as they looked and bargained.  Well, the first stall we approached, I was evidently not standing far enough away from the rest of them as the shopkeeper gave them a very overpriced amount for the item.  I caught on real quick that I was not helping here.  So for the rest of the time as we walked the market, I sauntered well behind and did not go near the stall when they looked at the items.  Once the items had been chosen and bargained for, I entered the stall with them.  These wonderful women got to see a little of my world as street vendors haggled me as we walked down the road and high prices were sent my way, but for me it was just another day in Delhi.

When Tyler and I had some culture training after arriving in India, we learned that in India there is a belief that if one can take advantage of someone, they should.  Honesty does not even cross most of their minds.  One of our drivers has told us that 90% of the drivers in New Delhi are dishonest.  It can be the siphoning of gas off your car or returning the receipt with prices a little higher than expected as they added a little something on for themselves.  This mindset is prevalent from the neighbors deciding its okay to connect their electricity to your lines so that they don’t have to pay their own bill to the taxi or auto rickshaw driver announcing that the meter is broken when they see me coming.  Honesty is truly a virtue and what a day it was at the market to see just how starkly different the price is for me versus a normal Indian woman.

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India’s Largest Pottery Village

For anyone who feels like they bring their work home with them or can’t seen to ever leave it — well, that is a daily living reality for 700 families that live in the largest pottery village in India.  I had the opportunity to go on a fascinating tour of this pottery village with a few other expats and learn about their life.  Let me just say, that it is indeed a life of hard work with very little monetary return.

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An overview of one street of the village.

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Notice the pots lining up any available spot to dry in the sun.

In the 1960s a drought in Rajasthan started the flow of this pottery village towards New Delhi.  They originally set up homes in the center of Delhi, but found that due to their work and lifestyle, being on the outskirts of Delhi was a much better plan for them.  The wood fired kilns that are located in every household make living outside the center of the city a much better plan for everyone.  The air, as I have previously written about, is already highly polluted but on this tour, I am sure I breathed some of the most unclean air to date — yet it is the daily life of these people.

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This is pretty much the entrance seen at every home — a kiln with clay products everywhere.

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“Buffalo chips” drying along the side of one house ready to be used for fuel.

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Notice how old pots are used to finish the wall of this home.  When our tour guide first started doing these tours several years ago, many of the homes had at least one wall that was made of unused pottery.  It helps in insulating the homes.  But they are higher maintenance so as they crumble and start to come apart, most of the people have just used bricks to replace the wall.  There are only about 7-8 homes in the village that still have an insulated “pottery” wall.

The average family consists of about 10 members, extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.  Within that family of 10 about 4-5 members are working their pottery business.  Within this pottery village there is only one “factory” where a man has hired help to work his pottery business.  He produces the highest volume with just a few other workers that can create a pot in just minutes.  Every piece of pottery seen within New Delhi comes from this village.  75% of the village produces the standard core pieces of pottery — pots, piggy banks, pumice stones.  These products are certain to be sold but make just pennies on their profit.  The other 25% of the potters risk a bit more by making home decorating type items that return a bit higher profit but take the gamble on whether it will sell or not.

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We witnessed street dogs, wandering cows, roosters and horses among the occupants.

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These are the pumice stones.  Before placing in the kiln, they dip the bottom in barley seed so that when it is fired, the seeds break off but leave the rough bottom.

Pottery drying in the sun is seen everywhere that there is a space to safely place it.  During India’s biggest holiday, Diwali, the roads are carpeted with clay dias drying that every household in India uses to place candles on to burn for the holiday.  In the front of each house, piles of products ready to be turned into clay is seen.  The process of breaking down the clumps, sifting the rocks, mixing the clay and then kneading it to make a smooth, consistent clay to be placed on the potter’s wheel is done right there by the doorstep of the home.  The women do much of the beginning work to make the clay ready for the potter’s wheel (based on what I saw in the village), with only the men sitting at the potter’s wheel to make the finished product.  These professionals are so good at their work that we witnessed large pots being made in just minutes.

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These children are standing where one cay see the different piles of prepping to make the clay ready for kneading.

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The women are prepping the clay.

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Little babies and toddlers spend their days right along the sides of their mothers working.

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Some boys playing marbles in an open space.

We each got our turn at the potter’s wheel but let’s just say that the man helping us really did all the work.  The man that helped us was 25 years old and had been working at a potter’s wheel since he was nine years old.  It was amazing to see the ability he had to turn out a basic pot in a few minutes.  He truly has mastered his trade.

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One of the men working in the small “factory” that is located in the village.

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My finished product which the man helping us really completed, not me, but it was fun to see how they do it.