My favorite thing about going back to India is visiting my family who live in Madikeri. The reason it is one of my favorite places is because I can spend my time at our family’s coffee plantation. Our estate has been in our family for many generations and each child in the Mahendra family gets a plot of land in time.
When I was younger I thought our estate was a jungle. My brother and I used to climb trees, hike through known paths and pick berries/jack fruit. We would wake up early in the morning, put on our gumboots and race out the door. Of course, we were never allowed out alone because of the wild boars and poisonous snakes, but it sure did feel like an adventure.
When I got a little older, I became more interested in the business itself. I would wake up and do roll call with my grandfather or I would drive around the estate with my uncle checking the crops.
What always caught my attention was that it was very male dominated. All the labor workers were women and as the chain of command went up, it was all men. Out of the four children my grandparents had, the only sibling who inherited the land was my Uncle Ganesh. He was the youngest sibling, but it had always been decided that he was going to get the land after my grandfather was too old to maintain it.
Women were able to pick the coffee beans but were never given any real power in the farming industry. This isn’t unique to my family’s plantation. Many women around the world are designated to jobs that don’t interfere with housekeeping and wife roles. There is no sense of empowerment or choice in this line of work for women. Through my research of natural beauty products in India, I noticed that this could be a great way to bring dignity and empowerment into the lives of Indian women. These are products that people, especially women, use regularly and they can be a part of the farming process. Coffee, tea and henna paste are a few examples of products that can be farmed by women.
Kulkarni, Vishwanath. “The March Down South”. The Hindu Business Line. N. p., 2015. Web. 19 Sept. 2016.http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/news/variety/the-march-down-south/article6902316.ece
If you live in a place like Karnataka India, there is so much land that can be used for cultivation. One issue of land starts from it being exploited by foreign companies, but another issue is the fact that women never get the opportunity to be a big part of the process. This sense of dignity and empowerment is what I am looking for through my research.