Anyone who knows a little about India, may ask why visit Bhopal. Bhopal is the capital of the state of Madhya Pradesh in India, it is known as the City of Lakes and it is about 40% Muslim, but is not a tourist destination. In fact, while I was there I could count on a few fingers the number of foreigners I saw. An Indian friend who owns a home décor business invited me there. And since I had always wanted to go to India, I replied with a big ”Yes!”. I imagined that my visit would be a great opportunity to source and design products for the fair trade organization I worked for.
My first four days in India were spent in New Delhi getting acclimated to the climate, food and overpopulation. On my fourth day in Delhi, I arrived at the train station at 6:30 am to catch the express train to Bhopal. I was shocked by the smell and by the sight of so many people, young and old, sleeping on the floor. It made me feel terrible. I thanked God for my life, but my sorrows went out to the innocent children, born into this world and forced to sleep on a dirty, hard floor with little or no blanket, and no understanding of the comforts we take for granted.
In Bhopal, the manager of the home décor workshop, Sudhir and his niece, Sanga, were eagerly awaiting my arrival. As the passengers got off, there was a mad rush of people pushing through and trying to get out of the train station. I didn’t understand, if half the people would wait a little bit, the whole transition out of the train station would have been a lot smoother, but that is the way things go in India. There is no order and lots of chaos!
Sanga showing me hand embroidery work Sudhir proudly wearing a New Orleans t-shirt I gave him
Sudhir and Sanga took every precaution to get me out of the train station safely, including telling me exactly where to walk. They were very worried about protecting me and wanted to make sure they were treating me like a princess. In the Hindu religion, it is said that you should treat guest like Gods and that is exactly how I was treated. Sanga, who is a sweet, young girl, likes to dress in modern clothing and speaks only the best English. And even though she does not work in the workshop, she acted as my personal translator during my visit.
When we arrived at the workshop, everyone was eagerly awaiting my arrival. Most of them had never met someone from outside of India. I can only imagine them telling the story to all their friends as “the time a foreigner came to visit the workshop and bought products to be sent back to America!” The next few days were spent getting to know the ethics, values and products that are made by the home décor business.