Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The first get-together of the present malkha collective which includes the machine operators from the Andhra production centres, staff of Decentralized Cotton Yarn Trust and Malkha Marketing Trust, members of Fractal & research students working on malkha issues was held on February 27 & 28 and March 1 (as the government of India's budget was being presented in Delhi) in a seaside village on the Andhra Coast. For those who came from the inland centres it was the first experience of the sea and the life of local fisherpeople, and it took a while for the less adventurous ones to step into the waves. The roar of the waves reminded Jayamma from Siricilla of the sound of the powerlooms!

It was the first time that problems were discussed on a common platform and managers and operators realized that others too faced some of the same constraints, and were also able to sympathize with others who had worse problems than themselves. There were exercises on management and finance, including one on fabric pricing with the recent huge jump in cotton prices. A whispered message "Satyanarayana's daughter went to the movies with Raju without permission" went round the circle to become "Satynarayana's wife has left him" - and there was no more need to stress communication problems.

Solidarity grew over the three days with the fun and games, many of them on the beach. The Fractal team of 5 shared Sunday afternoon with us, and gave the group an enlightening account of the long and difficult 15 year journey of machine development from a rusty set of discarded khadi pre-spinning machines to the present.

The Burgula operators put on a hilarious impromptu skit with Suresh as a fake astrologer. Srikanth as his client was a doctor who had studied upto standard 3; all those who had only passed the first grade had got Government jobs, he said. He himself had killed many people and could afford to pay the astrologer's astronomical fee as he had sold two patients' kidneys. The astrologer's ready wit and repartee was hugely enjoyed by the audience.

At the end of the three days there was a great sense of fellow-feeling and most of the participants were keen that such events should happen at least once a year.

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