“I am Full of Hope for the Future”

Sustainable fashion designer Uma Prajapati talks about bloody cotton, high-speed trains and why she never wanted to become a business woman.

DSC00121Uma Prajapati in her apartment in India. Image Credit: Mia Windisch-Graetz

January 7, 2016. 3:22 P.M. Auroville, South India.

“Hold on tight or you won’t survive,” I keep telling myself while sitting on the back of Uma Prajapati’s motorcycle. The rebellious driving style of the fashion designer and founder of Upasana clearly reflects her obstinate approach to her career path. We are on the way to her apartment, where I interview her over a cup of tea. Besides her impressive book collection, design furnishings and a kitchen everyone in their twenties can only dream about, it is her story that fascinates me.

MIA WINDISCH-GRAETZ Tell us about your career progression, where you studied, where you worked, who influenced you.

UMA PRAJAPATI After I finished my studies in economics in my hometown Bodh Gaya, I went to New Delhi. There I did my major in fashion design at the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) from which I graduated in 1994. Then, I worked two years for the European fashion market in Delhi. For a design project I came to Auroville in 1996. I remember I only had 2,000 rupees in my pocket, less than 30 euros. Actually, I was supposed to be there for two weeks but those weeks turned into years. And well, I ended up creating Upasana in 1997. Wow, it’s now been twenty years since I first got here.

MWG What does sustainable fashion mean to you?

It means to care. Once you start to care about people and the environment, the ways you make decisions will change. This twist in your mind comes naturally. The way you think changes. And your plans change. You really have to plan ahead to dodge around big conglomerates that only want to make profit.

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MWG What inspired you to create Upasana? 

UP A couple of things. A little more than ten years ago, thousands of cotton farmers in India committed suicide because of the rising costs of farming brought about by Monsanto. It has driven them to crippling debt. They felt they had no other choice. That really hit me. And change happens when it hits you. It doesn’t come easy but when you get hit and cry helplessly, that is when you find the change.

Since then it became very clear to me that fashion has to be sustainable. I worked in fashion and with cotton at this time. I had to live with that. I felt responsible for what happened. Many people in India pretend to not know what’s really going on. There is a seed mafia and farming communities are not well educated. I knew that everyone would just continue the way they work. Why is the world so unfair? Fashion is the second largest industry in the world. And it’s a really bloody business. When we started to work with cotton farmers in South India, it changed my life. What I could do to help these people? I had the choice to either write nasty articles and blame others, or I could just go ahead and change the way I work and consume. And that’s what I did. At first, it was hard but I realized that positive conversation has a far greater effect than negative conversation for a positive cause. I thought, Okay, I will give you fashion but I will make it my own way. I also wanted to create a space where young professionals from all over the world can come and explore Auroville through textiles and design.

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Upasana Spring/Summer 2015 Collection. Image Credit: Upasana

MWG You said ‘a couple of things.’ What else hit you?

UP There was an old lady. I encountered her in a village where I was running a project to empower local weavers in South India. When I was sitting there, next to our car, about to go home again, she suddenly came over to me. She nudged me and asked: ‘Would you support us too?’ I did not expect that and just asked her: ‘What do you want me to do?’ She just wanted to work and earn a few rupees a day. This woman was about sixty and still had a dream. The dream of only earning a few rupees a day.

MWG How is Upasana a sustainable fashion brand?

UP We only use cotton from local farmers. Going organic was the biggest change we have ever made. The clothes are made by our seamstresses and tailors at Upasana. And we only use high quality, naturally dyed fabrics that are made in India.

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Image Credit: Upasana

MWG Sounds very costly… Between ourselves, does it pay off?

UP To be honest, it really broke us financially. We did not realize how badly it would hit our business. I did it all wrong. I jumped in blindly. If I had known how difficult it would all be, I would have done things differently. Instead of taking a leap of faith I might have taken baby steps in the right direction. Despite everything, I am very proud of that move.

MWG Why did you choose fashion as your medium for social change?

UP Because I didn’t know anything else. If I had known music I would have used music. If I were a writer I would’ve used writing…

MWG Every project you have started so far has been very successful. You launched a concept store in Pondicherry and sell your clothes throughout India. You give TED talks, CNN reported about you, and local designers as well as people from all over the world come to work with you. Was starting your own business always a dream of yours?

UP No. I never wanted to start my own business. I wanted to be an artist. Even as a child I was obsessed with painting and writing poetry. It was clear to me that I wanted to become a painter or a writer. I knew myself well enough to know that I wouldn’t be able to make money. Making money didn’t interest me at all. But then I came to Auroville and well, look at me now. I don’t know why, but something in me accepted that I am a business lady now. It took me a long time to digest that.

MWG What keeps you doing all of this?

UP I love the community. Many people appreciate us for what we do, for being consistent and for actually doing what we truly believe in. Bringing a sense of value in the fashion industry is what I am very proud of. I have a good night’s sleep, you know. And I am really grateful for all the support we get.

Priya look 2015 (55)
Image Credit: Upasana

MWG Did other girls you were growing up with have the same opportunities as you had?

UP Wow, that’s a very serious question. I can’t speak for other girls. I can just say that you have to jump at every opportunity life offers you. I just did it. When you keep on asking yourself questions like ‘Is it the right time? Can I? May I? Will I?’ and never risk anything, then you might risk that there might be no more chance. And the opportunity will be gone forever. Sometimes we just have to make decisions and act. I can think of so many girls in my class that had the exact same opportunities as I had but few put them into practice.

MWG Do you think people consciously ignore the work that goes into what they buy?

UP We are living in a high speed train. Everything is so fast. Now you are relaxing and listening to me, but as soon as the interview is over, you will go back into the train. The speed of life is accelerating and the demands to our flexibility are constantly rising. Sometimes we manage to communicate through three technical devices at the same time. Everyone is on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp. And we are expected to respond within seconds. There is such an overload of information. The question is, How do we process all of that? Our attention is limited. Being quiet enough to make a conscious choice is very hard nowadays.

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I personally need to mediate and do yoga for at least thirty minutes a day. It is challenging to make a conscious choice in times like these. When we hear that Africa suffers we say ‘Ah, that’s horrible!’ but a few seconds later, we forget about it because we get a Whatsapp message from a friend or see a funny post on Facebook. News touch our brain cells for just a few seconds and only a moment later, they do not exist any more. Because we have other problems. Because we do not feel responsible and don’t have time. I think that many people simply don’t know that the consumer has the power to make a conscious choice and change the world. So I would not blame anyone.

MWG Do you think that peopleʼs values regarding sustainability have changed in recent years?

UP Yes. Education is definitely changing people’s values more and more. Sustainability has never been such a big topic. It matters to us, our children and next generations. I am full of hope for the future! I am very, very hopeful.

Priya look 2015 (28)Image Credit: Upasana.

MWG Will they ever have the potential to compete with big fast fashion conglomerates such as H&M or Zara?

UP There will always be a market for both, as they address different target groups and meet different individual needs. I am sure that there will be more of a change but I can’t predict to what extent. There will certainly always be a place for people who want to promote an ethical lifestyle. Niche markets will always exist and find people who support them.

MWG In 2012 the second largest fast fashion retailer H&M launched its first conscious collection. Could sustainable fashion finally be going mainstream?

UP Not really. This idea sounds kind of utopian to me. We should see the world in many shades of grey. Nobody is perfect. And diversity is a beautiful thing. Let’s stay optimistic and say that although big companies will always exist, they may change their ways in order to become more successful in the coming years. People start to think differently, even if only at a slow pace.

MWG You are already working with many organizations and designers in India. Are there any other organizations or designers in your mind that you would like to work with? 

UP I am impressed how big the ethical fashion market in Europe is. I would like to work with the European sustainable design market.

MWG Which social development project are you most proud of? 

UP The little Tsunamika doll is still our most successful project. She is a darling. She is more than a living symbol. She is hope. She is love. It is impressive what a huge impact a small doll like her can have on people all over the world. In 2004, I wanted to help people who were affected by the devastation of the tsunami. So I employed women to make female dolls that are made of recycled waste that remained of the devastation. The doll cannot be bought or sold but only gifted. More than six million of them made it to eighty countries across the globe. And the Tsunamika story is told in schools ranging from Spain to Singapore.

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The Tsunamika dolls. Image Credit: Mia Windisch-Graetz

MWG  Where do you see Upasana in the next five years? 

UP Upasana has already inspired many students, organizations, designers, brands and people. We will just keep on designing for change. I want to do as many things as possible: Going international without going too crazy and breaking our neck, keep being financially sound and take baby steps to reach our goals. I see Upasana as a shining star.

 

Towards the end of the interview, the fashion designer suddenly jumped off the couch. Apparently, she was no longer in the mood to answer questions. “Let’s have more tea. We need a break.” After she persuaded me to try some vegan honey nut balls, (Prajapati’s lactose intolerance means one cannot find any diary products in the household), she offered me a ride back to my hostel for the night. Once I arrived, I posted a photo on Instagram and did some work for university while I kept my friends updated on Whatsapp. She was right. I was back. Back on that high-speed train.

By Mia Windisch-Graetz

 

The Impossible is Possible

By Mia Windisch-Graetz

Three dead bodies carried away by a bunch of six-legged murderers – in India one can have interesting encounters in the bathroom. I will never forget the moment when I discovered an ant colony that evidently split into three small groups in order to carry away three (still living) wasps. Attracted by the light in the sanitary facility, the wasps apparently got tired and while having a rest, they offered the perfect opportunity for an ambush attack by a hungry ant family.

Screen shot 2016-02-18 at 2.13.45 PM(Unfortunately, one can’t embed a video, so WATCH it HERE)

Without a doubt, an ant alone has no chance to defeat a wasp, but their teamwork as well as their extraordinary communication skills make them invincible.

Ants are considered as one of the best communicators among all beings worldwide: The lone ant follows the path marked earlier by her companions. Along the way, if it stumbles into a giant wasp that would feed many in their family, it releases a complex cocktail of chemicals to summon reinforcements which soon arrive. Not only do they know how to find the hunt, but they also bring the necessary tools and personnel to kill the wasp and bring the body back to their nest.

It sounds scary but is indeed clever: The ants’ efficiency at foraging has even inspired business and computer problem–solvers, who are looking for new techniques to come up with quality answers in the quickest time.

However, the wasp itself was never regarded as a problem. Instead, they transformed the ‘problem’ into a solution from the start. We should consider these brilliant little beings in the bathroom as role models. By transforming waste, ‘the problem’, into something useful through recycling, we kind of already did. Also, by creating communities, such as Auroville, that unifies people with similar aspirations in order to change the world and make it a more sustainable place, we kind of already did.

Furthermore, this encounter reminded me of our group: How they carry something big together, they move things together, solve problems together, think and act collectively, help and support each other.

Let’s do it the anty way and make the seemingly impossible possible. Let’s move things together that seem to be too big for an individual to carry. Let’s fight together against these waspish wasps, no matter if they are called Monsanto, pollution or waste.

Why come back to Auroville?

By Lory Martinez

As our time here comes to an end, I think a lot of us are asking ourselves questions about how Auroville has changed us, whether we will translate the environmental consciousness we learned here to our lives din Paris and beyond, but I’d like to add another thought to that…

Will we continue to think about our own self development in the same way?

I’m not talking about Spirituality per se, I do not know enough about  The Mother’s teachings to put forth her philosophies, but there is something  that happens in Auroville that happens in few other places: self – development, a questioning about our role as humans and what we can do to better ourselves in a transforming  world. This role can be anything from documenting bird sounds, to teaching greener waste practices to inspiring healthier eating through permaculture farming and so on.

There are many reasons to come to Auroville, but they all have one thing in common: a development of both the world and the self in one.

In this program we are all at a point in our lives where we wanted to make a change- turn left instead of right and continue our studies to learn more about what we can do as citizens of the world. For those of my peers who wish to go into the field of development,  there is a desire to create change on a global scale, but , at the same time achieve a  kind of self realization: to ultimately do a job that fulfills you, in any way. And we all feel that way.

This is a place where people have the opportunity to discover what they can do to contribute to a community. It is a place  where families have the time to be with their children while still trying to achieve their dreams of more sustainable living. It is a place for self-discovery.

The people I’ve met  here come from a number of different backgrounds, but they all do work they love, that they are passionate about, that makes them feel fulfilled.

And yet, many people come and go from Auroville: Guests and Tourists circulate this intentional community regularly. And even Aurovillians leave .

In fact, I’ve spoken to many Aurovillians who have left for many years only to decide, that Auroville is ultimately where they’d like to live.  Many leave for the same reasons people everywhere leave small towns: wanting to see more of the world, to discover who they are in a different space etc .

But the difference is, the ones who return to Auroville come back for the same  reasons- to find themselves, to discover who they are, whether they have changed for the better over time, whether  they have in fact had that moment of self-realization.  The difference is, Aurovillians who return understand the spirit of Auroville is not just an example for a better world within the sphere of sustainability, but also an example of the best self we can put forward to a world that needs our help.

And that’s why coming back here, whether it’s a year from now or ten years from now, isn’t such a bad idea. And even if we don’t come back, I’d like to think that we carry that spirit of changing ourselves for the better with us even as we fly back to our lives in Paris this evening.

Auroville, India: Building a Conscious & Sustainable Land

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I remember it like it was yesterday.
After extensive research, countless hours of writing essays and sorting out my finances, the time had come to make a decision about Grad-School. It pretty much came down to one distinguishable course none of the other universities could offer than The American University of Paris: a one-month Sustainable Development Practicum in India.

I have always believed that the future of our planet relies on people who understand the importance of nature, our environment, and those who have a true sense of compassion towards others.

As an activist, I believe that in order to make a difference, we need to educate people and educate ourselves. I have always known that knowledge is power; so learning the fundamentals of communications and understanding the development, transformations and challenges on today’s globalization is fundamental to me as a professional and as an individual.

It has been over two weeks since I first arrived to India and I have learned so much already from this wonderful country. Visiting over 28 organizations in Auroville the first ten days was not as easy as I had imagined. Between the jet lag, the extensive days and witnessing so much poverty and misery was physically and emotionally draining.

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I have always felt very alone on my journey to a conscious and responsible way of living. In India, I don’t feel this way. The city of Auroville is one of the first conscious communities in the world and I get to live here for one month. Auroville is also known for its high spiritual vibration and the creation of eco-friendly, ethical and sustainable projects. People here truly care about making a better and more sustainable world for themselves and future generations. Their passion is fascinating and contagious.

During my time in India I’ve learned about the astounding variety in virtually every aspect of social life. Diversities of ethnic, linguistic, regional, economic, and religious groups make India a mystical and captivating country. Indian society also has an immense urban-rural differences and gender distinctions, and as a result from this, most of the projects that were presented to us were projects that had been developed in the past 30 years as response to social, environmental and structural issues in Pondicherry and Auroville.

I have always been involved with animal rights organizations, but I must acknowledge that becoming familiar with projects in the areas of education, women empowerment, sustainable and ethical fashion, waste management and sustainable economics was fascinating as well as awe-inspiring.

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The perception of life after meeting people less fortunate than us can only make us more humble and appreciative for what we have in life. These people despite their economic situation strive to give back, to truly create change and impact people’s lives in a constructive manner. Getting to know them and work with them to communicate their mission is a real privilege.

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– Daniela Moreno

A Utopia of Networked NGOs: Is it Scalable?

As an intentional community located in Tamil Nadu on the Bay of Bengal, Auroville is a place to experiment and bring forth innovative ideas working towards all aspects of sustainable development. Aside from the beliefs and values held within the Auroville Charter, it is also a microscopic model of how communities can operate collaboratively to achieve many of the sustainable development goals as outlined by the United Nations. The priorities and values of Aurovillians is admirable and desirable in my view as someone from a Western upbringing striving to work in International Development, however is this microscopic laboratory a replicable model throughout India and other communities in the Global South?

After visiting about thirty non-profit organizations in and around Auroville over the span of seven days, we have been exposed to a broad array of inspirational projects that are working towards one or many of the sustainable development goals. They ranged from environmental and agricultural sustainability, to social development issues promoting education, equality and empowerment. In Auroville specifically, many of these organizations and the people involved work as an interdependent public to support their overall common goals of sustainability and development. For example, several organizations that utilize recycled or reusable materials and have a zero-waste policy such as Upcycle Studio, Eco Femme and WELL Paper are supporting the primary efforts of the organization WasteLess whose main objective is to raise awareness and education on harmful habits that threaten the environment. Auroville Village Action Group (AVAG) and WELL Paper are also both working to empower women through skills training and autonomous self help groups, or SHGs. AVAG assists in the selection process for the women who will be trained in creating eco-friendly products for WELL Paper. All of these are Auroville based NGOs, and there are many other instances of visible support and collaboration between the NGOs here.

It is clear that the organizations within Auroville support each other’s visions towards a common goal through various projects. However, even between Aurovillian NGOs and NGOs that we visited in Pondycherry, such interdependency and support is not so apparent. Therefore, can this model of networked NGOs who support and promote one another to succeed in their goals be applied in other areas of India and the Global South? Like anything in the field of development, it would need to be adapted for each particular culture and context. And it is likely that this is already the case in some communities, but perhaps not to the extent and concentration of Auroville…at least not to my knowledge.

While NGOs around India and globally likely do support one another within their realm of development, this high concentration of sustainability and development in almost every aspect of daily life and business that is visible in Auroville seems out of reach given the international complex systems of government, political views, social issues, and the corporate world…just to name a few. This paradox continues to follow me during my time here in Auroville, however I do remain optimistic as a future professional in the field that progress within NGOs and towards a healthy networked NGO model can be made as long as cultural context is first and foremost in assessing the development needs of any community.

-Cristina Castello

Auroville Invites Itself To a Great Challenge!

What does it mean to create a sustainable city? The citizens of Auroville attempt to answer this question with the creation of their innovative city in the South of India. This is a place where all the NGOs are invested in certain aspects of sustainability. From micro finance organizations, transgender politics to social entrenepreneurships, Auroville’s entire ecosystem is based on embracing sustainable lifestyles.

As newcomers, almost half of our team attempts to better understand the idealistic city by posing a lot of questions as student researchers. We are trying to understand if Auroville truly stands for what it aims to be. What will the future of Auroville look like? Is this type of city, free from independent organized governance, the only alternative way of establishing a democractic society?

So far, many of our questions remain unanswered.
However, it is hard to deny the power of knowledge and intelligence that are invested in this city. From creating a co-op grocery store, to creating a botanical garden in the land of red soil, and a library that includes a multitude of languages, Auroville puts great effort into achieving its goal. It is certain that Auroville Foundation aims to provide better life standards for those around the Auroville community.

For me, Auroville is a new born baby in a country with a colonial past. It is hard to assume that a place with social pressure would be attractive for entreprenual spirits and innovation. In fact, it is not only our group that has been trying to find answers to our questions about Auroville, nowadays Aurovillians are challenging themselves with the  same questions as well. “We are trying,” say the guest speakers from Outreach Media, who oversee the media in Auroville. We don’t know if we will succeed or fail, if the methods we are pursuing are going to help us to solve our difficulties or not.This is what almost every researcher who comes to Auroville asks. They are sceptical but we are trying. When we fail, we learn from our mistakes. Because this is an attempt to find better ways to live.”

Even with the best intentions, it is human nature to bring self serving qualities such as ego and greed. Not surprisingly, when a former worker from the surrounding village wanted to take what he has learned from the community and to open a pottery shop in his village, the situation created tension. In cases like this the community does not feel like a winner. It feels like one contributer less. It is the Foundation, what the Aurovillians rely on. Accordingly, individual attemps that are outside of the organization are not beneficial to community. And, since the Foundation has no juridicial power, Aurovillians try to prevent unwanted situations by using social pressure. Maybe I understand it all wrong. Maybe I am confused. But realizing the power of extraordinary know-how brought to the community by the villagers carries an importance. However, limited funds with great facilities that the Foundation provides for its villager workers, seems to be an another local employment challenge nowadays for Aurovillians to overcome.

Elif Ogunc

Chocolate Can Help Save the Planet

save worldWhile the above phrase is meant to be a joke, it actually is quite true. The cacao tree can aid in the healing of not only Earth but humans well.

Sustainable cacao tree growing is not only environmentally friendly, but assists in providing natural balance for forest vegetation. Also, it can grow simultaneously next to 50+ types of other trees (including the coconut tree which is very important to India considering it is one of the top exporters of coconut in the world) which naturally pollinate the cacao tree and therefore requires minimal, if no, use of chemical fertilizers.

cacao podsI know I stated that chocolate can heal humans and that might be a little farfetched. However, there are certain properties of the cacao bean that are beneficial to humans and can aid in improving our health. Consuming dark chocolate, in small quantities of course, can improve heart health, lower blood pressure, and packs some serious powerful antioxidants.

There is already a huge chocolate industry, so why are environmental and health benefits still being discussed? While that is correct, the industry is not all sunshine and rainbows. There is a darker side to the cacao industry which is not sustainable to human beings.

Luckily, the dark side of chocolate does not seem to be present in India, at least as much as in other parts of the world. India is not necessarily known for its cacao industry although many big chocolate companies, such as Cadbury, Mars, Hershey’s, actually do get their beans from India. However, the farmers in India sell all their beans to these big companies; meaning both the good AND the bad beans are going into the chocolate that you more than likely buy. These big guys aren’t too keen on superior quality.

That is starting to change. There is a movement in the chocolate making industry now to follow what is known as the bean-to-bar process. I must admit that I had no idea what this was until I was introduced to a wonderful social enterprise here in Auroville called Mason & Co Craftsmen of Chocolate.  This process of directly making the chocolate bars you consume straight from the bean itself (and not from pre-made bulk chocolate that is melted down and molded into bars) not only allows for better flavor and purity, but also allows the farmer to harvest a better quality product and be able to receive fair prices for his beans.

mason cacao roastingmason chocolate barMason Bars 3It was not apparent to me at first, but now, after studying this company, I can see how almost anything can be under the umbrella of sustainable development. How working directly with farmers to improve their crops to obtain a fair trade value provides the income needed for the farmer to support his farm and his family. How with improved crops it in turn improves the quality of the cacao beans used to make chocolate. How even deciding to plant cacao trees in the first place helps the Earth’s natural soil components while also aiding the vegetation surrounding it and naturally keeping away pests so that there is no need for artificial pesticides.

Next time you buy some chocolate, research the company before you do and see whether they are on the right track to help heal the planet while of course at the same time providing you with a delicious treat.

I think I’m going to go take a chocolate break now…

 

*All images courtesy of Mason & Co.

My challenge with saying thank you

The first word that I learned here in Tamil Nadu happened to be “nandri” and since then, I received various reactions from locals when I pronounced this word, which gave me the urge to look deeper into its use. A local Tamil from the village Kuilapalayam taught me how to say “thank you” in his mother tongue. I enjoyed using it until my first evening in Pondicherry, outside of Auroville. As the only tourist in a tiny, modest restaurant where I was having dinner with two local friends, it caught my eye that I was the only one who kept saying “nandri” to the waiter. Later on, as the waiter was posing a plate of dosa on our table, my friend softly tilted his head from left to right. I immediately recognized that gesture: the famous Indian head shake. During the following week, I observed locals doing the Indian head shake in different contexts and realized that it carries more than one meaning. The Indian head shake simply suggests that the person acknowledges the action or word of the other, but it can imply different responses. If someone pours you a drink, doing the Indian head shake would tell the person to stop, as “that is enough” in a certain way. If someone asks permission to go to the bathroom, on the other hand, the same gesture would mean “yes, go ahead”. The same gesture can also mean “thank you” in a given situation like between a customer and a waiter.

Hoping to seem less touristy, I started using the gesture instead of saying “nandri”, but this did not last for a long time either. On my second week here, while I was out having a drink with an Indian friend, he saw me doing the gesture and started laughing at me. I shared my confusion about the ways of thanking people but his only explanation was: “You do not have to thank the waiter; it is his job to do so. You thank God.” His thought first made me question if Indians cared about being polite with each other, but when I gave more thought to it, I remembered quite a contrasting experience that I had in France. Four years ago in Paris, I took the bus and bought a ticket from the driver. As I had to move towards the back of the bus in a hurry to let other people at the station get in too, I forgot to thank the driver. Suddenly, in a very brutal and severe tone, the driver grabbed my arm, looked me in the eyes and said: “On dit merci?” (We say thank you?). Without even thinking about it for a microsecond, I apologized and thanked him. As I was moving forward, all I could hear was my heartbeat: I felt ashamed of what I did not do. Yet, I wondered if the French driver’s behavior was justified.

Being polite requires love and compassion for the other, rather than being civilized. Thanking someone should come from the heart and not the rules of society. Most importantly, being thankful to someone cannot be fully translated by the simple pronunciation of a word. Whereas the Western culture suggests using the “thank you” word like the air that we breathe in, as if it was given, as if it was free, I wonder if the word is not losing its sense. We came from a University in Europe to spend a whole month in the South of India to study communication and sustainable development. While we observe situations with an ethnographic eye, I wonder if every idea that we perceive as “developed” should be reflected on the Eastern culture. Is the Western way always the best way?

Here the use of “thank you” as a cultural, communicational and linguistic aspect is to be seen as an example, in order to expand the same view on how we imagine sustainable development. While studying development, one should always remember to keep a certain balance in his thoughts: the “West”, recognized as the carrier of Reason, technology, and civilization, should also learn from the “East”. Sustainability is about both giving and receiving, investment and impact. Whether it is moral or material investment, social or economic impact, sustainable development is the achievement of a great balance. The idea of Development with a capital D should therefore stand at the midpoint of the “West” and the “East”, in order for both to potentially benefit from it.

-A student from Istanbul.