Fifty-two year old S. V. Chitra is a supervisor on the New Ambadi Rubber Estate in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. And he is the proud father of two daughters. The younger one, Vasudevan, got married just over a year ago.
Which means S. V. Chitra is also a content man. Not just because Vasudevan is happy with her husband, but because the joint body (the men and women who have been nominated by their colleagues to decide how the Fair Trade money should be used) have given him a Rs 40,000 (Euro 480) interest free loan. No, this did not paid for the one thousand people who attended the wedding – thankfully it’s a tradition in Tamil Nadu that the wedding guests contribute enough money to cover the catering costs. The money was needed to top up Vasudevan’s savings – she is a schoolteacher – and to buy gold jewellery.
Freshly tapped sap of the rubber tree is also known as ‘Latex milk’ and, like cows’ milk, it has to be treated to prevent it from going bad.
To go to the gold bazar of the nearest town and shop for golden necklaces and bangles may sound like a fun day out, but it isn’t. It’s a solid financial investment (which is why the gold price goes up during the wedding season in December and May). Though Vasudevan on her wedding day became part of her husband’s family, the jewellery remains hers and she decides what to do with it. The official line is that like her mother she will probably pass some of it on to her daughters on their wedding days. But there is a subtext too: should Vasudevan’s marriage fail she will have a nest egg to start over.
But right now Vasudevan’s only worry is that she sees too little of her husband. He’s just been posted to Bhopal, two thousand kilometres to the north and right now they see each other only every two to three months when her husband gets leave. Vasudevan teaches physics to first year junior college students – 11th standard as it is called in India, with students 16 to 17 years of age. ‘I absolutely love my job and I will only move to where my husband is posted once I know I can work there as a teacher’, says Vasudevan.
For solid rubber, the latex milk is coagulated by adding acis (similar to yoghurt). After squeezed out any water, the resulting raw material is dried.
A sentence any young woman in Europe or the US could say, but in India there’s a bit more to that statement: Even if her husband or her in-laws don’t like Vasudevan’s decision to keep her job for the time being, her nest egg gives her the freedom to do it nevertheless. And that’s how an interest free loan financed through the Fair Trade premium Fair Squared pays via the Fair Rubber Association makes a difference: To S.V. Chitra because the wedding of his youngest daughter hasn’t plunged him into debt. And to Vasudevan who has the freedom to decide about her future.
Photo credit: Fair Rubber © Martin Kunz