Hello From India

Bees-Waxing Philosophically

It’s 110 degrees. I’m wearing a thick canvas bee suit (so it’s 130°). I’m surrounded by hundreds of thousands of angry honeybees and five happy men from the Gond tribe of central India. We are in the jungle in the heart of India’s Red Corridor, named for the Maoist guerrilla militia that, for the last 60 years, has dug their heels in to try to overthrow the Indian government.

This is a far cry from my West Village offices in the United States of Amenities.

This is a far cry from my West Village offices in the United States of Amenities. When Eric and I started our purpose-driven agency 2 years ago, we always maintained the vision for doing work that has meaning far beyond simply making money. This is the apex of meaning.

I’m here because my client, Heavenly Organics, has created a complex supply chain wherein they help farmers and former militia men climb out of the economic hardships that come with living in a conflict zone.

Amit Hooda, the founder of Heavenly Organics, along with his father, Dr. Hooda, train these men to sustainably collect the most rare and exotic honey on the planet—throughout central and Northern India.

The purity of the honey is unmatched mainly because of the remoteness of the region. Bees fly for miles gathering nectar from flowers and when those flowers are full of pesticides, they end up in the honey. Here honeybees are not exposed to the same chemicals as they are in the West. The biggest enemy these bees face are honey collectors that fill them with smoke, cut their branches and destroy their hives.

We just finished our second harvest and I’m suffering from heat stroke. One of the tribe members offers me water. I’m not sure of where it was sourced from but I’m thirsty so I drink. The bees swarm our mesh masks and will continue to do so until we walk a mile or so from the site, across a lazy river, to our vehicles.

Back at the trucks we take off our suits. We look like a bunch of cosmonauts who’ve just returned from an alien planet. Feels a bit like it too. We rest briefly and setup a camera to interview one of the head harvesters. We have two translators. One speaks Hindi and the other speaks a tribal language unique only to the Gond tribe. There are dozens of languages spoken by the Adivasis, a group of native Indians made up of tribes throughout the region.

As you can imagine, it is a bit of a game of telephone getting our questions to the harvester. Of all the questions we ask him, one stands out in my mind as hyper-significant. “Working so closely with the bees, how do you feel about them?”

The question travels from one translator to the next and eventually over to the harvester. A long pause. Confusion. He lets out an uncomfortable laugh. Rolls back on his heels. The tribal translator passes back a shrug.

Amit Hooda steps in. “How does he feel? They don’t think like that,” he said. “Feelings are a luxury of the west. He is trying to survive. See in the West we add a layer of complexity to our experience because we can but here, thoughts and feelings, they’re not something people can afford.” This all makes complete sense to me.

Just then the harvester rolls forward onto his toes and says, “These bees are like my family. I have learned so much from them. They are like my children.” We are all floored but nobody is more blown back than Amit. True. Poetic. Justice.

His organization has not only given this man a way out of a deadly conflict and given him the ability to provide for his family. He has been given the luxury of feelings. Song itself. The magic of metaphor. A momentary stay against the confusion that can only come from the order of poetry. For me, as a professional creative, this is not simply a luxury but a necessity. It is the greatest gift of the human experience, the most powerful shared purpose of all, story.

 

Mike Leibowitz

Co-Chief Creative Officer