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A Short Film about My Trip the Peppercorn Jungles

Posted on December 12, 2013 by Scott Eirinberg

Friends, The Reluctant Trading Experiment is one year-old today. For a business with both the words "Reluctant" and "Experiment" in its name, I think that's saying something.

In honor of the big day, I just posted a new documentary called "Out of Reluctance" that I shot on my trip to India last November. I was going to release it earlier in the year, but it didn't feel right coming out at the same time as the Hollywood version of the company story that you've probably seen.

Unlike the other film, this one features the real Divakar (my partner in pepper) as well as footage that I shot in India. I'm always astounded by what I see and experience there. I've always wanted to capture it and bring it back home to show you. This is my attempt.
"Out of Reluctance"
My trip to the peppercorn jungles in 2012

Some thanks are in order. Divakar, thank you for sending me that original jar of peppercorns. Your Tellicherry pepper really is life-changing.

A special thanks to Richard LaPorta for countless hours of artful editing on the documentary and to Michael Mabry for the beautiful, hand-illustrated titles. I feel lucky to work with both of you.

And of course, I'd like to say thanks for all of your support. Reluctant has reconnected me with so many of you and enabled me to make new friends both here and abroad. Being in business again has helped me better relate to the world. I have been a happier person even while being reluctant.

Sure, there have been many moments of doubt along the way. But each and every day, with your emails, Facebook likes, words of encouragement and orders, you have given me the confidence to follow my instincts again. Even when those instincts have taken me off the beaten path, quite literally, to the jungles of India and to the outskirts of Iceland.

I still have no business plan. No board of directors. And no exit strategy. It's all an experiment. And I'm enjoying it. Thanks for being part of it.

Reluctantly Yours,

Scott

 

 

You say Kochi, I Say Cochin - A trip to Southern India (Part 2 of 2)

Posted on November 08, 2012 by Scott Eirinberg

As we entered the room full of ginger, Divakar told the workers that I was an American correspondent shooting photos for a major newspaper. The concrete floor was covered with mountains of ginger root. Several workers were cutting open large bags, dumping the ginger on the floor, shoveling it back up and re-bagging it.

The Ginger Boss (no relation to Cake Boss) weighed the bags on an ancient looking scale with large metal counter weights. Once the sacks were filled to the desired weight, Ginger Boss dragged them to the doorway.

It felt like we had walked through a time doorway and back into Cochin circa 1850 or 1750 or 1600 for that matter. That’s because I think it could have been almost any time. I can’t imagine this type of work has changed in hundreds of years.

The only sounds in the room came from Ginger Boss giving orders to the workers in Malayalam and the click, click, clicking of my camera. Wisps of ginger dust rose like smoke in the air, revealing their true beauty only after snaking into the incoming sunbeams.

It wasn’t long before my camera was covered in cream-colored ginger dust. I dripped with sweat. My eyes burned. I could no longer see through my viewfinder. I couldn’t look at anymore ginger that day. And for that matter, I will never be able to look at ginger the same way again.

 

You Say Kochi, I Say Cochin - A trip to Southern India (Part 1 of 2)

Posted on November 08, 2012 by Scott Eirinberg

Divakar, Ashkay and I drove to Cochin on Monday. It was a long drive from Kannur, but Akshay kept it interesting with his constant dodging and weaving past buses, trucks, auto-rickshaws, stray dogs, goats and cows.

I kept wondering why they even bothered painting centerlines on the Indian roads. The centerline gets about as much respect as a warning tag on a mattress. While there appears to be just two lanes on their roads, in reality, there are three. There are two that run in opposite directions, and the one in the middle, the insane lane that both sides use to pass slower traffic.

The middle lane is where all the fun takes place. About every 30 seconds for the 7-hour drive, Akshay took turns with the other drivers on the road hitting their horns, putting the pedal to the floor and passing the vehicles in front of them via the imaginary center lane. If an oncoming car using the center lane suddenly appears, one of the drivers will flash their lights hoping the other will slow down and cede the way.

If that fails, one of two things happens. One of the drivers will suddenly pull way over onto the shoulder avoiding a head-on collision or the other driver will slam on his brakes and try to slip back into the spot from which he came. The passing activity isn’t just reserved for cars, either. Large buses and semis frequently pass cars in front of them.

Needless to say, I was a bit carsick and more than a bit thankful when we reached Cochin. I got a good night’s rest (actually I was up until 3 am writing the blog) and woke up excited the next day (I was a little grumpy that morning) to explore the city.

Cochin, also called Kochi, is much bigger than Kannur and sits right on the Arabian Sea. It has played a key role in the spice trade throughout history. At one time, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews and Jains all lived together in India. The profitable spice trade was the main attraction and India welcomed all religions with open arms. Pepper was as valuable as gold and everyone wanted a piece of the action.

I was amazed to learn that a large Jewish population lived in Cochin for several hundred years before immigrating to Israel in 1948. Remnants of Jewish life were still present in a part of the old city called Jew Town (couldn’t they have come up with a better name?).

We walked through a synagogue built in 1563. A gruff, unfriendly Jewish woman, one of only 30 Jews left in Cochin, instructed us to remove our shoes and forbid photography. I guess if your extended family moved to Israel and left you in a city called Jew Town, you’d be unfriendly too.

We moved on to check out spices, but didn’t find anything as exceptional as the organic peppercorn in Wayanad. While India offers a multitude of spices, it’s best known for its pepper. And since I won’t be selling anything that isn’t extraordinary, we decided to continue exploring the city. 

As we strolled through the streets of Cochin, we saw lots of interesting characters. But there was something going on in one of the buildings that really caught my eye. Several people in a dimly lit room were unloading burlap sacks. Divakar told me the workers were repacking ginger. Naturally, I had to go inside to check things out. (Continued in Part 2.)

See more photos from my trips to India and Iceland in the Photo Galleries. 

Check out Reluctant Trading Peppercorns and Icelandic Sea Salt in the Shop.

 

 
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