Cashews in Kerala

Just a bump in the road led my bus to a cashew factory, where most of the women worked to husk cashews by hand, often sitting on the ground. To a U.S.-born girl who had never even walked into a factory in her home state, the conditions looked less than ideal.

Every worker, mostly women, smiled and requested that their picture be taken. The factory owner gladly showed me around and was proud to announce an average worker salary almost 4 times higher than the average city worker (and these ladies were lucky to stay in their rural hometown to work). The owner claimed that a laborers’ union existed but never had any reason to riot, allowing the factory to stay open almost every day despite other businesses closing regularly from workers’ strikes.

At the end of the day each employee would weigh the cashews they shelled, but I saw everyone splitting the nuts into equal piles before recollecting them into individual bowls.

Bright energy resonated beyond the door-less openings in the walls as the women and few men chatted among themselves and turned to watch us, watching them. This is what good vibes must mean.

I picked up a raw cashew from a pile of shells on the ground and bit into it, holding it in my mouth for less than a second before spitting it out.

“Don’t eat those yet,” she laughed.

Kerala, India

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