Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Village Dynamics and the Art of Agricultural Management

Another Farm Story! Okay, don't groan. I won't be talking about land development and produce. Well, not this time at least.

Having dug the bore-well and with light pressure from the wife, the construction for the farm hand's quarters has started in earnest. What's missing of course, is the farm hand.

From recommendations, we acquired one resume and the candidate showed up at a neighboring farm which was apparently the interview venue. To aid is in this complicated maneuver, we enlisted the august presence of the local headman's son. An imposing and towering person, one does not want to take undue liberties with him.

The candidate was brought forth by the referrer. Out of respect or some such thing, they both stood behind us to make it challenging for us to talk to them without craning our neck and body at distorted angles. For a while, everyone stood around and no one spoke a word.

A few minutes later, another friend of ours voiced his thoughts in the form of probing out the candidate's name and requesting the wage figures desired. More hemming and hawing and the person (Madhayya) quoted the salary he was making in some god forsaken part of the state. The number seemed unreasonable as there were murmurs in the interview panel and general disagreement.

On some unseen cue, two backers for the farmers' cause appeared out of the blue. Both put across their points very clearly on why a higher salary was warranted. Their arguments, peppered with facts and figures of daily living expenses, the price of gas, rice, rocket fuel etc, while very fascinating, did not make much of an impression on the village leader. Even existing salary structures in the immediate vicinity were treated with quiet disdain.

An interesting dance ensued, with neither party actually expressing a number, but at the same time, I was struck by the headman's sensitivity and tact. At no point did he raise his voice or directly contradict anything the farmers had to say. However, the moment they were out of earshot, he would give us hard statistics on wages and salaries in the area. A very delicate balance indeed. Though a big shot in the area, he was at all times very polite and civil to the farmers, not once disrupting the harmony of the conversation or putting them down in any way.

The fencing continued for a while. This was quite complicated as we didn't want to artificially elevate the market with a salary that was too high. This would have disastrous consequences on all the hiring in that area. So, the parrying went on.

We finally gave in and told Madhayya how much we were willing to pay. A detailed explanation on the total compensation package inclusive of all benefits and bonuses was given. However, Madhayya had been heavily influenced by the two cronies who were the voice of Madhayya for all practical purposes.

The hunt for the farm hand goes on! I'm now learning to work within the boundaries and framework of communication styles and approaches to this hitherto straightforward task.

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