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It's Not Business; It's Personal

A rare glimpse at the journey of the diamond and diamantaires, their intercultural business meetings and interpersonal encounters, from one woman’s journal

"Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world".

Gustave Flaubert

When I was eight years old I flew for the first time with my family to the United States. As the daughter of a scientist, whom we joined for his research trips, I pressed my nose up against the window of the plane, ravenous to learn all about the sights and collect as much information as possible, to weave a beautiful colorful map of the people of the world. I haven’t stopped since. On all my trips throughout the world, be it for vacation or business, I try to find the heart of the local culture, and each time I fall in love with the people I meet, and learn that "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes". Marcel Proust.

A Journey of Insights

Mumbai is a colorful and inspiring city. A huge number of people embrace your presence from all around; it almost seems like everyone notices your arrival. Walking in the streets of Mumbai stimulates your senses; the fabric and colors of the sari worn by the local women slope like waterfalls on solid rocks and merge into the hustle.

The aromatic fragrances of the street food invite you to taste. The puri, masala dosa, pakura and samusa are all ready to be served. There is no separation between the lanes on the roads, and a red light is not even seen as a suggestion, much less a command. There is a prevalent feeling of festivity and bedlam; everyone honks, but if you close your eyes, listen carefully and open your heart, you will hear the music of Mumbai and see the beauty of the diversity woven together in a breathtaking human cloth.

The people here are extraordinarily kind. Their patience and willingness to help are touching and I have no idea where they get this infinite serenity.

The Indian hospitality is overwhelming and I accompany my dear friend for a walk to learn the city as soon as our business meetings are over. I have noticed that the Indians have an unusual custom of holding social gatherings on traffic circles, surrounded by the near-deafening sound of vehicles.

I watch such a group of students as they hungrily unpack five pizzas. The cheerful group draws my attention to the point that I almost do not notice a woman in rags approaching them, and the amazing shift the story takes. One of the students jumps up. Encouraged by his friends, he packs two whole pizzas back into their boxes, walks over to the woman and gives them to her. The heartwarming scene brings tears to my eyes. “That’s India,” my friend says with pride in his eyes.

He takes me over to a street cart, pushed by a thin young man, selling snacks made of roasted seeds, warming up right there on the cart. "Two", he says enthusiastically to the man, while telling me I have to taste this and promising me that my Delhi Belly can handle it. The vendor rolls some newspaper into a cone and pours the snacks into it, sprinkling salt and squeezing the juice of a tomato on top. The aroma arouses my appetite and I’m curious to taste it, but right before I try one, I notice another wretched thin woman, this time watching me. My friend and I exchange looks, and he orders another helping. I eagerly give mine to the hungry woman. “When in India, do as the Indians do,” I tell him a bit shyly. He’s delighted.

It’s impossible to save all of India but if every person saves one Indian, India may have hope.

All the major diamond offices I visited support hospitals, schools and orphanages, and even contribute to road and infrastructure development. Social responsibility is a top priority and it holds a place of respect.

It reminded me a story of a man that was walking along a deserted beach at sunset. As he walked he could see a young boy in the distance, as he drew nearer he noticed that the boy kept bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.

As the man approached even closer, he was able to see that the boy was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time he was throwing them back into the water.

The man asked the boy what he was doing and the boy replied: "I am throwing these washed up starfish back into the ocean, or else they will die due to lack of oxygen."

"But", said the man, "You can't possibly save them all, there are thousands on this beach, and this must be happening on hundreds of beaches along the coast. You can't possibly make a difference." The boy looked down, frowning for a moment; then bent down to pick up another starfish, smiling as he threw it back into the sea. He replied, "I made a huge difference to that one!"

The Indians live the moral of this story – even though you can’t do all that’s necessary, every soul is worth saving and you should try to do as much as you can.

When I interview women for the column on woman diamantaires in Hayahalom magazine, I always end with the question of added value.

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business,” said Henry Ford, and I’m always excited to discover amazing, courageous women who use their power and status as diamantaires to make the world a better place. They empower women and help them integrate into the labor market, support social organizations and enlist help for disadvantaged families. The added value that we as diamantaires bring to our industry is what transforms our profession from empty to full ­– from material to spiritual, from selfish to social.

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