LUNCH: Timbrel Adidala

LUNCH: Timbrel Adidala

— From the pages of FLL#36 • Photo by Will Marks

I’M A SUCKER FOR A PRETTY SCARF.
WHILE SOME MAY SEE A MERE PIECE OF CLOTH,
I SEE A CHANCE TO ENHANCE A REALLY BORING WARDROBE.

I’m also a sucker for a good story. Add in a protagonist who is trying to better themselves and the world around them and I’m hooked, reeled in, and now excited to share that story with you.

Timbrel is persistent; there is no doubt about that. She has a story to tell and has tenaciously pursued all avenues to tell it. She submitted her story to the Fine Living Lancaster magazine editorial team three times. Honestly, it helps that I recognized the name as a former graduate from Conestoga Valley High School, class of 2004 (though she was never my student). And this, my FLL friends, is what I discovered: that time and time again, I am pleasantly surprised by the passion and dedication of this younger generation to change the world for the better. (Timbrel is just 28 years old.) This generation—I’ve lost track of the correct alphabet letter to describe them—uses grassroots methodology in combination with old-fashioned capitalism to empower one woman, one child, one family, and one village at a time. Think Tom’s Shoes or Warby Parker and you have the business model which generations, who are made up of global citizens like Ms. Adidala, try to replicate.

Timbrel has done everything right. As the eldest child of her upper-middle class, highly educated, Christian, Indiaborn parents, Timbrel followed the path which was expected of her. She was originally supposed to become a doctor, specifically a pediatrician; thus, a biology degree at Millersville University was pursued. She worked in a chiropractor’s office and then as an assistant at Ephrata Hospital. She found herself unable to quiet the pounding doubts in her head, asking herself, “Do I really want to do this?”

She and her parents agreed that if becoming a doctor was not her passion, then the next best professional option was what she should pursue— engineering. Her bags were packed for India to attain an engineering degree without knowing any of the hundreds of dialects spoken there. She arrived at the university and now admits that she even struggled to understand her Indian professors’ accented English. She persevered, earned the degree, and then honestly shared with her parents, “I just can’t sit there in front of a computer.”

Not a doctor. Not an engineer. But, while in India, she did observe the cultural divide of what she says, “continues to be a remnant of the caste system”—the “haves” and the “have nots.” The economic system has been here for thousands of years, which her urban, Indian-educated, successful friends like to tell her. “Remember, Timbrel,” they say, “you can’t change an elephant into a lion.” I don’t ask for clarification, but I surmise the meaning: there have always been a poor population and there always will be. It is their lot in life and they should simply accept it.

Well, neither her highly educated, Christian preacher father nor Timbrel accept this Indian adage. Her father started an organization called ANCER (All Nations Children Emergency Relief) which focuses on the needs of orphans (schooling, basic needs, etc.) and those suffering from leprosy. His organization is determined to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Timbrel has joined forces with her father to be part of the school, take control of ANCER’s social networking, and to start her own Fair Trade accessory business for ladies—Lush Bazaar.

While working in Hyderabad, she discovered how much the women took a more active role in their livelihoods and, ultimately, their children’s destinies in a traditionally male-dominated culture. As she wandered through the open-air Indian markets, she discovered fabrics with small mirrors sewn into them made by the Lambadis (gypsies) and old saris which she envisioned being used to make chic handbags, wallets, and scarves. She experienced the power of the “A-ha!” moment, as well as the reality of forming a business and functioning in a country ripe with bureaucracy and, on some levels, corruption.

Timbrel admits that these past three years have been difficult, including traveling alone in rural villages and on dangerous public transportation, but she says, “I’ve learned so much. So much more than I would have sitting behind a desk.”

She has experienced roadblocks and disappointments. One woman with whom Timbrel was working was subcontracting the work out, paying pennies per piece, and keeping the fair wages for herself rather than sharing.

She would like to open a wholesale distribution market rather than the retail shops in both Building Character and in the Shoppes on Main in Elizabethtown. And, as we went over the cost of each item and her limited personal profit, we both realized that living at home will have to be a reality for at least a little while longer. She is determined to pay the women she works with a very fair wage on each piece “so their kids can go to school and the university.”

She sacrifices her own comfortable lifestyle and, much to her mother’s chagrin, her own personal safety for these women and their children. I suggested that since she is seen as a beautiful, strong, confident American woman disrupting the traditional norms of the rural, patriarchal Indian culture, she may need to hire security as she wanders through these villages. But Timbrel says she won’t spend money on herself when it could be used to help even one woman send her children to school.

I have learned that along with being a beautiful, eloquent, intelligent young woman, she is also tenacious and down right stubborn. Exactly the characteristics needed to change elephants into lions.

I bought one of her hand-stamped scarves. I believed Timbrel as she thanked me again and again, promising me that this purchase would “give the women and their children a chance at change.”

Be safe, my young friend. And from this baby boomer generation to yours: thank you for bringing goodness into this world, time and time again.


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