Give time, just an infatuation

I’m in love with these experiences which just happen unexpectedly. They are so much exciting. I happened to meet the president of an organization named SPRAT. His motivation, accomplishments, crazy new ideas, nice personality and what not. There were many things about him I could keep on telling. Coming to the discussion with Mr Hasan, it mainly centered on science, rationality, and religion. These following words really caught my attention – ‘Religion is yesterday’s science and science is tomorrow’s religion.’ He was not against religion but was against irrational practices in the name of it. To add one more snippet of what he said, ‘religion was great and served mankind immensely but it also has served its time.’ Religion represents acceptance. The need now is to question using rational thinking and science provides a base for such rational thinking. I shall stop commenting on that discussion right here, otherwise, this is again going to be a long post. Similarly I happened to meet a girl doing her product designing course from NID.

And so that’s how my maiden visit to NID happened. It just aroused so much emotion in me that I could not wait to share it to someone and so the result being a voice message to the India Fellow group. I am not talking about the girl. This was about the whole atmosphere I was seeing inside the campus. Lively classrooms, lots of spaces wherein you feel like you can just spend rest of the time sitting there ( ok, a little bit over exaggeration but not much), people studying here and there, some hanging out, a few with their laptops in the library, cool culture, and everyone modern fashionable. This was nuts for me. I thought what the hell was I doing working in a NGO when I should be in college and among them. My presence in colleges continues…

I went to visit Amdavad ni Gufa with little knowledge that it was located inside CEPT campus, another beautiful campus with its brick buildings (exterior look) and greenery. I reached my destination Gufa a bit too early before its openings hours. I had met three students engaged in making a model out of zips and thread, who directed me to various places that I should not miss seeing in their campus. I used to go in one direction, visit and come back to the place where these three were sitting, every 40-45 minutes as this was like a center point. Every time there were exclamations and expressions but not enough words which I was sharing with them. Again the same thing all over. Was getting overwhelmed by all this college atmosphere and student life.  Just like at NID, some students exchanged their contact numbers with me seeing my excitement. But only I knew, behind all this outside excitement there was inside feeling like – why the hell was I not there among them and working in a NGO. There are few nice things which I saw in the campus and should be sharing but again, the post will become too long. So it was 4 pm and Amdavad ni Gufa was open.

Sitting there I was having one of the best cocktails ever. This one was made of 70% trees, 60% Zen café, and 80% the outside visual of Gufa. I know the cumulative is more than 100% but what do I do, I was high on this cocktail. NID has shaken me and left me dry. CEPT was doing the same, but somehow owing to more time I was spending there or because of sitting peacefully at Zen café, I was coming to my senses.

So what sense am I talking about? I was getting infatuated and pulled by the college life. But I have been there and done those things. It was great but at the end of the day, there in college you would have to study a specific course within a given time frame and that time frame is further decorated with various intermediary deadlines. There is a rigid structure, and all the club activities or other intermittent college events are there just to keep you sane. Here I am in a NGO with everyone understanding I am here to watch, learn, and also in the process get a chance to put forward my ideas for some serious real life situations. There is a scope to slightly dabble within organization itself, perks of being a fellow. Opportunity to explore my heart out and sometimes get a feeling why only 1 year! Now the NGO life seems exhilarating thinking of the various things I get to try and the room it provides me to change an otherwise fixed future.

So kids, the moral of the story is – Many infatuations happen. Ok to get swayed but don’t brood over them forgetting everything else. Make the most of what you took up and probably won’t even find time for these infatuations.

It’s again a long post but still have to continue as I forgot to mention a couple of things. I actually met B.V.Doshi, the architect of Amdavad ni Gufa, when I went to visit Sarkhej Roza the very next day of admiring his architecture. It was quite funny that instead of me praising him, he was appreciating me for doing such a fellowship and working in a NGO :p And the second thing is, I need to and shall be sharing my experience related to my work at the organization in the next post. It is still 8:30 in the morning, and India Fellow people I think you know what is coming :D Good morning mere Sharma, polite swetha, helpful upma, balanced nishant, fiery jaoog, cute konkii, contradictory lucky, aree online education arroora, refreshingly nice anu, adventurous rohyni, policy making mohit, swashbuckling jan, promising aarthi, happy birthday shanbag, always fighting Shankar and chaitu :p

 

 

OMG, Chhattisgarh!

On the outskirts of Raigarh

Mitanins with few of the toys that they made

Dokra art work at Ektal

It was like any other single story, where people all around me reacted in a similar way when I told them that I’d be going to Chhattisgarh. Their first reaction was worry, then they asked me how long I would be staying there and when I was uncertain about it, they became skeptical.

Initially when I got to know the assignment that I would be working on in Chhattisgarh I was pretty excited as I was getting an opportunity to travel around making a documentary on toy making in Chhattisgarh and I wasn’t actually scared to go there as I’ve been to Chhattisgarh very frequently fourteen years ago, the then Madhya Pradesh. Things did change drastically over the decade and now it’s no longer a part of Madhya Pradesh and is a separate state. Chhattisgarh is a beautiful state with a lot of green cover and heritage. Since, it’s monsoon now the green cover looks fresh. Farming is the major occupation and a lot of industries are there too. It is a little underdeveloped but the people are very warm.

Since I was documenting, I had to cover eight villages in two days, that is four villages per day in Raigarh and Pussore Tehsil of Raigarh district respectively. After traveling for about 28hours by train from Pune I reached Raigarh and it was worth the journey. Raigarh has many steel industries, yet it’s a small city and hasn’t developed much.

Every village that I’ve been to, the people there were very warm and welcoming. I interacted a lot with the local nurses there known as Mitanin. These Mitanins instruct the mothers about child care and take pregnant women to hospitals and get them checked up there. Apart from this the SHRC of Chhattisgarh along with CLR, Pune have come up with an initiative of toy making, where the Mitanins were trained in making toys from waste material and they distributed them for free to the kids. From the interactions that I had, I learnt that these women were initially apprehensive about making toys as they had no prior knowledge. But once they started making the toys they started enjoying it, they got nostalgic about how they used to play during their childhood with their toys. Even while they were telling me about this I could see the spark in their eyes. The Mitanins were also happy about the recognition that they got after the toy making campaign as people from different villages started recognizing them. They felt empowered with this toy making project, though that wasn’t the aim of this project. It was more about making toys out of local material and give them to the kids in order to help them develop their skills. It just so happened that in this whole process of toy making indirectly the women also got empowered which is a plus point.

Apart from the eight villages I also visited an other village named “Ektal” of Pussore Tehsil, where the villagers are known for making handmade metal craft known as Dokra Art. The village is also home for many National and State level award winning artisans. They continue to use the age old technique of Lost Wax Method that was used even during the times of Indus Valley Civilization. In this technique they make moulds out of clay on which they stick a pattern with strands made out of bee wax and cover it with an other layer of clay, between these two layers they pour molten metal. This whole thing is baked on charcoal. When it’s being baked the wax strands melt and the metal settles down in its place. One ought to visit this village and have a look at the art work though the items are a little costly, they are worth the price after all the hard work the artisans put into making them.

Dissension of Goals

It’s just been a few days that I came to Chennai, a city which is completely alien to me and my culture. A place which makes me really struggle three times a day i.e. breakfast –rice, lunch-rice and dinner-rice. Yes, all what I am eating is rice. Leaving this “rice tragedy” apart, now I am part of this new system. But then before going any further what is a system?

To my sense a typical system is made up of people for making something done. And now I am part of this typical system made up of people of all sorts. I am the system now. But just a few months back I was on the different side. Accusing the system for its failure to bring about what it should. But now being in a system made me really think why does system fails? What is the root cause?

Is it money? Is it mismanagement or some logistic reasons? Though these reasons do count but there is one single reason that often leads to the failure of the system. So what is that one reason that is common to all?

And then I came up with something called “Dissension of Goals”. A system is formed by people. Those people carrying different goals and aspiration in their heads. But a system has its own goal. And here comes the dissension of goals. A difference or clash between the goals of the system and the people of the system. But this is not the real problem. There is no perfect system in which there is no difference in goals. There will always be some kind of difference. But this dissension often leads to the problem when there is no one to correct. And I think this is what is happening to most of the failing systems, especially in a developing country like India.

Considering the education system in India, why is it really not working? Why are we still facing the situation of having unemployment when there are enough jobs for the people? The answer I believe is in the dissension of the goals. Everyone in the education system has their own goals. If the system is not achieving what it should, people don’t care they have their own life and goals.

Even if the system is obsolete and no more moving in the direction of its goals. People will not care. They will still try to maintain the obsolete system because that’s their job. Maintaining the system rather than maintaining the system’s goal. By saying all this I don’t really mean that they are not efficient workers. They are really good in what they are doing. They are really maintaining the system well. But the system itself is not moving in the direction of its goal. But why will they care that’s not there goal.

This dissension often leads to the failure of the system. This may not be the only reason but in many cases I think it is the biggest reason. Now at the end I would really like to add up and ask you all a question.

Do you really work for the goal of the system you are part of or you are just maintaining the system?

Time to act?

Dear Gandhi

One month into the fellowship and the thoughts causing all that confusion haven’t gone anywhere. If anything, they’ve only increased. These thoughts, each acting like a neutrino triggering a chain reaction, would have exploded this tiny brain if not for the tobacco rods of control. But for how long? Thought sharing some of those might take some load off.

You remember you said, “be the change you wish to see in the world”. Bloody hell old man, I don’t want to see any change in this world. The world is perfectly imperfect and it needs to be so if it has to continue to exist. All this talk about fighting for the right, empowering the weak, making the world a better place… Isn’t it something that we tell that restless inner thing to satisfy its conscience?

This emotionless state of the mind… Nothing seems to affect it. Not even those cases of rape. It neither feels sorry for the girl nor any anger towards that guy. Is it his mistake or… Whose? The overly commercialised Media’s? Irresponsible parents’? Incapable teachers’? Or is it the government’s that failed in its duty to provide proper security? Who elected it? So, is it the collective responsibility of the society? Society? Isn’t it a mere imaginary social entity? A girl gets raped, and here I am with this evolved analysis… The one thing that is affecting me is the thought that even such incidents are not affecting it.

What do I do? Nothing seems to be right or wrong. There are fanatics, of course,  but then, aren’t they the ones who bring all the excitement into this otherwise boring society, providing it with the much needed energy to continue its existence. Yes, there is poverty, ignorance, exploitation… but for how many days will this planet of 7 billion thinking apes survive if all those become rich and empowered. Oh yea, with the right kind of education, that imparts right kind of values, things would be different. Prr!!! Maybe yes,but then it won’t last forever right? Things will degrade anyway. So, why bother fixing ‘em? Uhmm… Is this pessimism? Or am I just submitting to my inability to solve the issue at hand?

 

oo mahathma….oo maharshi
yedi cheekati yedi veluturu
yedi jeevitamedi mrutyuvu
yedi punyam yedi papam
yedi narakam yedi naakam
yedi satyam yedasatyam
yedanityam yedi nityam
yedi yekam yedanekam
yedi karanamedi karyam

oo mahathmaa..oo maharshi
yedi telupu yedi nalupu
yedi ganam yedi mounam
yedi naadi yedi needi
yedi neethi yedi nethi
ninna swapnam neti satyam
neti khedam repu ragam
oke kanthi oke shanthi
oo maharshi….oo mahatmaa…

Oh wait, why do I even care?

               Because I want to live mate. I don’t want to die or retreat to those snowy mountains. I love this world and I want to be a part of it. But where should I get that drive from?

               Some say you won’t understand pain unless you experience it. Maybe I need an embarrassing push from this train of airy thought. That one hard-hitting experience to pull this aimless mind down to the ground. Searching for it since the rise of consciousness. Lets see if these currently-prosperous, hard working, ready-to-give-up-agriculture farmers of Gohana have it. Time to put this thought Thomas in the back end and switch to action mode. Anyways, should go to the Mandi in the morning… Good Night!

Haryanvi Men

Dear Chris,

I called you last week upset and in need of more than just consolation. My first week in the NGO had been rough in the most ironic of senses. I had an apartment with Wi-Fi, air-conditioning and cable television; my office was on the eighth floor of a high-rise building that overlooked the city. It had a multiplex cafeteria producing enough food (Indian and supposedly ‘western’ cuisine) to sustain the whole of Sydney. And yet all these luxuries did not mean a thing to me. I wanted field. And I wanted it bad.

Now I am sitting on the top floor of a furniture-less apartment in a small town called Gohana. On the ground floor is what appears to be some sort of cement factory.  It is about 45 degrees, the electricity has cut off for the millionth time in the day and I am surrounded by seven men, some of whose names all sound the same: Dhirendra, Jitender, Ravinder. This is my office; I fondly call it the bachelor-pad. These men work, eat and sleep here. And now, they are my team. Finally I am where I wanted to be. And it feels so good. Riding on motorbikes through rice paddocks, meetings with farmers under the shade of banyan trees and hot home-made aloo parathas fresh from chachi-ji’s kitchen.  

A friend warned me about Haryanvi men. Jitender is one of the field officers from Gohana. He is dreamy. In the kind of way that only a city-girl who comes to the villages to ‘empower’ women can find dreamy. He has hazel eyes, dark chocolate skin, a killer smile, the perfect five o’clock shadow and a hairstyle that would make George Clooney envious. He is also married and has two kids. Damn. Despite his dashingly good looks, I begin to realise that he is a typical example of most Haryanvi men: arrogant, dominant and demanding. I value the exact opposite traits in a partner.

Chris, everywhere I look around here, I see men; walking on the streets, manning the vegetable stalls, slurping chai and smoking hookah. I ask my colleague “where are all the women?” and he tells me that “they stay in the house”. Apparently in the villages, it is not appropriate for a woman to have chai with her friends in public or to show her face to man who is not her relative. She must not be heard or seen. She must just dutifully serve the men in her family. I feel like these women are screaming for ‘empowerment’ behind their dupattas. But then I become all self-critical and question whether I am being imperialistic – assuming that because I come from a culture where women wear what they want, go where they want and do as they please, this should be the case everywhere for all women. Are these women victims of my narrow minded thinking? Am I culturally insensitive for not respecting their ancient traditions? Am I an imbecile to expect that change will happen in months when these practices have existed for centuries?

I want to empower rural women Chris. But I do not know what that means anymore.

Tell me what I should do?

Love,

 Conchita

Out on a field visit to speak to women farmers. Unfortunately, their husbands did all the talking.

Out on a field visit to speak to women farmers. Unfortunately, their husbands did all the talking.

DSC_2128

Jitender the field officer

Vinay: For Some, Let Us Start Uniting Over Our Tasty Food

They were laughing. I was laughing. Then they were literally rofl(ing).

The cause of this amusement was my Gujarati. They were able to understand what I wanted to say, and were even teaching me some, which was all the more reason for their laughter. I however had to read them through their dumb charade skills. It however, was still difficult for me as there were a lot of ee ees, oo oos, ha ha haas, ow oww owwws which they were constantly mixing with their words – trying to talk even while laughing. These kids, Praveen, Divya, Aati and the other 3 cheerful souls whose names I forgot; ran to their uncle who just arrived on his bike. At the same time an old man who became curious of my business at that place told me to leave. Talking of this unwelcoming reception, I should mention of my trip to Juhapura.

Aarti, a co-fellow, suggested we both visit Juhapura while I suggested on visiting Akshardam having little knowledge of the history of Juhapura. Later, looking on the internet I got very excited to visit that place. Owing to its distinct history mainly, and also me being a bit bored, they were difficult 2 hours to wait for Aarti to come. Autowallah couldn’t quite comprehend why we were so interested in visiting Juhapura. Anyway, after paying the autowallah the amount, even though he was expecting more due to our non-ahmedabad origins, we went walking through the narrow lengthy street lined with food stalls and…wait…actually I can’t remember what other retail shops were present. I didn’t have my lunch and it was 5:30 in the evening. Needless to say, I was hungry. That too with the aroma coming out from these stalls which had enveloped the whole place, it was reasonable that I could only see food everywhere. I had starters of chicken and believe me it was some tasty food.  And so while walking Aarti felt that everyone was staring at her. I noticed it too but did not find it too strange. People stare at every woman as if they were aliens just arrived from Venus. But then I noticed women too goggling her. That’s strange! So Aarti clarified that this was about the bindi on her forehead which was communicating non-verbally of her hindu credentials and also probably not wearing the scarf to cover her hair was also communicating of some different social group she belongs to.

Waiting to meet an editor who lives there, we discussed of the significance of Juhapura, its effects, and how media should focus on real things etc. However, I needed to have more concentration levels to keep up with her, as the aroma which was present  was still pulling me to try some more varieties.   It’s a paradise for foodies and street food lovers. Just have a glimpse of some of the items which could be seen every 10 metres in that street. Starting from the first – crispy chicken rolls, little mutton samosas, mixed chicken balls (mixed here means a mixture of vegetarian and chicken!), enticing falooda (only take home variety was available, sadly), ubiquitous dhokla, soft and juicy basin ka camman (my favorite), spicy channa, colorful sodas (line, orange and masala), black gulab jamun, jalebis which looked a bit too red, gravy variety of some patte (literally meaning leaves), a number of varieties of evening tea snacks and the list just goes on and on and on. I tried my hand on most of the items mentioned, and even Aarti had little option than to try these in the second round of vegetarian course.

In these 2 hours of stay I hadn’t found anything drastically stark there. Yes, everyone is a muslim. But I have seen that before in the old city of Hyderabad, Shivajinagar of Banglore, and other muslim majority localities here and there. Yes, the population density is a bit too much. But even that I’ve seen elsewhere. And, not great planning of the locality. Again not too surprising. However, I was also slightly getting worried thinking of the fact that, was I getting used to these things? Or even worse, was I accepting them as normal? The history of this place surely stands out in its significance. This is just not right. The continuing expansion of this place tells of the real fear among muslims, and their desire to live with the people who share their God of worship. Looking at this, hope we stop priding ourselves as a diverse country. Diverse communities living amongst themselves does not make us a diverse country.

I guess it’s the fear of unknown, or of some crazy excited fundamentalist which is leading to this segregation. My presence in muslim majority localities however still continued with little intention of my own. After a field visit, I went to Manek Chowk to have a look of what it was like. There was some exotic food, and there I made a mistake of having one full plate of pav-bhaji. It did not let me try more items. I unexpectedly came across Ahmed Shah’s Dargah, and then, I was at Jama Masjid. They were all close to each other, but still going to those beautiful places without knowing or expectation was quite exciting. To make things more wonderful, it was a pleasant night with cool breeze and slight drizzle, and there was a congregation of a small group of people who were sitting and listening in peace to a speaker. All that made it feel serene and drowsy. I decided to sleep there in the Masjid, however later on further wandering, that night I finally ended up sleeping at home.

I feel like I should be adding some experience related to office work here, however, it is so lengthy now. Even by saying this, I’m making it lengthier and so shall stop here. It’s late and so India Fellow people, this is for you  – Good night Anupama, Jaoog, Sweta, Aarti, Areeey Arroora, Mere Sharma, Chaitu, Mohit, Shankar, Janvi, Konkiii, Lucky Yaar, Rohyni, Anusha, Shanbag, Rahul. Good morning for tomorrow also guys :D!

Swetha: Sachi – The 2yr Old Whiz-kid

Sachi With Her Friend

Too many stories to be shared, but this is one is worth. Yesterday I had been to an Anganwadi in Pune along with 3 of my colleagues from the organization that am working with. We went there to do a longitudinal study on childcare for age groups 0 to 6 years. This particular kid whose name is Sachi was part of the study last year when she was 1 year old and performed amazingly well back then, said one of my colleagues. So, we were all very keen to test her this year also.

A small kid in green pants and navy blue t-shirt came running near the Anganwadi and stopped at the door of a small room. The Anganwadi worker asked the other kids not to come as we were coming to conduct the assessment there. We were all seated on the mat that was spread on the floor. So, this particular kid with sharp eyes and bobbed cut hair stealthily entered the room feeling a little shy. Her mother came right behind and she immediately felt a little safe. She had a warm smile on her face. My colleagues greeted her. They were all talking to her in Marathi and I couldn’t understand much as I am new to that language. What I gathered from their conversation is that they were trying to make her at ease so that the assessment can be conducted smoothly. “Sachi turned 2 very recently,” said her mom. Sachi was being brought up by her mother all alone as her mother left her father – he was not working. She was doing a great job bringing up the child all alone. Soon after, Sachi’s friend joined who was 3 years old. My colleagues involved Sachi’s friend in the assessment as well, just to make Sachi comfortable.

This assessment was to test the kids on their fine motor, gross motor, self help and listening skills. For a kid of 2 years old; Sachi was very quick to grasp the instructions given to her. She had to make small balls out of wads of paper with one hand, throw a ball over, stack up building blocks like a tower, tell a story and things like that. There was this one particular task where a 2 year old kid was expected to tie a knot. Going by the data every one had failed. Instinctively, I said this kid might also not be able to do it. But to my utter surprise she did. Even I didn’t know how to tie a knot at that age. Then I realized how wrong I was in coming to a conclusion. We never know what one is capable of until we allow them to do it.

Once we were done with the assessment and told the mother how well Sachi had performed, her mother was very proud. The mother’s eyes shone with pride when Sachi said her name and had mummy as her middle name since it’s her mom who is responsible for her upbringing.