It was 10 past 2 in the night! There were some invisible hands and eyes surrounding me. My whole body was shivering with fear. There is a phrase that I read somewhere in my Bengali textbook “Aapona mangshe horina boiri” (The flesh of the deer is its greatest enemy). I felt like that deer that has no idea of the pack of wolf waiting to attack the prey. It was so dark and full of silence that even a firefly appears like chandelier. Unable to restrain any further, I squatted to poop, just outside Sarla’s place.
From the past few months, stool seems bane and boon at the same time. It knocks the door twice or thrice a week (only). And when it finally does, I am left with exhaustion and severe pain! I guess you have guessed it – i am suffering from constipation and piles. I stayed back at Sarla’s place on that day (a lively human being who currently goes to the same school that I am placed in through Kshamtalaya Foundation. It is my fellowship host organization that is working to strengthen the existing education system in the Government schools of the tribal belt of Udaipur).
Sarla likes to overfeed me every time I visit her place. That day also she tried her best till I request her not to insist me or else “I will die!” I could sense the ‘halchal’ long before I finished the meal. On our way (almost 200 meters away from her place) to the pooping ground we were walking holding a beer bottle (filled with water) in our hands and having idle conversation over shit!
“How do you feel about walking this far to poop” I asked.
“Kuchh nahi lagta hai re, didi (do not feel anything sister!)” Sarla said.
I wondered and asked her further “How do you feel when you have to go this far in the night?”
With a depressed look in her eyes she replied, “Rok leti hun … bi laage” (In that case I stop myself from pooping, I feel scared”.
It would have been just words coming out from her mouth, only that this time i was going to experience it first hand and empathize with her like never before. I recollect the fears I had when I was her age. All of them are somehow derived from the conspicuous individual choices. There are very few common fears Sarla and i have. Both of us believe we are like that deer whose flesh is its biggest enemy. And we both are fearful of not getting the love that will understand us in every way.
It has been more than 9 months I am here in GSSS (Government Senior Secondary School) Jhed. I know how my mother still gets scared of imagining me in trouble (she has a different level of imagination power). My mother is scared of losing me. I am scared of not finding my inner strength in this fellowship journey. I am scared of being fragile, fickle minded. And more importantly I am fearful to be perceived as a failure.
And the girls at Jhed are scared to pee and poop in the dark. It is not something new. But how could it be the reality of rural Indian women even in 21st Century! The shame associated to my body through socialisation found it liberating where the women do not care about covering themselves up while taking a bath under the hand pump. Nonetheless, the women I have talked to are ashamed of their body. The women are frightened of the atrocities that might happen in the dark.
Coming back to my plight that night with Sarla, it was terrifying to sit where there are no boundaries, no veils to make you ‘feel’ safe, relaxed in those few crucial minutes. In the morning, Sarla asked me to join her to go for a walk to the pooping ground with her. On our way, I asked her “Sarkar se toh paise dete hai, shauchalay banane ke liye. Tumhare ghar kyu nahi hai?” An air of melancholy passed by her. She replied “Paisa to diye the. Papa ne daroo pi ke uda diya.”
Here in my village Jhed, there is no scarcity of beer bottles to get a plastic free experience while pooping; in case a silver lining to close the piece and to our grim and shameful state of affairs here helps in any way.