ASHA Ki Kiran

by | Apr 8, 2019

I with my three co-fellows, went to Katara, a village in Udaipur. It was a beautiful Monday morning on February 18th. The weather was cloudy and windy, as we started to walk, after getting down at the Paldi Bus stop. On entering the village, we divided ourselves into two pairs. I with Aditi, met a few kids who had taken leave from their schools, for no apparent reason. They offered us to take to Aanganwadi as they were going there. One of them told us that they study in private schools at Udaipur and only visited Aanganwadi during their holidays. Today, they were playing an interesting game called ‘Langdi Taang’.

We accompanied them and met Sakshibai*, the ASHA and Laxmibai*, the Aanganwadi worker. Both of them were managing the kids. Sakshibai was evidently the in-charge. She had a delightful smile, a glow in her eyes and was a strong personality, as against the assumption we often make of women in villages. She told us about how the Aanganwadi works and gave some detail about the village. We also got to know about the role of an ASHA and that she hosts different meetings with women for their betterment and a collective development of the village.

While interacting with her on the topic of media, we discovered that Laxmibai was fond of singing old songs and bhajans. We started by singing a few bhajans of Kanha Ji and gradually began to play ‘Antakshari’. They beautifully sang one of my favourite kanha bhajans,

“Achutam Keshavam, Krishna damodaram;
Ram Narayanam gyan ki vallabham…”

It was amazing to see how even the little girls knew all the devotional songs. We bonded with children and women by singing with them, and then moved on to other discussions. It was interesting to know that Sakshibai used Youtube to watch children’s stories and would then narrate it to the kids. 

After some time when I had an urge to pee, I asked her to direct me towards the washroom. She took me to the backyard of the school. I was shocked to know that they defecate in the open. On asking her the reason, she pointed towards an under-constructed, half-built, smaller than the given size toilet. She then shared her despair while mentioning about a duty she was once given where she had to wake up at 5 in the morning and ask all the women defecating outside to use these facilities. She expressed that she was ashamed to do that as every house didn’t have a covered/closed toilet.

The absence of toilets had left me perplexed. I thought about Swacch Bharat Abhiyan and how is it affecting the people at grassroots. Is the purpose solved?

We came back and as the conversation moved ahead, I happened to ask about her family, if she has kids and what does her husband do. She had a straight face now and her bright eyes went gloomy. I realised that, unlike other married women, she hadn’t applied sindoor and was not wearing a nose ring. Gauging the awkwardness, I humbly asked for forgiveness.

Next, she offered us to visit her house. Initially, we were hesitant as she would have to leave her work. We didn’t want to disturb her routine but she kept insisting and we went. The door opened into a big courtyard. There were two rooms on the ground floor and two on the first floor. There was an absolute stillness in the house, and even the footsteps made a considerable amount of sound. She offered us a seat and pointed towards her husband’s and mother in law’s photographs hung on the wall, with a garland on them. Her father-in-law had gone to a hospital with his another son, for the former’s eye operation.

Sakshibai had a 17-year old daughter and two younger, school going kids, a boy and a girl, studying in a private and a public school respectively. Her energy was completely different from how she was at the Aanganwadi. No one could imagine her to sing songs here. She offered Raabdi to us, a local drink made of milk. The clock kept ticking and in a bit, it was time to bid good-bye. We affectionately hugged each other and she was teary-eyed but the smile on her face didn’t fade for a moment.

Leaving her house, we walked towards the temple, where the other two fellows were waiting for us. I had no words to say and I couldn’t even try to empathise with Sakshibai but could definitely aspire to be like her, in terms of gaining strength from difficulties. Sometimes, we may not have a control over situations, as hard as we may try…

*Names are changed to protect identity.

A Day In Konta

A Day In Konta

District Sukma is located on the southern tip of Chhattisgarh. It was carved...

Stay in the loop…

Latest stories and insights from India Fellow delivered in your inbox.

2 Comments

  1. Nikhil Kanakamedala

    Your writing appeals to the senses Jaya! Looking forward to your next blog.

    Reply
  2. Aditi Tulsyan

    Lovely Jaya 🙂

    Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: