Nothing can be generalized in India. Our land is so diverse that one life is often too small to understand it completely. It is filled with a variety of cultures, practices and people, enough to interest any curious person.Right now, I am working with the Operations team of Grassroutes Journeys Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai, a social enterprise that promotes rural tourism as a means of alternate livelihood in the villages of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh. I recently joined the organization and getting inducted to it. While getting familiar with work, I got to visit a village called Karchond, on the border of Gujarat and Dadar & Nagar Haveli, about 30 km from Silvassa, on Gujarat side.
Mango has been my favorite fruit since childhood. Every summer, I would be excited to lay my hands on it. This season, I not only visited a place where Mangoes grow in abundance but also found something striking about the region.
In this small village, it surprised me that ‘live-in relationships’ are normal. Most people have kids before marriage and that too, at a young age. I met a boy in 7th grade who told me that he has a baby girl. My mind was blown away.
People here told me that young boys and girls meet at common gatherings like weddings and fairs. I got lucky to even attend a wedding ceremony in Karchond. The ambiance there was no less than a nightclub in a city. Everyone was dancing in their own cultural style. What I found unique was that they carried groom and bride on their shoulders all the time. Somehow, it was funny to see them hanging from shoulder to shoulder. Elders stayed at the party until 12 am. The real deal started after that. Boys and girls began dancing with each other in groups, exchanging smiles. Some of them went behind bushes!
Here’s a glimpse from the fun at this social gathering:
Today, even in metro cities, majority of people still don’t accept ‘living-in’. Considering that, to see such a place existing for years really made me wonder,”Who is more modern?“. Villages are always considered to be full of people with a conservative mindset. Karchond can be shockingly eye-opening for all those who have firmed this belief.
But, more than starting a debate between urban vs rural, my concern is about having kids at such an early age. The times when we learn, explore and do something to procure a good life. Responsibility of kids in that stage is a huge burden. In a conversation with a doctor of a local PHC (Primary health center), she told me that child-marriages and then reproduction are leading to mal-nourishment in the region. If parents are not healthy, children will of course be unhealthy which is why it’s required to have kids at right age.
People are breeding like animals, with no sense of responsibility. I asked a local resident, “Why they don’t use protection while having sex?”, to which he said, “They don’t need condoms. Women here are not prostitutes.” He believed that contraceptives are only meant for adulterous people, not for family planning. This is where we need to work.
The more I’m getting to experience such unexplored cultures, untapped beauty and untold stories, the better I feel about my country. Visiting far-off lands, talking to strangers and staying with them seems to be a great way to know it closely.