Let me start with some honesty. Two months ago, when I got to know that I am supposed to work in Kanpur, that too not in the city but in rural areas, I was filled with anxiety. The organization wasn’t known to me. I was envious of my co-fellows who would be working in places like Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Karnataka with organizations I had heard of. When you don’t know the context of your work, and the people you will be around, the only thing that comes to mind are the stereotypes attached to a place. Since Kanpur is well known for its pollution and paan, I only had reasons to be tensed.
Today, as I write this blog from a village in Kanpur Dehat, sitting on a charpoy, without fan or light, I am trying to adjust with all the discomfort because I have already started calling this place, my home. It’s a small two-room house in a village called Padraha, that I share with a family of six. It would have been a punishment for me, had these people I am surrounded with, were not there.
Whenever I open my laptop for any work, by default many curious eyes come and sit by my side. Mostly, it’s the kids from nearby houses and sometimes from my family here. They call it a TV and are always keen to know what I am doing. They love to see the photos I have, of the village. Today, I am surrounded with five of them; they are my support system and motivation to come back to the village even on days when I feel demotivated with the work progress. On my right are Pooja and Tanya; sitting, playing, and troubling each other like they always do. Tanya is three, and is wearing a bright red top with denims. She has short hair, an adorable chubby face and is being raised with a lot of love and pampering. Whenever one asks her if she wants to go to school, she will get away saying she is not in a mood.
Pooja, someone I consider a friend and sister, has done her bachelor of art. I’m glad that she got educated, even though I would’ve been happier if she was working other than just doing the household chores. She has taught me little things like milking the cow, fishing and disposing a sanitary napkin in the village (how tricky it was!). Ramu uncle, with his ever cheerful face and silly jokes light up my dull days. He gives me all kinds of fatherly advice.
Yesterday I was sitting behind him on a scooter when I expressed my wish to ride it. Two minutes later, he got down and said, “Here you are”. “I don’t know how to ride it”, I said. “That’s okay, you can try”, he reassured. I was wondering how he is able to trust me so much, how easy it was for him to take the fear out from me.
At last, Amma (the lady of the house), with her perfectly chiseled features, traditional way of draping a saree and not to forget, the bindi with which she looks absolutely stunning. She is a lovely soul. Whenever I call her aunty, I have to bite my tongue because she prefers that i call her amma. I never felt like an outsider here, and that’s largely because of her. She takes care of me like her own little kid. One day, when I was struggling to wash clothes, she taught me how to do it properly. I was troubled with mosquito bites and didn’t have to utter a word before she was ready with her traditional home made oil as a cure. The best part is when she feels tired, doing all the work on her own, she doesn’t hesitate to take my help, making me feel truly at home.
It’s 8 at night now and we have gathered on the terrace for our daily ritual, the radio time. Every night, we prefer to listen to Waqt ki Awaaz (a community radio by Shramik Bharti) before going to sleep by 9pm. Off to spending some more quality time with everyone around!