Government Primary School, Aadarsh Uchcha Vidyalaya, Thoor, Udaipur
As I was born and brought up in a city, I was elated and curious to visit a village for the first time and to know how the rural systems function. We, urban people, have certain perceptions about a village. I also had multiple notions such as most people there are farmers, they are uneducated, have poor network, muddy roads, no internet connection, poor transportation facilities, bullock carts are used to commute, people don’t know how to use mobile phones, they live in a cluster of Kachcha houses, and kids don’t go to school.
I had only seen rural areas while travelling through a highway. Movies also had lot of influence on me. As I am from South India, where the movies are full of drama in exotic locations, I thought that villages are always surrounded by mountains and lakes. In my imagination, there was a big tree in the middle, where its chief would take decisions to solve local problems.
All my notions and ideas were proven wrong when I visited Thoor, a village 10 km from Udaipur in Rajasthan. There were concrete roads as well as Pucca houses which were planned and built like those in urban areas. It had temples, panchayat office, primary and secondary schools being run by the government and private schools. They had water supply available from a natural resource in Madar village, 3 km away. However, the nearest hospital was in Udaipur.
People could easily operate smart phones. There was regular network and internet connection, using which, a few of them were even watching videos on YouTube. They were updated with current news from their village, state and country. The Aanganwadi facility was running, where children upto the age of 6 could learn, lactating mothers could come with their infants for vaccination and pregnant women could visit for regular health checkups. Some people had local shops inside the village. Khadya bhandar was open for farmers to buy fertilisers, who were aware about what to buy when, as per the seasonal crops grown.
They even had Cuarzo, a marble factory, on the other side of the road. Young boys from Thoor were working there while women and girls were helping their families in farming, along with managing the household chores. There was a Grameen (rural) bank where one could borrow loans at a lower rate of interest.
I also got a chance to visit a government school and understand the importance of education from the Principal’s, teachers’, students’ and parents’ point of view. Initially, I asked the students as to why they consider it relevant in their life and assumed that since they are young, studying in a public facility, they would not really know much, but was taken aback to find out that they had a deep understanding.
Students in the ninth grade had high aspirations. Some of them wanted to pursue their career in Hotel Management and Business Administration. They understood school as a place to gain distinctive knowledge, be disciplined, have a healthy competition, learn in a smart class, make friends and enjoy with them.
Parents were aware that their children need education to pursue better opportunities in their life and be more knowledgable. Principal and teachers spoke of teaching etiquette and social responsibilities along with course content, to students. They said that the economic growth of our country will increase if these students study well, as they are the future of India.
My complete overview of a village changed with four days of visit to Thoor. Having said that, I realised that the situation may not be the same with all other villages nearby or across the country. People may be suffering from ill health, poverty and a constant struggle to earn daily wages hardly sufficient to look after themselves and their children. These visits, as a part of Rural Immersion, were just an ice breaker for me that led to a few memorable realisations:
- Assuming that the person you are talking to, is unaware or less knowledgable, because of his/her background, is wrong.
- It is okay to be less productive or non productive at times, because those are the days when your observations become deeper.
- It’s important to analyse and conceptualise a problem that other people are facing, and empathise with them before trying to arrive at a solution.
- Whatever I do, I need to enjoy the process, have fun and let things fall in place.