As a crucial part of my India fellow training, we were set to go to the villages in Udaipur district of Rajasthan. India fellowship, being a social  leadership program believes in the philosophy of preparing young people as change agents for tomorrow. Since a large part of the fellowship duration is spent in villages, and it is also fair to say that the soul of India resides in its villages, it becomes imperative for the fellows to get an exposure of life in rural India.

On a bright sunny day, we, four of us, reached Katara, the village that was suggested to us by the program team. Interestingly, it has a story attached with its name. We were told that the village was named after a ‘well’ of the same name, Katara. People from surrounding areas came and settled around the well.

On entering the village, many of my prejudices got challenged. Until now, I used to think that all villages have poorly built houses with mud walls and a thatched roof. But this one was completely different. It had better infrastructure than any other village I have been to, not just in terms of houses but also roads, connectivity, water sources and public facilities. All the people we met, were welcoming and curious to know about us. Even we were keen to know them.

There was an old man who did not know either Hindi or English and we couldn’t speak his language which made it hard to start a conversation with him but the effort he made was heartwarming. He expressed his anger on the government policies and seemed furious about less employment generation opportunities created by the government. On a slight appreciation of his awareness, he told that he reads the newspaper daily, which has helped him a lot in staying updated and keeping up with the new generation. He advised us to do the same, as he considers it a good habit.

Coming from an urban set-up, we generally tend to go to a village to find a problem and work on it to make people’s life comfortable. It can also be looked as a way of satisfying one’s ego by thinking of oneself as some kind of a super hero. It was obvious for us to think of a solution for a handpicked problem here as well.

There were no street lights in the village. Also, the drainage lines were poorly constructed and maintained. It struck me that if people start coming together and work in a collective manner for getting the street lights and fixing the drainage lines, it can work wonders. It also made me critical of the behaviour of people in this village to remain confined in the village, like the old man. I questioned my stereotypes about the village having only kutcha houses, water scarcity and broken roads.

After some more thought and introspection, I realised some flaws in my way of thinking and discovered a duality in my thoughts. As a pretended expert of rural development, it came naturally to my mind that people should interact more with each other and that our society can only develop through participation of each of its members. But a big question here is…

Do I consider this village, a part of the same society to which I belong in the city? If yes, then why do I see the urban and rural set-ups from different lenses?

There are problems persisting in cities also. Then why is it that I never felt the need to come out of my house and take an initiative to solve those urban problems. The concept of ‘Reductive seduction of other people’s problems‘ resonated  in my mind, a line of which says that,
“If you are young, privileged, and interested in creating a life of meaning, of course you’d be attracted to solving problems that seem urgent and readily solvable.”

Reflecting back on my experience of the village visit, I can conclude that no problem anywhere can be seen as just simple and small. To the seemingly solvable problems of rural India, there are many complexities attached  to it, which should always be discussed at length before arriving at any solution. Also, it needs a lot of empathy to understand the lives we have not lived. Being an outsider, it becomes easy to recommend solutions for any problem but for those solutions to be really meaningful, we need to walk in the shoes of insiders.

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