With this post, I’d like to share my experience of Community Immersion in Nayawaas, a village about 120 km from Udaipur. Last few months were quite hectic for the entire team of Kshamtalya, as we were busy organizing the Learning Festival in various schools of Kotda and Gogunda blocks of Udaipur. During this time, I reached a small village called Nayawaas. Nestled amidst Aravalli range of mountains, this place was going to be my abode for the next 7 days, as we would conduct the festival there…
A day before she sat by the window side for long, looking outside steadily at the deserted street. Unlike her gaze, her hands and legs which were constantly moving. “We will be six of us, in one hall with only a fan“, she grew anxious, repeatedly thinking the same. The idea of telling her family that she will be in a new village with five other male team members, was holding her back.
Before joining India Fellow, she had promised herself that she’d say YES to every opportunity, as this was the year of exploration for her, the year to know and understand herself better. Even in the group meeting, she was the first one to affirm to the proposal of community immersion. So, why was she skeptical about it now?
“I haven’t come this far to choose from what comes my way. Every chance must be grabbed. Family will understand“, she thought to herself.
The next morning, she calmed herself down, and was ready to dive in this new endeavor. Her team was to carry a carton full of material to be used. Due to unavailability of any other form of transport, it was decided that they will take it on a Motorbike. One large bag in front of the rider, another person holding two rolled mattresses along with a bag, and then she sat behind both of them trying to balance herself and the three big bags she was carrying.
“What a start!”, she wondered.
As they were nearing the village, she was smitten by the natural beauty that surrounded them. Mud hills adorned with greenery on all sides, a clear blue lining of a freshwater stream flowing through, and the sun trying to hide itself behind the Aravallis but getting caught by the mesmerizing red gleam that it radiated in the clear azure.
The constant curve on her lips widened as two local boys took them for a stroll in the village. However, the gleam in her eyes faded as they told that the village does not have any toilets because the source of water is quite close to the settlements. Suddenly, she started seeing the hills and farms with a different lens. “I wasn’t ready for this“, she murmured to herself.
Their only source of water for the next 7 days, was a hand-pump 200 mt downhill from the school where they would be living and working. She picked up her phone and started swinging it hastily in all directions to look for network which could connect a call to her family. The signal appeared at one crowded corner, and as the call got connected, she forgot all the lines she had been rehearsing and briefed them on everything except the open Toilet.
“It’s of no use to tell you what to do and what not. Just let us know if you are managing your food and lavatory well.“, they said, and she was relieved, assuring them of the two basic necessities even though she was unclear about them.
For dinner that night, they were invited by a family in the village. The Alpha Male of the family had somehow come to know about the team’s struggle for food and affectionately offered them the delicious home-made meal. Soon after, the other team members retired to sleep, leaving her with mosquitoes. Lying on her back, she looked outside to see the full moon emitting its milky rays all over the barren fields and muddy mounts. Dogs were howling somewhere nearby. Before she could realize, her eyelids had met and she lay asleep among others, on the floor, with the door still open.
The next morning…
“By no means I am defecating in the open!”, she was agitated.
“Decide for yourself! You also have the option to go back in the evening and come early morning everyday“, her team members said, hiding their wicked laughter.
She stood outside, with her hands on her waist. It was dark before the dawn, and she could see a group of women going towards a mud hill, carrying a vessel in their left hand and managing their drapes from the right hand. Some of them looked at her and smiled, but she couldn’t reciprocate it.
Next day, one of her co-fellows who is working here in the same organization, came running towards her, to give the news she was longing to hear. “We’ve finally found one. It’s in this Atal Seva Kendra, but you’ll have to take care of water. You can go there early in the morning.” She ran to that place, bubbling with joy. It was a small structure with three walls, and no roof, only slightly better than nothing. She somehow managed to do her business, by asking two children to guard and ensure that no one is around.
However, she had understood that this place was too small to even take bath and hence, went to the Nadi (river) for rest of her ablutions. One night, when she felt the urge to relieve herself, well she took the path most traveled…