“No one loses anyone, because no one owns anyone. That is the true experience of freedom: having the most important thing in the world without owning it”
― Paulo Coelho, Eleven Minutes
Being a part of the development sector in different capacities for two years has often resulted in me romanticizing terminologies that lie at the heart of the sector. But on most days, it was difficult to translate these into realities. One such word that I have often come across is ‘ownership’. Most dictionaries explain it as “the act, state, or right of possessing something”. How does it translate into realities of working in the development sector? Is it still the same act of possession? In a regular job, ownership comes with the work that we own which translates to the money that we earn in return for it. In an ideal case scenario, that is mostly the relationship between people and their work. This eventually translates to contentment in personal lives. In the development sector, the idea of ownership lies in faces from the community that look back at you with a smile. That’s exactly the wealth one takes back!
Sounds heavily romanticized? Indeed, it is. It’s not like this sector is devoid of any power dynamics and selfish interests. Yes, there are many. The organisations in this sector too are infested with regular work life politics. The only difference lies in the fact of what we desire to take back home. Individualistic, though the only ways to survive the same office politics is this freedom to navigate and find satisfaction in the ownership the smiling faces give you. That is precisely where the definition for the same ownership transitions from possession to an intangible happiness that one gets on helping the people into the system and making them realize the might of their rights.
One fine Monday, during a field visit while I was stuck with the idea of how my ownership and stake looked like, I came across a woman, named Gulnaz (name changed). This was not my first meeting with her, as a part of one of our projects; I had screened her for a case of post-partum depression and forgotten about it! To my utter surprise Gulnaz (name changed) called me out by my name and asked, “How are you?” The feeling wasn’t new, the set up was! She held my hand and took me to her place. We sat, she offered me water and asked if I wanted tea. Only to realize that she just went on to talk about her family, her husband and her life. In a dull voice she said, “My biggest fear is if he gets another wife, I hope I can give him a son this time!” On the way back to office, I realized a similar situation had occurred at the time I was writing my thesis. Just the way the woman sat me down and narrated to me her biggest fears, not with the rationale that I would help solve it but just with the idea of unburdening herself. This was the case with not just Gulnaz (name changed) but other women in the area too. They recognized me and asked me to sit and have chai and chat. A sense of pride ran down my veins. The lightened faces left me startled with a sense of satisfaction.
In my journey of four months this one encounter has stayed and shall always stay. Looking at these makes me believe in a world beyond office corridors. Worlds where smiles matter and make one gain an ownership in the same. Money and power might dissolve over time but an experience like this stays with one for a life time as a treasured memory. Whether or not this is ownership, is still difficult to define but the heartfelt happiness, freedom and satisfaction that this instance gave me is indeed a possession in itself!
P.S.: According to the American Psychiatric Association, Postpartum depression is a serious, but treatable medical illness involving feelings of extreme sadness, indifference and/or anxiety, as well as changes in energy, sleep, and appetite. It carries risks for the mother and child.