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Forty Five Days in Rural Maharashtra June 5, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — paintedpostcards @ 8:40 am

One and a half month spent in rural Maharashtra was an enriching experience. Fifty-hundred kilometers away from the busy, noisy cities and the entire atmosphere changed. It was a matter of one and a half hour ride in the bus and jeep and I was away from the clustered roads to the silent and serene landscapes. Brought up in a city and currently staying in one never lets one think beyond its boundaries.

It was the second time visiting the villages of Maharashtra but the purpose was different this time. It was gathering data from men and women out of forty two villages in three districts of Maharashtra. Data gathering was the task but my experience there was much more than that.

We went from one district to another and village to village. Each village different from the other, having some unique beauty of their own which one would definitely notice as an outsider. We spent atleast a day or more in each villages. Going in the mornings and coming back in the evening was a routine, but what made it interesting was how each day even the routine differed.

Some days we would miss the bus and then spend time finding some conveyance and also bargaining to the core. Two or three times I remember walking for miles and miles and on reaching our destination of stay not even remembering when I slept off.

Interacting with the men, women and children there gave me more insight than I had imagined to receive. It was a huge basket of information I was gathering about their lifestyle, water problem, health facility, diseases, neighbours, panchayat, and much more. In that short span of time I would not have read so much even in the books.

One very distinct experience I often had there irrespective of the village I was in was the variance in the openness and hospitality of a lower class or caste women and in that of a higher one. I mostly accompanied to the interviews happening with women. The so called upper caste were friendly and helpful no doubt, but talking to the women alone was the first difficulty. The husbands being out for work were not a hindrance but the mother in laws would be in full control what to allow her daughter in law to do. Secondly though proportionately being a large number in most villages only a few of the upper caste women  would offer tea or food. Whereas the among the lower class the women had the freedom to decide on her own that when and where she would give the interview and also ask her man to leave and be out of the room till the interview was over. Also tea and lunch was always offered where over a period of time I would feel guilty for rejecting the offer as I would have had one in the previous house. Some of them asked us to come the next day just to have a meal in their house. I was overwhelmed and kept reasoning would I have been myself which one would woman would I be if a stranger came to my house and wanted to interview me.

Shreeti Shakya, in Maharashtra for data collection during November – December 2010.

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Training in Maharashtra during the drought June 4, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — paintedpostcards @ 11:07 am

An Animators’ Training was organized under the Samajdar Jodidar project, from 11th and 16th May in Solapur and Beed districts of Maharashtra. Subhash Mendhapurkar and I were present there as the trainers. The first phase of the 3 day training was at Halo Medical Foundation in Anadur at Solapur. We reached the training venue on 10th night and saw that 11 Animators of Astitva Samaj Vikas and Sanshodhan Sanstha had already reached, along with one Facilitator. By next morning, two more Facilitators arrived. Upon asking, we were told that many Animators could not reach because it would have been difficult to arrange water for men and animals. All of them live in Sangola Taluka of Solapur district which is facing drought right now. There is no water to drink because of the drought in the entire area. There has been very little rain. A tanker comes about every three days and supplies water to the village, but as to when it will come next- no one is ever certain. As a result of which, all family members must wait in anticipation for the tanker. Under these circumstances, if the Animator leaves his home to attend a training, then this goes against all that they have learnt and dreamt of in their life. Yet, this was not easy for me to understand.

The second phase of training was in Kaij Taluka of Beed district. Some of the Animators of Beed could not come. There was no one at their homes to fill the water.

Upon returning from Kaij to Pune, I stayed at Jamkhed. While chatting with a man, I casually remarked that the bulls here are quite skinny. He immediately retorted that there is no water for people and how will animals be fed. Animals stray long distances in search for water.

I sat at a tea shop where there was quite a crowd, perhaps because it was in the middle of a busy market. I noticed that the water is from Water Board, which is kept in a huge earthen pot.  The earthen pot was enough to store 150-200 litres of water. It was almost half full. A man employed by the tea shop was cleaning the pot and throwing the water out on the road. This was troubling to see. My colleague Subhash ji could not remain quiet and said to the man that there is such shortage of water and here you are wasting precious water. The man answered that he will have to clean the pot as it contains drinking water. Seeing this, I felt that slowly, sensitivity is coming to an end. On one hand so much water is being wasted and on the other hand the politics of water is going on. Every politician is going from village to village assuring that something will be done about the water problem.

The question rises whether we can learn from someone else’s experience or will this need to experience everything ourselves make us burn our hands first?

Satish Kumar Singh