Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

56. At Last...

It is about 9.00 in the morning when I see her. No, I do not know her, and I do not talk to her. I am aware that taking this photograph is an invasion on her privacy. But I take it to remind myself the burden women carry in their life.

I am traveling from Munger (Bihar) to a small tribal hamlet. On the way we have stopped at a dhaba for breakfast. Anticipating non-availability of hygienic food my team has carried bread, butter and jam. So, in the midst of poverty, I am having a luxury breakfast. I am traveling in a car, which has air-conditioning facility. I have packaged water bottle with me. I have instruments like mobile and digicam. I have enough money in pocket and I have enough food. My life stands in full contradiction with the woman who has to carry this burden almost everyday.

We move away. I see men sitting on the top of the bus and tempo all through my journey in the state.

The transport facility is so scarce, that people have to travel like this. Inside the vehicle there is crowd. It is humid and hot. Those sitting on the top of the bus at least get enough air to breathe. I do not know what is happening to those sitting inside the vehicle – and women have to sit inside. Another burden they carry. I see my life in full contradiction with those traveling on the bus-top.

We reach at the end of the road. A tribal (Santhal community) young man is there to receive us and guide us towards the hamlet. He is speaking fluent Hindi and is not at all shy. As we are walking through paddy fields, I have to pay full attention to the marked walking path. One moment here and there, and I would slip in the mud. I can neither enjoy the conversation nor the scenic beauty around.

We reach a small hamlet. A bucketful of water is brought for us. Within five minutes women gather in the community hall. They are surrounded by children. Men too come to listen. The hall is packed. I sit on the chair. Generally I sit on the ground but today I cannot. On the road were many thorny grasses, my salwar is full of those thorns. If I sit cross legged, thorns are sure to trouble me, so I sit in the chair. The local men and women walk through these thorny fields regularly. There is no shop in the hamlet, no dispensary, nothing. For everything people have to walk for at least five kilometers. They live with the thorny grasses happily. I see my life in full contradiction with the life of these tribal people.

One of my responsibilities is to address such meetings. Actually I do not teach them much but I learn a lot from them. The hamlet name is Vannarkola. There are only 36 households in the hamlet. Electricity polls exist, but there is no electricity. Women and children are malnourished. I apologize for not knowing their ‘tribal’ language. They all enjoy my ignorance in a healthy way – ‘it is alright’ kind of expression on their faces. Most families own land – a small land of course. Women have formed couple of Self Help Groups. Some have participated in agriculture development program. I talk about different things.

I pass on the baton to my colleague and come out of the hall. I like this hamlet. The houses are small, with mud walls. I see green paddy fields around and the sky is clear blue. There is deep peace in the environment. I fully enjoy the moment, knowing well that I would never get it in the city.

My team comes out in search of me. They start talking about different aspects of the development program. I leave that peaceful moment behind and jump into the discussion. Well, a lot of things could be done here. We walk through the hamlet, open the doors (in the absence of its owner) and glance at the inner part of some houses. I meet a 10 year girl, whose name is ‘Gungee’. A man is carrying a small child on his shoulders, whose name is ‘Khushabu’. I see utensils, clothes, goats, cows, and birds. I get a feel that ‘this is a fine place’. And again, I see my life in full contradiction with the hamlet. One enjoys such remote hamlets when one’s life is not blocked into it. As I have a comfortable place to stay, I can appreciate mud house. What if I am compelled to stay in it?

The program ends. The SHG is providing tea and biscuits to all those who are gathered. I notice that the kids are given only biscuits. In the eyes of the kids, I see a wish for tea. I invite them to dip their biscuit in my cup of tea. Without hesitation, a child dips a biscuit. Then comes the second child, then the third and so on. I see their smiling faces, the happiness in their eyes.

And I see my life in full contradiction with these kids. For them, just a little tea to dip a biscuit is a source of such a tremendous joy. And for me?

We leave. A group of women and men walk with us about a couple of kilometers, just to see us off. We talk, we smile, we laugh, we plan, we promise to meet again. The feeling of closeness is mutual. The joy in meeting each other is mutual. The wish to meet again is mutual. The connectedness is mutual. The wish to hold hands is mutual. The smile, the happiness is mutual. The bond is mutual.

At last, there is no contradiction.


  1. Fantastic. I felt as though i was reading my own experience of just being with people at a different place !

    It is under such clear skies, green paddy trees and beyond TV households, that i have always discovered a sense of natural bonding.

    Where happiness still resides in simple things. And the mud walls tell more than a muddy story.

    Every time, i travel to the interiors, i've made it a point, to stop, stare and converse. I have never been 'not surprised' by life. Away from the big cities, brands and malls !

    There have been many occassions too, where we have eaten out of the same plate ! And had chai-biscoot from the same glass.

    I have never been more relieved and stress free whenever i do this! For it is in such connections that there is hope ! Hope that all is not lost. Yet !

    Wonderful writing. Thank you for sharing.

  2. After reading your experience ,I wonder why there are so much stark differences in India?

    Why in some cities there are street lights and in some... the cities are darker in the night?

    You know, I like the way you write..

  3. you put the darker side of life, in a very clear. It really makes you think.

  4. Brought back memories. With age we are supposed to get wiser. But even today, I have no clue why some of us MUST go through the suffering and want... The great disparity. But one thing I know, happiness is a bird of entirely different color.. The rich may not always be very happy and relaxed to enjoy what they apparently have.. and some poor make you envious of the peace and contentment they have.. this is a very strange world !

  5. thanks for writing a thought pravoking blog.life is full of contradiction,even d human personalities! i found myself right from my childhood till today in contradiction.well, as i started living and understanding d life it reveals that unless u r enlightened everything is contradictory.thanks for sharing.

  6. Thanks Kavi for your enthusiastic response. Yes, it is important to see 'other life' and I too understand that happiness is when one is with nature. My only concern is whether this happiness is out of choice or out of no choice? Everyone should have a choice to live according to his/her wishes. The tribal don't seem to have that choice now a days!

    Sapna, yes the disparity and inequity makes one think ...

    Thanks Puja, for your thoughtful observation.

    Sachin, yest the rich may not be happy but poverty does not necessarily bring happiness. If the peace is out of not knowing, I would rather have 'unpeaceful'people with knowledge. That is because I have benefited from knowledge.

    Nutan, I guess enlightenment does not destroy contradictio, it just teaches us to live with it!


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