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!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

81. CAPITAL difference

The group, especially the children broke loose after listening to my sentence. Adult women were obviously caught in two minds, they did not want to insult their guest, but could not control their laughter. Children were not bothered about who they were facing, for them it was a moment for a hearty laugh and they were enjoying the moment fully.

I think I am either too out of the world (because I do not read daily newspapers and do not have TV at home) or I just love to get surprised. That is why everywhere I go, there are surprises for me. I was visiting Ranchi after three years and was surprised by many things. For example, the participation of 600 Akhadas in Raam Navamee festival with such a pomp and show was something I had never imagined about Ranchi. (The photo is taken two days after the festival, so no crowds in the photo!)

I was in a small hamlet named Bidpi Tolee, part of village Itki, just about 20 kilometers from Ranchi, the Capital of Jharkhand. Here I was, amongst women and children of Sarna tribe, who speak ‘Kurukh’ language. Later after internet search I realized that ‘Sarna’ is a religion practiced by Santhal tribes. (For further information visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tribes_of_Jharkhand).

Half an hour ago, prior to this meeting, I had learnt from Mantoran ( a local woman, who is working with us as Extension Worker, her life story is really inspiring) how to ask ‘what is your name?’ in Kurukh language. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kurukh) I had just asked “ninghaya naame enther heke?” to a child and that brought so much laughter to the whole gathering. Obviously, I had asked it all wrong, once again!

I met about 20 women and few children. The children attended a local school, which was a school for ‘school dropouts’. Most of the adult women had very small land, and after paddy cultivation work as laborers. They earn only twenty rupees as farm wage and 80 rupees if they are on a construction work – a lot of construction work is going on around the area. Women showed me a place about 2 kilometers away where there was a forest ten years ago and now not a single tree! For a hamlet of 50 families there is only one handpump.

All the families are poor. They are not able to speak Hindi, but understand my questions very well. They have a hard time while explaining their daily diet to me. They insisted that I should stay with them for couple of days, then they would be able to demonstrate me what they eat. Women were very happy to interact with me. They told me, that it was for the first time they were interacting with some outsider. They interact with relatives coming from outside, but it was their first interaction with a non-Sarna person. They have formed couple of Self Help Groups and we discussed that. I gave them information about bank linkage and government schemes. But more than that I wish they could spend some time together and learn few new thoughts and ideas. They like this idea of learning together.

I request the women to sing. They start discussing amongst themselves. It seems that their ‘star’ singer is not there. They are taking time. The girls who are at the sideline of the conversation till then decide to become proactive. They want to sing and without waiting for anyone’s permission they start singing. They sing a song about ‘Chala’ God. Their voice is beautiful, it resonates. The song is something like this: I go to East and I go to West, but I do not find Chala. I go to North and I go to South but I do not find Chala. I eat and sleep but I do not find Chala. I sing and dance, but I do not find Chala. The people try to find God, but they never find it, we are born, enjoy, live and die without understanding God… what a nice song!

It is time to leave. The women want me to spend some more time with them. But there is another meeting at Chund, a place 25 kilometers away. I have to, knowing that I may never meet these women again. I know I have learnt a lot from them but have not given them anything in return. I just take their group photo so as to remind me that such people and such life exists around me.

I approach Ranchi in the evening thinking about those simple women and kids. We are separated not just by twenty kilometers. We are separated by history, tradition, religion, education, opportunity, freedom. The life is not only different apparently but inherently.

There is a CAPITAL difference between the lives of people like us and the tribal people. Who is responsible for this might be a difficult question to ask. However, it is certain that it is our responsibility to bridge the gap by making everyone part of the development process.


  1. incredible!
    thanks for sharing!

  2. making everyone part of development....
    But after reading this story...i cannot figure out which part of world is "developed" in true sense, ours or theirs?!
    If the interaction turns out to collaborate the best of both worlds, (as i know you have always tried) then the bridging will make sense. But bringing innocent people into the world of psudo-modernism is never a good idea. Am I right?!

  3. A lot of what passes for development doesnt assume people matter. Its all about so much money being spent in so many places, so it can be documented and applauded. And then there is someone like you, who actually goes there, talks to folks, and writes about it, and discusses it. And it points somewhere. I just hope someone is observing and learning.

  4. Great work....
    The so called capitalist corporate consumerist development with the help of globalisation and privatisations benefits a few at the cost of millions leading to inequalities both socially and economically. We need a radical shift in the mode of governance as well as social mindset.
    Being an anthropologist, i never understand why the govt wants to dilute the lives and cultures of tribals in the name of modernity and civilization.
    We need separate and distinct laws and policies to deal with the diversity of india.
    We have two sections
    1. We The People
    2. We TheY People

  5. Unfortunately, all the successive governments have considered development as building flyovers and malls.
    These are the people who must benefit from the development, but get sucked into the corrupt system of governance.

  6. Its wonderful to see you do this and the opportunity that you utilising so very well !


    Many many congratulations. I got so many goosebumps reading many parts of this post.

    "We are separated not just by twenty kilometers. We are separated by history, tradition, religion, education, opportunity, freedom. The life is not only different apparently but inherently."

    Was one passage that completely resonated well with me.

    On another note, 'development' is a topic that has divergent thoughts. I am not sure if 'development' as its commonly understood is a step forward for the tribal folks with such wonderful culture !

    In my opinion they lead a far more pristine and 'advanced' life !


  7. magiceye, from our side of the world, this is indeed incredible!

    anunja, you are right, we need to change our concept of development so as it is inclusive of all!

    Ugich Konitari, sometimes I wonder whether I am observing and learning or not.. because I am part of the world who facilitates 'development'. I hope I can act according to my ideas!

    Mahesh, you have really captured it well in 'the'people and 'they' people...

    Chowlajee, we indeed need to have a change in perspective regarding development!

    Kavi, I cannot say whether tribal culture is advanced or not. I am not eligible to express opinion on that. What I see is that they are poor, do not have health services, do not have enough food, lack of education and opportunities. Do they have choices - like we have - is my question!


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