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, November 20, 2012

184. Concern

Another day.
Another journey.

A roadside village.
As usual, I am late.
My work always gets delayed - because during discussions one point follows another.
They all are important points and we keep on discussing them.
That causes the delay.

However, I am not worried about this delay in reaching.
Because there is no meeting.
We are visiting two-thee households.
Recently our team has collected a specific data.
My job is to verify the information by visiting some number of  household.
A job easy from one point of view and difficult from another point of view.

The motorbike leading our car stops. The car too stops.
Two more persons are waiting for us.
We greet each other.
They walk in one direction, I follow.
It is afternoon time. Some people are sitting leisurely in the village, they watch us.
Some children are following us.
Women are watching from doors and windows.

We reach one house. I have to bend down to enter the house through that smallish door.
"Madam, this is a widow headed household," my colleague informs.

One of the aspects I am closely monitoring (the survey) is the data related to women.
Whether all women are women covered, whether women faced any difficulties during the survey, the importance of their participation in the process of finalizing the data ... I want to talk about all these points. So I am meeting women's Self Help Groups and also women headed households.

We enter.
A red colored carpet is waiting for us. It is so clean that it must be brand new.
"Sorry, we are late. We made you wait for us...." I start the dialogue.
"No problem. Please, come. Sit down, this carpet is for you .." the woman to my left welcomes me and my team.

That woman might be around 45.
In her left lap is a young girl sitting shyly. She must be just two years.
On her right side is another child, younger than the girl.
Another woman is holding the hand of the young boy. The woman looks young.
There is another woman sitting by the side of the young woman, her hand is on the back of the young woman as if to support her. She might be around 50.

I glance at the house. One room; bricks held together with cement, the tin roof.
A small cloth partition probably makes some space for cooking.
The family seems to be very poor as there is hardly anything in the house.
I turn back to the women.

They all look very tired.
Another glance tells me that they are not just tired but as if they are  weary of pain.
Suddenly the young woman starts crying.
Both the older women, sitting by her two sides are trying to console her.
In a flash I realize that all these three women with whom I am sitting are widows.

We talk.
The young woman has lost her husband in a road accident ten days ago.
What happened?
Motorbike accident.
Who was driving the bike?
Don't know.
By the time the family received the information, the young man had died.
Did they file police complaint?
Where was he working?
They don't know the details.

The young woman is about 18-20 years.
She never went to school. She lost her father at a very young age, her mother had to work and she had to take care of her younger brother.

This young brother - about 10 or 12 years.He goes to school.
He is sitting in the corner without smile or without any expression.
The young woman has two children - a two year daughter and a younger son.

The woman sitting to the left is Mother in Law. She too is a widow.
Another young boy sitting there is 10 year old - who is the son of the sister in law (of the young widow). This boy's parents have passed away.

That means in this household there are three women - all illiterate and widow; two young boys studying in fifth or sixth standard and two very young children.

Do they own land?
How much?
Don't know. Maybe half an acre.
Irrigation facility?
No, rainfed.
Who looks after the crops?
The young man - who had died in accident.
What do you cultivate?
Oh! Less than enough.

Any other income source?
Do you have any papers?
Ration card?
Any death certificate?
Anyone knows sewing?

The mother of young widow tells me that she goes to work - some roadside work - to earn.
Does she have any papers?
Aadhar card?
BPL card?
It was there earlier, but their names were removed from the BPL list.
When? Why? How?
Don't know.
Anyone in Self Help Group?

Any relatives in the village?
Some relatives are in the nearby villages, they had come when the young man passed away.
However, they had to return to their village as they all are daily wage workers.

I am speechless.
I ask one of the accompanying government workers to find out possibilities whether at least one of these women can immediately receive Widow Pension.
He writes details in his notebook.
Will these women get any benefit of the government scheme?
I don't want to generate false hopes.

What do I do?
How do I console them when I know that words are not enough.

What will they eat?
How will they live?
The two boys go to school, but when will they grow enough to earn?
Will the existing education system allow them to earn degree or certificate?
Until then, how will the family survive?
What can I do for them?
And how many more such families are there?

We are leaving.
The young widow says, "Sister, I want to add one more name in the list (that was given in the survey."
I am startled. I keep quiet.
"I am carrying a baby, Can I write his name now?" she pleads.

Her concern is not over yet.
That will keep her burning until she is alive.



  1. I was six when I experienced what it means to be displaced and marginalized. My mother, with my younger brother in arms, and I walked three Km, barefoot, with just clothes on body, few personal belongings, such as utensils my mom brought during marriage, in a small gunny bag. Thankfully community existed then. So we had shelter of two-room mud wall house that was vacant...
    I never write myself on public platform... But I am sure nobody will read this comment..

  2. Oh boy! Your concluding lines confirmed what I was afraid of when reading it midway!!
    The quandary of illiterate, poor Indians...
    The government and all sorts of NGOs seem to be failing at this undaunted capacity of ours!

  3. 2nd Part: My Ma (Peasant) had studied three books. From that day I joined her to help in every possible work, household as well as rented farm to grow paddy and vegetables.. while going to school.
    Ma raised three children. The eldest was with Pa (peon at Govt office) at Bombay. All four studied by self-help: one engineer, two architects, one executive in govt.
    But stubbornly I continue to live with bare minimum needs in a one-room tenement in Mumbai chawl. And my one want is to use computer at cyber-cafe, for this work (which tries to find answers that you have raised in this story) on Internet.
    THIS in the memory of that day of displacement and marginalization.

  4. Great publish, very informative. I'm wondering why the opposite experts of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I am confident, you've a huge readers' base already!|What's Going down i'm new to this, I stumbled upon this I've discovered It positively useful and it has helped me out loads. I hope to contribute & aid different customers like its helped me. Great job.
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  5. OMG. This is just downright bad..should we blame them for not having the papers, or the govt for not educating them about the papers.
    Should we worry about the mouths to be fed, or the little hands that willl start working at an early age quitting education in order to run the family? Its eerie. Really.

    Would love to hear from you! Do stop by my blog! *cheers*

  6. Kappu, it is difficult to blame any person in this situation - we can only blame situation.


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