23 SEPTEMBER 2019
As I write this it’s 10:50 pm. I am lying down on my little metal bed in the only house made of concrete. I am living with a 71-year-old retired army Havadar and his 60-year-old wife that have graciously accepted me to their house for 21 days. The house I am currently residing in is located in the middle of the jungle, with no network connectivity.
My work entails me living in the community to really understand the grassroots, their daily nuances so I could intervene more effectively in schools.
For this very reason, I had chosen my favourite village, Lamabagad a 45 minutes scenic drive away from my hostel in Kapkote. The students were cute, fun-loving and the best company I could ask for.
Durga Devi Ji and I became friends gradually. Her days started at 5 am, with a cup of garam chai. She would make one for me as well and keep it beside my bed in the morning She worked with her sister in law in the fields till 6 pm, then would rush up the steep cliff to help make dinner for her family, then rush down to make dinner for Dada Ji and me. One such dinner conversation went as such.
Durga Devi Ji sat in front of me, squatted on her hind feet, as she ate her bhindi and roti. She was enthusiastic to answer me before she could swallow.
Me: “I have a fever, as I had a cold bath and washed my hair.”
Durga Devi Ji (looks concerned, turns around and hands me a glass of black pepper, salt and warm water.)
Me: Smiles and takes the glass, I told her I didn’t know about such a combination existed.
Her: “Mai unpadh hu, Mujhe Kuch nahi aata.” ( I am an uneducated woman, I don’t know anything.”
I wasn’t shocked by her reply.
I had read somewhere women who don’t earn an income don’t value their own work. All I was seeing, was the result of such thoughts.
I replied, “shiksha sirf ek madhyam hai, ham kisi ko bhi kisi se compare nahin kar sakte, agar main aapse aapki field ke baare mein poochhugi to aap mujhe har ek baat baata payegi jaisa ki main apni field ka bataaugi. aapke pass zindagi ki kai kahaaniyaan hain jo mere pass nahin.”
“If I asked you anything related to your area of work, you would be telling me things I never knew. So really we can’t compare ourselves, but yes it’s definitely having an education is another ballgame, what you have is real knowledge, life experiences, stories from the field. You have a solution to your problems, not the resources.”
I get up, washed my plate, said goodnight and headed to bed.
I was pretty grateful that night, as I laid down and scrolled through Readera a free app to read books offline on my phone. I realized that technology-aided with education is a powerful combination that opened us up to a whole new world.
Living within the community for 21 days only made me fall in love deeper with the grassroots.