I spent a sleepless night. Dogs were barking a little distance away, the lady I was sharing the room with was wheezing from asthma; I had never met anyone who suffered from asthma until then…and I was worried sick that something would happen and I would get hauled up to the police station.
New to the profession, this was my first real village experience, and all my ideas about the gaon ki gori (the village belle) walking around with a matka (pot) perched on the hip were brought crashing down.
Next day we set out to see the work being done - what they made, how it was sold. I realised they had flourished because, although financed by outsiders, they were empowering themselves. People tend to be more comfortable with their own and that is what I keep harping on: the best way to bring about change is to use ‘key workers’ trained from within the community.
On the last night we went to the interiors. Our group had torches. We came into an opening and saw lanterns flickering; the smell of kerosene emitted from them. Women were sitting with rice in straw trays open at one end; they'd hoist it up so that when it came down the heavier pits would be visible. Then they’d pick them out and throw them. A little away, large vessels heated on wooden stilts held brown watery dal. We sat there talking even as some sang folk songs; they did not stop work even as they spoke.
They run a community kitchen to save on firewood. After the food is cooked and eaten and they have cleaned up, the lights are dimmed and they sleep in utter darkness.
Why am I recalling this today? I had recalled it a few days ago when I wrote about my bed lamp. I realised with some discomfort that the colour of the walls that I adore so are almost the shade of a villager’s hut. They did not even have basic electricity. And here I was romanticising about the play of light and shadow.
How do I deal with the conflict of what I possess and what others don’t?
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This picture is only a representative sample; it was taken in a village in Bhuj, Kutchh on a non-working trip.