Many years ago, renowned film maker Mr. Shyam Benegal addressed aspiring rural managers in the auditorium of Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA) and famously mentioned that our country lives in many centuries at a time… Recently after visiting a tribal village named ‘Sarkui‘, around 70 kms from Surat city, I believe Mr. Benegal’s words stand taller than ever.
The experiences I had there made me realize the privileges I had always taken for granted in life. I am sharing a few below…
Bhimjibhai, a marginal farmer living in a kuccha house with intermittent access to electricity and water, has a family of five to take care of. With no access to banking facilities, he takes loan from private money lenders and waits patiently for 14 months to get the money for his sugarcane production… When asked if he is facing any huge challenges, he smiles and says ‘Sab thik hi hai’… That’s the face of rural India.
Found him in one of the three Anganwadis in Sarkui. There the young kids are looked after. The kids of the scheduled tribes do not have access to a nutritive diets. They are often anemic and suffer from stunted growth. Their diet in the Anganwadi primarily consists of rice and milk.
Sarkui mainly consists of people from Scheduled tribes, the Chaudharis, the Vasavas and the Kotwaliyas. These communities have their traditions deeply rooted in their culture. One such tradition is of the Valvai. He is the person who makes announcement for public gatherings in the village. His forefathers have been doing the same since years and he has been continuing the tradition. Here he is informing people to gather in the jungle tomorrow morning for the celebration of Nandarva, the festival after the first monsoon rain in the village.
An enthusiastic young man, Pankajbhai has recently been appointed the school principal and he wants to do real service to a village where the education literacy is just over 50%. His major concern is the lack of quality education in the primary school. Kids coming from the 8th grade don’t possess basic skills. He needs to start by teaching them counting and mathematics before going ahead. The challenges at his hand are immense but he is confident in bringing about a change in the village.
As our professors say that Poverty is multi-dimensional. I believe so is rural India as well. It cannot be defined, it can only be sensed and can only be sensitized about. The experience was eye-opening for me and I hope that one day I will be able to make a difference in their lives.
Big shout-out to Rajat and Praveen my Induction Field-work Segment (IFS) partners. The memories we made will always be remembered.
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