Journal - India (Week 5)
Updated: Jul 13, 2020
The following content is from the journal I kept during my internship with UNICEF. It documents my reflections during a field trip to India in 2006.
Fifth Week: July 10-July 15
We interviewed a woman Panchayati Raj Institute (PRI )member from the scheduled caste. We were very thrilled to interview her because she can be a great role model for the people with multiple disadvantages.
“Are you aware about the condition of literacy of SCs and girls in your village?”
Her answer was very simple.
“I have no idea.”
We thought that our questionnaire was too complicated and not well elaborated.
So we asked a more practical question.
“How did your education affect your decision to be a PRI member?”
“I have no idea.”
With disappointment, we asked another question.
“How has your PRI been promoting girls and SC education in the village?”
Again she said,
“I have no idea!”
But, fortunately, she added one new thing,
“My husband takes care of everything.”
I was so stunned about her ignorance and unawareness.
So I asked,
“Why did you become a PRI member?”
And she said,
“Because of the reservation policy.”
On Sunday, Deepika and I wanted to go to the zoo. So, I was about to wear my sneakers. But
when I put my right foot into the shoe, I could feel there was something inside. I thought that I might have left my socks in the shoes. So I put my hands into the shoe to take out the socks. But something inside was too slimy to be socks. So I had to look inside. At that moment, my eyes and the eyes inside were met, and the object inside suddenly popped up from my shoe. And I could not help screaming! It was a frog.
After I calmed myself down, I asked Ashish if he wanted to join us to the zoo.
“No” He said,
“Why do we need to go to the zoo? Just look around!”
I looked around my room. Seven lizards were crawling on the wall. There was a frog jumping around, moths on the light bulb, mosquitoes everywhere, grasshoppers in my bed, ants lining to the food, and cockroaches on the floor, a spider in the bathroom and fireflies with the glow of light.
The zoo was right there in my room.
“What is your dream?” I asked students at the Nari Gunjan center.
“What is the dream?” They did not even understand the meaning of “dream.”
After our long explanation, a student said that she wanted to be a lawyer.
And everyone laughed at her.
In the Musahar community, all the people who once had been a dreamer, failed. Children grow up with no role model of success.
There were three college graduates among the Musahar, but none of them got a office job. Since the government refused to hire them, they had to be a laborer on Brick Klin or became a rickshaw puller.
Even education and meritocracy could not restore their lost dreams. A dream for a better future does not bring anything but mocking by their family, friends, neighbors, and the society.
The only dream the Musahar girls have is a practical hope like having their own tailoring shops, but dreaming beyond that has been systematically oppressed. Their sense of helplessness is deeply rooted in the society, which has not accepted them as an equally competent member.
From babies to 20-years-old girls, we are all students at the Nari Gunjan.
Children have amazing resilience. In such a messy environment, how innocent their smiles are and brightly sparkling their eyes are!
Creative Forms of Discrimination
At government schools, there are many forms of discrimination against Musahar Children. A common form is to have them sit in the back or not providing them with water. However, there is a more creative form. Regardless of the children’s achievement, they get promoted quickly so that they can be kicked out of school as soon as possible.
Cheap Sweets and Long-Term Development
We are heavily loaded with our responsibility to create an equal playing field for the less privileged. Sometimes, it is so tempting to offer cheap candies to hungry children, and run away to the other parts of the world where we don’t have to observe their harsh reality.
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