Sunday, October 31, 2010

The "humane side" of rural India

I've been waiting to update my blog for a week now. Yaaayyy!!! Now I feel so relaxed after having started to type everything (and thanks to the free time...NOW!)


About Bagepalli Taluk

                                   "A view from Nowhere" - (attributed to Jay Rosen)
              People still shift their home by using Horses as the means of transport

Bagepalli is one of the most backward taluks in Karnataka, Kolar District. Literacy rate according to a 2003 report is about 52 percent in the taluk. But, in reality it is about 40 percent. Language spoken in the Taluk is Telugu.Geographical location: Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka Border.

Our Journey to Bagepalli:

                                                                  Bagepalli Town

I was made the team coordinator (because people who knew any South Indian language were made coordinators) and had to be responsible for the group in all ways. At first, I was skeptical about my team members but as the days passed by in the village ours was the BEST group with the best team members (*personal opinion*). On 24th Oct, 2010,  I woke up at 4.30 a.m. because our bus was at 6 a.m.. After being dropped at Majestic (KG bus stand), we headed to Vijaya Cafe for an awesome breakfast and then got it done by 8 and luckily got a bus to Bagepalli. (*looked like buses were waiting for us* -sigh of relief)
We were on our way to Bagepalli town and assuming the conductor to know telugu, I spoke to him in Telugu and luckily he replied in the same language. *smiles*

                                                               In the bus

Everyone was happy going to their respective Taluks. It was the "one week break" we desperately needed from hectic schedules at IIJNM. But, we were equally worried about our accommodation and the rest of the things. But, thank god! I arranged all this before we actually got there. We had to take a bus to Rachavarepalli from Bagepalli and finally got there. After this, everything seemed very confusing. We had to take an autorickshaw to Chinaganapalli (the village we stayed in) and we did. The person who had to accommodate us was waiting for us right there. We felt much relaxed (Because most other teams did not know where they were gonna stay and Ours was decided and properly planned).

                                                     Our home... sweet HOME :)

He asked us to stay at his place. Gave us an room to stay, TV and amazing home cooked food (his mom made). We were asked to adjust and whatever we wanted was only a place to sleep. We had no idea that we would have all this in our so called "temporary home".

That evening people in the village kept wondering who we were and kept asking others where we were from and why were we there in their village. But, whatever it is, people in villages are much welcoming and warm compared to people living in the cities. (Got to know this). We stayed with all kinds of cattle - cows, sheep, buffaloes - and enjoyed every bit of it. (Though my friends made fun of the "Buffalo's sussu  ka factory" :P:D).
                                      Weirdest Autorickshaw I have ever seen

First Day - Patalpalya, Tholapally and Somanathapura

                                                       My teammates

We visited these places in Auto. Our driver, Suresh Anna, made it easier for us by knowing every place there. As planned, our schedule for the first day was to visit the above mentioned villages, of which, Patapalya was one of the five hobillies of the Taluk. We visited the angandwadi center there, met the two kids and saw how anganwadi workers meeting is conducted. Then, visited the PHC at Patapalya.

Lack of doctors, people believing in superstitions to cure diseases, child marriages, using same bedsheets for deliveries of mothers, lack of medicines for diseases, lack of awareness among villagers and many more. All these were still prevalent in villages. Sadl;y, I walked out of the PHC assuming the Panchayat members of Patapalya to tell something informative and useful about the hobblie. But, none of the members knew when the elected President and the secretary of the Panchayat would "visit" the office. (It is their duty to be in the office from 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.). But, except them, you will find members of the panchayat in the office who give most important information about the socio-economic conditions in the surrounding villages.

Next stop was at Tholapally, where anganwadi center was empty, angandwadi assisntant was sleeping, Panchayat office closed and nothing worked there.
                                   Gummanayana Alaya ruled by Navakota Empire

We then went to visit a 100 year old fort called "Gummanayana Alaya" at Tholapally. It was almost 3000 ft high and we had to go to the hill top. But, the most funniest part was - one of my friends falling repeatedly like "kungfu panda" - that was the most hilarious part of the day and Yes! he made my day. And, thanks to my CONVERSE flip flops which had grip and helped me climb rocks, while my friend was constantly falling down. :P:P
 Somanathapura was again a tragedy. Nothing went right there. The only person we met was the Milk dairy secy.

On the whole, first day didn't go that well. Apart from visiting the fort, we realised that we had to see such grave and harsh realities again and again in the coming days. We were back home. Tired. Two of them slept. I was sitting outside the house. Aunty, served tea and some snacks. sitting there, I wondered how we in the cities cannot stand any outsider in our area/ locality, but these villagers respect you so much for being a part of this village and making an effort to know them. And, what made me happy was I knew I would become a part of them very soon.

                               Clicked this from a moving autorickshaw on a bumpy road

Day 2 - The most tiring day

We get up from sleep and we had aunty serving fresh,hot milk (actual milk and not the watery one we get at our hostel), pours hot water in the bucket for us (like moms do) and then serves breakfast for all of us together.

We had to visit three villages. But, ended up visiting about 9 villages. We began our journey on the bumpy roads of the taluk, almost sitting on each other each time there were potholes. Sometimes, the auto's tyres were in the air and sometimes us. On thr rocky road, we felt we would never come back alive.Whole day Suresh anna was with us. We went to Billur, Rachhhevuru, Pulagallu, Tholapally again, Chakavelu and four other villages. (forgot names :P:P ) It went well. Met a freedom fighter from Rachheruvu, entered Andhra Pradesh as Raccheruvu was part of AP but was geographically under Karnataka. (And, people in the border areas never know which state they belong to because both states interfere in their matters and end up doing literally nothing for them. NOTHING!) This is one of the reasons why they remain the most backward regions in the state.

         A 1st standard student of PSS Educational Trust, a private school in Chakalvelu

Then we got a shock at one the PHC's at Shivapura. We got to know that a Unani (Ayush) doctor was giving aloepathic medicines to the patients . (He can be sued for it) But, he himself told that he had no other choice because patients always wanted injections thinking they would cure their disease.this shows the pathetic conditions of PHC's and lack of paramedics and doctors in our country.
It was a hectic day. Tiring. even after we got came home, we had the feeling of travelling in the auto, on those bumpy roads where we almost died. But, I survived it. That's how my Day 2 ended.

Day 3 - Almost did the same things

                                                        Rakshita and me :)
One most important thing I have to mention what I did on Day 3 was ate properly. (I felt the need to mention this because we were invited for lunch at our Auto Suresh anna's sissy's place). And, trust me, she cooked AWESOME food:):). Adding to this, (given my love for kids) Rakshita, a six months-old baby made my day.

Day 4 - The day I didn't wanna work!

There's a point of time when one gets annoyed seeing others in their group not work and relying completely on that person. Yes! This was that day. I was seriously pissed off with my team members (not their fault - language barrier) because I had to do every single thing. But, yes! I did it. And, it didn't end on a good note.
Because, I did not get any data from the places I visited. 
Totally annoyed, took a bus with my team members and came back HOME. Not to vent my anger on others anymore, the best thing I could do was to sleep. And, I slept. Woke up and had tea, sitting on the cement slab outside the house.
                                                       Venu and Sreekanth

Thinking about some random stuff, I sipped my tea and saw two kids on the other side of the street. In the meantime, the dog (one with dark circles, probably very old man he is) got entangled by a rope that was tied to a cow. Both, the cow and the dog were struggling to help each other. Nothing worked. I asked those two kids to get the dog out of that place because I dint know how a cow would react if I went and did something to free the dog.  Assuming the kids to know something, I asked them to help. And, they did.
That's when my day started getting better. I realized this at the end of the day. After that, the kids came n spoke to me and introduced themselves. Venu and Sreekanth. Innocent, simple and full of respect is what comes to my mind when I think of them.
We spoke for sometime and then they asked me if I could teach them English lesson on Kalpana Chawla because their English teacher died in a accident. So, I had to become their temporary English teacher.And, yes...I agreed to teach.
I was explaining it in Telugu as they did not understand English properly. So translation was a big challenge to me. (Until then, I never realised that my mother tongue would come to my rescue and was very thankful about it). And yes, I used to speak in their dialect (telugu has different dialects which comes from three different regions in Andhra Pradesh - Andhra, Telangana and Rayalaseema). And, they spoke in the Rayalaseema dialect which I knew very well because my dad belonged there.

And that day I was actually very happy and satisfied, not because I taught kids who asked me, but I dreamt of teaching people in the village all the time.(Like I always wanted to serve people in some way or the other, so education was the best bet). and the kids told me " No one has taught them so patiently until then". I was very happy because more than teaching them, I realised I became someone very important to them in their life and that is the way they would remember me. and yes, they made my day. :):) Also, it is one of the most memorable days of my life until now.

Day 5 and 6 (The day I didnt wanna leave):

Day 5 was okay. Not that great. Two of my firends had already left and my other two friends and I stayed back. But, day 6 was something I never wanted. On the first day, I was waiting for this day. And, when it was that day, I never wanted it only because it was the day we were leaving. Sad because - One, I loved the village and the people and everything in those 6 days. Two - I knew I had to get back to hectic schedule in college which would make me almost forget that we spent 6 most amazing days in the villages of Bagepalli. Auto anna came to pick us up and we had to leave the place.  We left to Bagepalli and were feeling nostalgic.

What I felt and learnt:

From day 1 people in the village never treated us as outsiders though we actually were. They gave us space to live in the little space they lived in. They cooked food for us, liked us, expected us to teach their kids and most importantly treated us as one among them. (which is very much in contrast with what people in the cities do - not all - no offense - But, we cannot stand two people who come and stand at our door and act like we don't care. May be do not even talk to them) But, the villagers taught us many more things. To live in a world full of problems but still wear a smile on your face. They do NOT have materialistic desires, like we do. They feed you even if they STARVE. And, that is the REALITY of people living in rural INDIA. And, more HUMANE.
                                                          AWESOME food

I loved the autorickshaw rides everyday. sitting at the back of the auto with my friend, clicking pictures of random things, staring at the tree that stands alone from the rest of them, looking at the road that never seems to end, which also could be the GLORY ROAD and still remain happy in the simplest way ever.
Loved the time spent in the rural set-up with my teammates (not all except three of 'em) and yes, every one has to experience their way of living. Trust me on this. (*unless you know how to adjust*)

Waiting to go back there....

P.S. Thank you Shreya Kumar, Prarthito and Rashi :):):)