No two days are the same. We went to the NREGA work site at the same time. We sat under the same tree. Yesterday, more than ten women attended our makeshift school. Today, there were four. A few days ago, a woman from another village passed away. Many of our students had gone to a 12-day-post-death ritual. Or so we were told.
Regardless, Shantaji, Nikhil, and I split up amongst the handful of pupils. Somehow, the teaching transitioned into a sermon by Shantaji on the importance of cleanliness and hygeine. Hair, skin, hands, teeth - she explained the importance of each body part and the consequences if not sanitized. I don't think such lectures will do these women any good. They can not be told of the importance of hygeine. It has to be something they believe in. Helping them see this "Why" is the real challenge.
We met with Sarpanch Ram Singh in the evening. Behind the Baneda bus stand lay a lush, green lawn of a hotel. For an hour, the three of us sat on that lawn and discussed how we could work together to fulfil the needs of Shreeji ka Kheda. Ram Singh agreed to put another handpump in the village. He hesitated at the idea of holding a meeting in the Kheda. Some villagers still hold a grudge against him for defeating SKK's own Chunnilal in the recent elections. Nikhil and I want to facilitate a re-connection between the community and its Sarpanch. Ram Singh stipulated that he would attend such a meeting if it was okay with Laaduji.
As we left the lawn to buy some veggies for dinner the hotel's owner approached us. He was curious about what we were doing, where we were staying, etc. We gave him the shpiel repeated countless times, and like many others he too couldn't fathom why we were living in a village bereft of a salary. "You serve others. Give me a chance to serve you." He invited us for lunch with his family next Sunday.
The electricity didn't come at night. It is often assumed that in villages the day begins at dawn and ends at sunset. Not here. Hours after darkness, the Kheda was still up and running. Children playing, women laughing, some singing, others scolding. Electricity or not, the day wasn't dependent on nature's light bulb. Rather, unfinished conversations and daily gossip determined who slept when.