Thursday, April 1, 2010

Survey of SKK: Take One

I wanted to be lazy in the morning. Unfortunately, the heat from a quickly rising sun made for a persuasive alarm clock. As we walked to the handpump someone mentioned that there was less water than usual. I wondered what would happen if the water ran out. We had Baneda and Bhilwada as a backup. the residents of Shreeji ka Kheda would have no choice but to accept this calamity.

We drove to Bhilwara in the afternoon. The right hand brake of the Activa needed fixing, plus we wanted to get the hassle of vehicle registration over with. Brake repair took half an hour. Registration, on the other hand, took half a day. We made four excruciating trips to the agent's shop - each time the address proof was wrong. Rather, it wasn't the one they wanted. The way of doing things in this country is beyond reason. We finally got our registration receipt, drove to Taraji's home, and plopped on the bed under a loud, wobbly fan. A bed. A fan. Luxury.

On our way back to SKK we stopped by Baneda to pick up Shantaji. Her bags were packed, and she was prepared to spend the night in the village after our evening survey. There's a dinner where my whole family is going, but I refused. How could I miss my ffirst day of work?

The three of us went from door to door, collecting information from each household until darkness set in . I jotted down notes in a makeshift table: the woman and man in each house, how many children they had, other family members that lived with them, who went to school, who received pension, who had a BPL (Below Poverty Level) card...lots of things. Some families greeted us warmly, while others seemed wary of our motives. All of them were living in great poverty, but only a few possessed BPL status. That was disheartening. The pension system seemed to be working well; most of the widows we met with received a monthly pension of Rs 400. That wasn't an issue. Lack of water for farming was an issue. So was employment. We have nothing t odo all day. We can't sow in dry fields and NREGA isn't enough. This sentiment echoed resoundingly in each home. Many were open to the idea of learning new trades. We proposed evening literacy classes for interested adults. At the end of the day, having gone through forty homes, we had a list of ten women interested in these classes. Interestingly enough, Chunnilal flat out refused to send his daughters and daughters-in-law to these classes. His home was our last stop for the day. Shantaji chose to spend the night there. When Nikhil and I walked into the wooden gate of our home, Nandram accosted us. Why did you start the survey at the other end of the village? You should've started where you live. You should've started here, with us. We assured him that his home would be surveyed tomorrow. No, the first people on the list will get their work done. If we're among the last nothing will happen for us. Was I surprised that he interpreted this survey in the manner he saw his government work? Not really. In his experience with the administration, the first one gained, the last one lost. I tried my best to explain that we wouldn't be giving this survey to any officer, that it was to build our understanding. Frankly, I don't know if I got my point across.

Nikhil and I spent a while discussing our thoughts on the past few hours of survey work. I wanted to push myself to try new things, to pursue ventures with the community regardless of whether they worked or not. Nikhil believed in a more practical approach, that we shouldn't mislead the villagers by offering things we didn't have the experience to provide. Regardless, we both agreed that we should not make false promises, nor should we build up an expectation to transform SKK in 6 months, or however long we choose to stay here.

1 comment:

  1. First off, I needed to read this entry before the others... or read in order, because I just understood what the surveys were!

    I have to say, your spirit is so strong... despite being pushed and shoved in the circumstances of village-life, you never stop your efforts... You two are heroes to me and I've nominated you both as CNN heroes. I hope you won't be upset but take this as an opportunity that if it works, maybe more will be inclined to donate to this village/ AID in general and help the cause!!!