A few families boasted of a good crop this year. They were the ones lucky enough to have a well on their land, or another source of water. Otherwise, it was the same old story - no water, no farming, no work, no money. In one home, a woman lied about how much land her family owned. Her husband derided her for twisting the facts and gave us a much higher number. Apparently, she thought we could give her family BPL (Below Poverty Level) status.
In a nearby home, a woman lay in the corner, her husband cooking dal baati in their courtyard. The wife was mentally retarded since an accident a few years ago, and her man was ridden with debt from medicines. By the looks of it, the treatment didn't seem to be having any effect on her - filthy, frail, and lethargic, she looked much older than she probably was. It was pathetic. We were heading back home when the same man met us on the path and invited us to eat dal baati at his house. Usually, people offered us food or tea as we were leaving, knowing our acceptance was unlikely. In this case, he wasn't obligated to ask, and yet he did. Such a genuine act was a reflection of his sincerity.
We continued the survey in the evening with the help of 19 year old Jaana. She holds the honor of being the only person in Shreeji ka Kheda who has studied beyond the 10th standard. Currently in 11th grade, she wants to complete her 12th year and work in a private company. Unlike the other youth who got married at 5-7 years of age Jaana had not fallen victim to the practice of child marriage. Her unusual path in life said a lot about her parents, who prioritized the education of their daughter over everything else.
With Jaana's help, we got through a few more homes. The effects of this survey were already manifesting themselves. Some families asked us to sit with them for a while. A group of women and children came up to our veranda as we prepared dinner. That they left their homes and made the effort to come see us meant a lot to me. Shedding of the first layer of inhibition has begun.