Sunday, October 23, 2011

Roosters, Skepticism, and Mahua

Roosters are way too regular. Their cock-a-doodle-dooing began at 6 am, and I was reminded of Shreeji ka Kheda once again. We went to the nearby pond to wash up. The water was green, and not in a good way. I reluctantly dipped my toothbrush in the moldy liquid as tiny frogs jumped about. This was what they drank? They seemed happy, but were they healthy? I had my doubts. The tiny flies swarming above the pond and the green slime spoke more than their words ever could.

We didn't stay too long in Ashwapurma. Parvatamma had made puris for us. She was the lady who had Namaste-ed me yesterday night. She was also the person I spoke to for an hour before going to bed. Parvatamma speaks seven languages and has lived a life more nomadic than mine. Her thoughts were clear, her articulation sincere. She used to sell bangles and soap in a small kiosk in Jagdalpur. She also used to sing for a living. At one point, she was a cook in a hotel. Now, she sells small items in a kiosk in her village. Her son is the village head.

Parvatamma (Photo Credit: Jhuma Sen)

Even though Parvatamma spoke to us openly, I remained skeptical as to the true condition of this settlement. Her reassurances that there were no problems in the village after MORE came seemed questionable. MORE worked extensively in this area, so it makes sense that they would bring us here. It also makes sense that the only people that would speak with us were the village head and his mother. However, their story was not the whole story. Unfortunately, that is a story I could not fully understand, because the presence of MORE representatives biased who spoke with us and what they said. Perhaps the volunteers that continue the study could revisit this settlement without outside influence. 

On our way to the next settlement, the road became quite treacherous. The path was extremely sandy at some points, rocky and steep at others, and at one point it was no wider than half a foot. As a passenger, I mastered the art of deboarding and reboarding the bike. By the time we finally reached Adviramaram, we were hot, thirsty, and tired.

A Poor Excuse for a Road (Photo Credit: Naveen Ramisetti)

Through Naveen's interaction with one particular baby, we were able to speak to a family about a case in which three people were arrested for cutting forests. They had been kept in police custody for two weeks and then released when they paid Rs 20,000 to the Forest Officials. Adviramaram has also been the recipient of some charity such as mosquito net distribution and the provision of a one-time package in which each family with children received rice, dal, onions, jaggery, oil and turmeric. Healthcare seemed to be another concern of this particular family. The baby had gotten sick recently and the family had to shell out Rs 200 for injections. This is when they went to a private hospital, as the government hospital provided sub-par medical services. For a family in which the monthly income is Rs 3000 at the most, Rs 200 is equivalent to two days of work. 

By the time we reached Bhadrachalam, I didn't care that I had leaves stuck in my hair, or that I hadn't bathed for two days. I was just so glad to be on a bed, under a fan! Ah, the things we take for granted sometimes turn into luxuries. The day ended on a positive note, with the Cluster Coordinators and volunteers getting together and enjoying liquor obtained from the flowers of the mahua tree. It was my first time trying mahua, and I enjoyed its nutty flavour and giddy buzz.


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