On 9th October, we began with our journey—the one for which I had been so eagerly waiting; a journey to immerse in a district of India. For me, it was Ahmedabad. I was excited to live in a village, interact with folks, understand the nuances of the district, and so much more. I was all set to keep my senses open, use all the tools that I had been taught over the last few months—the list was endless and the plan was perfect, except that I didn’t know how it was about to unfold for me.
The vast stretches of farmlands, lush green fields, vibrant villages, women clad in colourful chanya-cholis, men with thick mustaches, children playing happily in open spaces were just a few pieces of the puzzle; the big picture told a very different story, one that I took some time to process, one that has left me with several unanswered questions.
The definition of ‘Development’ has always been very clear for me. While interacting with the folks of Chepirog, an urban slum, my partner asked the women what development means to them. The answer was simple: “Kuch nei chahiye…agar ho sake toh sarak banwa do…apne paas sukoon hei…kafi he (We don’t need anything. If possible, we’d like a road here. We are at peace here, and that is enough)”. I looked around to take another look.
There were these small one-room houses, stuck next to each other. The rooms inside were not well lit. The bed was right beside the cooking stove, and there was no washroom. This was the same for all the houses we visited in that area. The women got really excited when we visited one of the houses. They wanted us to visit all of theirs too. And in each of these houses, we were offered chai and nashta (tea and snacks).
We both were humbled by the warmth we were greeted with. How often do we let in strangers and show them around our houses? And here were these folks, sharing with us the stories about their lives, showing us around their mohalla (neighbourhood), and offering us ghar ka khana (home-made food) after they learnt that we are staying at hostels, away from our homes. Also, they are the very same people who are denied their rightful ration. Why? No one really had an answer to that.
Then what is the sukoon (peace) that they were all talking about? To that, they had another simple answer – they all live happily with each other, taking care of each other, and celebrating all the festivals together. They were happy that theirs was the only area that remained unaffected during the riots. They had found their sukoon in scarcity and security.
This story is from ‘Realising India’ rural immersion program, which is a part of the PGP-DL program at Indian School of Development Management. It has been authored by Shreyasi Bannerjee, who is a student of the third cohort, Class of 2020.