We read in our textbooks about French Revolution, nationalism in Europe, Renaissance, various inventions abroad and the Industrial Revolution, which also flagged off in Europe itself. As we heading towards the our Independence Day, we’ll talk about the incredible contributions of Mahatma Gandhi, Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, Bhagat Singh and other ‘popular’ freedom fighters.
The objective to go through these alien concepts is to understand their relationship with the events occurring in our surroundings. For that matter, before directly plunging into these issues, we must understand the larger context. But after reading these concepts, if we are not able to correlate with our regional context, then it is worthless to feed those alien concepts in our memory. If we are unaware of the various Birsa Munda of our surroundings, who contributed equally to get freedom in our lives, it means we are neglecting our own surroundings.
In sociology, I studied that one person is shaped by the persons, circumstances and the life around them. Without out social spectrum, we are nothing but a body with bones. To know about our own society is as important as knowing about ourselves. When Priti ma’am told us that around 14 villages in our district Udham Singh Nagar (Uttarakhand) are deserted, I was taken aback. Residing in the same district, I was ignorant of this issue that should be nationally known.
In the words of rural journalist and author P Sainath, “Understanding rural India is the most complex part of planet earth.” The ‘continent in the form of Rural India within the subcontinent’ needs to be covered diligently. That’s what People’s Archive of Rural India, i.e. PARI, does as an organisation. It documents the regional, linguistic, occupational, facial and other diversities of the ‘Unnatural Nation’ India. In spite of the literal meaning, PARI highlights stories, rural and urban, which deserve to reach our citizens.
Working with an organisation like PARI, an initiative by Ramon Magsaysay awardee P Sainath himself and the team, was like a dream for me and my team. In our classrooms, we continuously quote veteran journalist P Sainath for his work in making the acquaintance of urban India with the diverse ‘Rural India’. Nanakmatta Public School is also on a similar mission to “enable an education that is holistic and contextualised to rural Uttarakhand.”
So here, our paths met and we approached PARI. The response from their end gave us a chance to spread our wings for our endeavour to contextualise learning with our surroundings. On August 10, 2021, we had an interaction with the team members of PARI: Priti David, Vishaka George and Riya Behl. We reeled over various dimensions to rethink our very own surroundings, which we are a part of.
“India and world is changing very fast. And PARI aims to document this change,” said Priti ji. The “advancement” in each sector has increased the production and services by leaps and bounds. But it is the same advancement that has contributed in destroying the various cultures of rural India. As a modern human being, we believe that following eminent traditional practices is against our prestige and status quo. Despite our mother languages, we endorse Hindi or English in present-day.
Prima facie, this cutting off from our culture and traditional practices would not be a big deal for many of us. In a country where 700+ languages are spoken by thousands, the supremacy of any one or two languages signals a serious threat. This phenomenon has not only hit various sections of society, but proven the monopolising of one culture in a diverse society. In the words of Priti ji, “When one language dies, along with it dies its literature, songs, traditions, culture etc…”
Sainath’s PARI believes that if a particular culture and tradition go extinct without being documented, then we would miss knowing about one episode of the diverse era. So the idea of ‘Online Archive’ came across. One can find an immense and diverse collection of hundreds of thousands untold stories, voice recordings, videos and pictures on PARI’s website. These are under the section ;Everyday stories of everyday people’.
Pioneer of the ‘Living Journal’ of PARI, Sainath confesses: “Our country and society runs on the labour of poor people, not on yours and mine. The objective of PARI also is to make you, me and others respect this labour of ordinary people.” And unfortunately, the stories of these prominent stakeholders of our Indian society have no trace in the mainstream media. This beautiful collection by PARI includes stories missing from our mainstream media.
During the session, Vishaka ji said, “We need to change the way news is presented in the country.” Reality can’t be traced on the parchment, but in the field, in the communities, in the stories of different stakeholders, and in the dreams and aspirations of common people. And the only way to get introduced to the reality is to live the living of the common people of our country. On this note Priti ji added, “The impact of Covid and its lockdown are not what you read in news. The condition is much different.”
With constitutional values of equality, freedom, fraternity and justice as its core, PARI believes in challenging the norms of our society. These values can be channelised to understand the social spectrum of our surroundings.
We are proud to be working with an organisation that is working to be the voice of stifled throats.