Balancing expectations, learning lessons

Balancing expectations, learning lessons

It was astonishing to realise on how similar the issues were on domestic violence, education, and violence in general in India and UK. 

The issues were the same but we might have different options and challenges. But it was on the same continuum, from a different point. 

Before leaving from London, I had no idea what was in store for me. That was the exciting bit. 

Everybody  around me was busy on Google and trying to find out more about Chhattisgarh. I knew where Chhattisgarh was because I’ve been to Raipur and have friends and cousins living here. 

We’ve heard of Naxalites, but I had no fear coming here. However, people around me were a little afraid. 

I took my vaccinations, my health insurance etc, because we were travelling in a group and it was more of a preventive measure, but personally I had no fear. 

“This will be a new experience”, that’s what Oxfam International kept telling everyone. “We are going on an adventure,” I kept telling everyone and that enthusiasm was infectious. Another member agreed to join us for the trip because I kept talking about it nonstop. 

To be honest, I was almost expecting that the issues might be different, the lives of women in India are different, so the issues will be different. I know that’s naive. However, I found men here were behaving the same way -- spending all their money on alcohol, on feeding their habits and then coming home and beating their wives. 

I have seen and dealt with similar cases back in UK. What surprised me was the awareness and strength shown by the women here to deal with these problems. 

For me as a participant and an observer, to see the learning in the group, this stripping of layers that we walk around with was most interesting. This was common with every member of the group because I’ve seen them in different backdrops and how they react to issues and people. 

I’m also observing their journey and their transformation in some way. Sometimes subtle and other times more obvious.

We’re here as a group and a catalyst to facilitate change. That’s the aim for Asian Circle -- to make a difference. That’s why we need to look beyond alleviating problems and move to finding solutions. 

Take for example, the story of Gayatri, who we met during the course of our trip.

A 14-year-old orphan, living with her chacha and chachi (uncle and aunt) who don’t want her to continue studying. 

Gayatri wants to go to school and the group responded spontaneously. Each member wanted to do something. Get her out of the situation, legally, and send her to a hostel. I think she was distressed at the point that it wasn’t happening quickly enough. 

Members of Asian Circle suggested -- take her to Mumbai, put her in a school, stay at my house and continue her studies. 

We need to consider the implications of the actions we are suggesting.

What if Gayatri doesn’t like the life in Mumbai? What if she feels like an outsider, a misfit. Her accent, language, dialect, food likings would be different. Maybe somewhere down the line she does not like her school and the environment she might be living in. Then what. 

And besides, as a group we forgot that while we were sitting and listening to Gayatri’s story, there were other girls sitting there facing a similar situation. 

I understand that rejection of our immediate generosity must be a letdown. And as a group we need to think of larger solutions. 

Buying her a motorbike, is that a solution? What if tomorrow she doesn’t want a bike, or her father says he can make better use of it and takes it away. Who will look after the maintenance and fuel etc of the bike? 

What about the other girls in the village? They might have families but might also lack access to education due to a variety of reasons. Should we as a group think of larger solutions for the entire community? 

While responding to one girl, are we forgetting the hopes and aspirations for the other 20 young girls in the same village? When they could all probably benefit from one school bus which can ferry them up and down. 

Striking a balance between our expectations of ‘what we can do’ and their expectations of ‘what we can do for them’ is an important learning lesson on both sides. 

What’s amazing is that they were not expecting our response to them. We have education and all the facilities, yet we have similar situations. Agar paise ho bhi jayenge, education ho bhi jayegi, uske aage ka rasta kya hai (even if they get educated, they start earning money. What is the way forward then?). 

 

By Dr. Pushpinder Chowdhry

 

Images are for representation purpose only


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