एक और क़दम

Lau Tzu has rightly said “the journey to a thousand miles begins with one step”,and likewise my host organization i-Saksham Education And Learning Center has taken one more step towards bringing change in the existing educational structure in Jamui and Munger districts of Bihar by collaborating with Bihar Rural Livelihoods Promotion Society (BRLPS), locally known as JEEViKA. The partnership is an education initiative to empower rural youths and children. As part of this, 25 women have been selected as fellows, who will be trained at i-Saksham to emerge as community edu-leader and bridge the gap of trained teachers in their villages and bring a change in the education by providing quality education to poor children.

I was aware of our intervention but a deeper understanding as to why women were preferred and what are the challenges that the collaboration intends to address came to my knowledge when I participated in the assessment process of the fellows.

I can recall that day when I went along with my team member, Golden, to take personal interview of our potential fellows. When I reached, I saw all young women sitting their patiently. We had nearly two hours before the formal assessment could process and by now in my seventh month of fellowship journey I was more willing to learn about community, talk to them, listen to their stories. To me these two hours seemed like an opportunity to hear from them. Thus, keeping aside my thoughts, I invited them to play games. We did several group activities and we found our common fondness to sing, dance, travel, and live an independent life. As the time passed by, they grew comfortable and shared life journeys as woman. They were sharing how life after marriage changes, how they all carry dreams but expectations from their husbands and never rending family responsibilities doesn’t give them space to really do anything about it. What was common amongst them was drive to learn and do something.

“दीदी कुछ करना हैं, नौकरी करनी हैं, आफिस जाना हैं| खुद का कुछ करना हैं बस, they said.

Amongst us, I observed Seemaji*, she was quiet and we encouraged her to share her thoughts. She was deeply lost contemplating about life, she gave us glimpse of her life struggles constantly battling between her personal desire to be financially independent and practical reality of not getting opportunities. However, there was more to her story, I got to know her closely when she started coming for fellowship. In conversation with Seemaji,

दीदी आपको और आपके सफ़र को और बेहतर जानना चाहती हू, क्या आप बताएंगी आपका बचपन कैसा बीता और अभी आपको पढ़ कर कैसा महसूस होता हैं? हम मेट्रिक में थे, हमारा 2nd डिविजन आया था, सब बहुत परेशान थे क्यूंकि हम दिन रात पढ़ के मेहनत किये थे, गरीब थे लेकिन पापा मम्मी तब भी पढाए, पापा फिर भी बोले पढो, लेकिन हम inter में नाम नहीं लिखवा रहे थे|मेरे सथिलोग जाकर फॉर्म भरवा के सर से एडमिशन करवा दिए फिर 12 के बाद , BA पार्ट 2 में थे तब मेरा शादी करवा दिए, हम सोचे की मेरा BA कम्पलीट हो तब मेरा शादी हो लेकिन मम्मी पापा बोले उतना पैसा नही जो बाद में शादी करेंगे, बोले मिल रहा था अच्छा परिवार तो कर देते हैं|

While she was sharing, I observed her looking down and fidgeting with her hands. I thought to myself did I ask a wrong question? Or did I make her feel uncomfortable? And she went on to say “यहाँ भी ससुराल में मेरा पति अभी पढ़ ही रहे हैं तो कुछ काम नहीं करते हैं, शादी 2017 में हुआ था 7 मार्च को| हम बोले थे की हम यहाँ शादी नहीं करेंगे क्युकी जमुई डिस्ट्रीक्ट में हमको पसंद नहीं था, हम यहाँ नहीं करना चाहते थे लेकिन हम कभी टाले नहीं मम्मी पापा की बात को, तो इसमें भी मम्मी को बोले जो मम्मी चाहेगी वो होगा क्यूंकि मेरी मम्मी बहुत अच्छी हैं, हम मम्मी को शादी के 12 साल बाद हुए इसलिए मम्मी हमको बहुत प्यार करती हैं, मम्मी पटना भी साथ गई थी बाबु को सँभालने|”

There was a great sense of disappointment for not been able to complete her education. Seemaji was highly motivated to stand on her own feet but like many other women she too had to give up on her dreams due to family reasons. When I asked on how life has changed after marriage and what would be that one thing she would like to change if she had magical power, she shares, “ससुराल में मेरे पति चार भाई और सास ससुर हैं, माइका जैसा कुछ भी नहीं कुछ भी नहीं, टाइम पास हो जाता हैं, बस दिन भर काम के बिना, खाना बनाना पीना|सपना हैं जॉब ले जैसा भी हो कुछ करना चाहते हैं. अगर जादुई पॉवर होता तो हम सबसे पहले अपना पति को जॉब देते, आज भी मेरे पति इधर उधर भटके रहते हैं, तबियत भी ख़राब रहता हैं अभी घर पर ही रह रहे हैं|इनके पास पैसा नहीं रहता सोच के भी दुर्गा पूजा में कपडा लेना हैं नहीं लिए, हम भी जिद नहीं नहीं करते, कुछ मांगते नहीं, हम कभी पैसा रहता हैं तो देदे ते हैं, घर में भी चार चार आदमी सबका खर्चा, मेरा घर भी नहीं बना, पापा ने एक लाख का गाड़ी दिए थे|”

I did not know what to speak, while she looked here and there and continued to make small movements of her hands expressing her emotions. I too began to feel restless, unable to make peace with the fact that there is nothing that can be done in the moment or may be in times to come. There was a moment of silence, we both looked down. After a pause we continued, after listening to her real life struggle and her longing to learn I asked her,

दीदी क्या है जो आप अपने बारे में पसंद करती हैं? जो आपको जीने के लिए और आगे बढ़ने के लिए प्रेरित करती है?

“मेरा सोच, सोचते हैं की बहुत कुछ हो|इसमें भी जो चल रहा हैं ना i-Saksham में, जाने नहीं दे रही थी मेरी सास लोग, कह रही थी अकेली जाएगी, घर में ही रहो|हम सुबह से अभी तक सारा काम के बाद यहाँ आते हैं खाना वाना, कपडा धोना बहुत काम हो जाता हैं, बच्चे का भी ध्यान नहीं दे पाते है| सास है तो करेगी नहीं न सारा काम हम ही को करना पड़ता हैं तो इसीलिए नहीं जाने दे रही थी कह रही थी क्या करोगी वहा जाके अकेले, लेकिन हम सोचे हम करेंगे हम जाएंगे| हमे पढ़ने में अच्छा लगता है|” she says with a soft smile.

Her willingness to learn and dream of self-reliant life motivates her to face life struggles. She has a six month old child, and yet she manages to complete her learning tasks, participate in fellowship training on every Saturday and educate children in school located in her village. When I asked for her permission to share her story through writing, she says “अरे तो क्या हुआ दीदी अब जो सच हैं वो हैं, क्या होगा अगर कोई पढ़े तो|” Like Seema, there are twenty four other women coming from remote areas of Jamui and Munger. Whether married or unmarried, they all have their own challenges they are battling with. Unlike the privileged, they come from a society where being a woman, they face difficulty in stepping out of their homes, always burdened with household chores, not encouraged to take their stand, voice their opinion or take time for themselves due to cultural norms.

In this regard, fellowship training not only provides them learning but also creates a space where they can express themselves, share their thoughts and outgrow their inhibitions. It has been around one month and when asked one change they felt in themselves, दीदी पहले से अब अपनी बात बेहतर रख पाते हैं , कुछ बोलने का confidence आया हैं , they say.

*Name changed to protect identity.

Originally published at https://www.indiafellow.org on November 23, 2019.

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Explorer | Reflector | Learner | Writing - the unheard voice and sharing stories that matter.

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Aditi

Aditi

Explorer | Reflector | Learner | Writing - the unheard voice and sharing stories that matter.

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