Oct 25, 2012

Khanyara Day 6

This was the last day of our research.
We needed o give a closure to everything. We felt this great need to tell everyone that we were not to come anymore and this was it.  We felt almost sad that we would not see the villagers anymore, wouldn't be able to pop in any shop, say 'namaste' to any person just like that.

But some work was to be done even that day.  We went to the Medical shop - the only on in Khanyara- again moving inside out and also visited a home-based 'boutique' run by a group a Pahari women.
Getting tired now of recording data and noting down things that had come to be expected, we gave it a break.

We walked to a few shops, bought a few things, and bid goodbyes to people everywhere.
At the end we visited the Pradhan's house and saw her marriage photo albums and learnt of their customs.  It was a delight to see her small infant wailing baby being put to sleep.  Her husband seemed to help her a lot and she seemed to be in need of physical rest.

She shared some of her career ambitions and how being a Pradhan was not in line with it.  We empathised with her and gave her our best wishes.  Her husband offered us to show the Hydro-Electric project uphill, but that would have to be given a miss, since one cannot have everything all the time.

Thus we boarded the day's bus and went back to our hotel.  Now on, our stay for whatever time in Dharamshala, would be only to tour and not to research, and we were sorry as well as relieved for it.

Khanyara Day 5

After 4 completed days of research we felt that culture probably and common people were the only missing portions in our data.  So we decided that we would again start inward-out from Khanyara and interact with women in their homes - especially those of different cultures to get a drift of the social-equations.

We stopped at what was a certain Seema Ojha's shop.  She had a cyber cafe established within her shop and sold the kind of things that were more akin to a sort of urban gift-shop or kids shop.  She was hesitant and skeptical at first in talking but later we convinced her into even getting clicked by us.  It was seen that children of the village had learnt to use the cyber cafe on their own without much teaching and they engaged most of all in Gaming and Facebooking at prices that were same as those in urban cyber cafes.

We also went to a nearby Mithai shop and bought some of the sweets for the old Nepali couple. Then we moved ahead and met a Punjabi woman.  She was old and looked a lot like my dadi.  She spoke to some extent and we even video recorded some part of her interview.  She warned us against getting into random people's homes and that felt really sweet and caring of her.  But honestly it did freak us out a little as we had begun to trust people in general.

Then we wanted to meet a Muslim woman. While passing by, I identified a shop with a Muslim name and we entered to introduce ourselves and to begin discussions.  Her sister then called us inside her house and we sat for sometime chatting.  She had us meet her daughter who was about to get married in some time. She was a very beautiful young girl and had a cheerful demeanor.  Her mother seemed proud of her.  Just then they had Hindu visitors and that was a clear mark of the prevalent acceptance of different cultures here.  We then took leave in order to avoid interrupting their natural socialization.

Next we met a Kharotiya woman, a caste of Pahari community.  The woman was a Policewoman and she was also very cheerful and jovial.  She hosted us for some time, had a chat etc.  But she was also the shy kind.  She showed us her family's small farming area - it was too small for us to be able to appreciate it.  She also showed her cows and a family-kulmata temple.

We moved on to the Anganwadi and then to the Veterinary centre, but they seemed to places of little or no activity which disappointed us.  While on our way out, we crossed the Jaagori women promoting the "Maa-Beti" mela in Government Secondary School.

We had to leave early that day but couldn't have not met the Nepali couple - since they even wanted us to have lunch with them.  So we went and did so.  Again, the lunch was the most tasty thing I had ever had and I felt the most lucky person in the whole world to have been a part of this.  They cooked and served with lot of love.  The Nepali aunty's daughter-in-law had come and she took the lead in arranging everything well.

We gifted them sweets and they accepted it with delight.  They even started eating the same and shared it with us too.  We felt nice and took their leave.  They wanted us to come once more to visit even more family members but we only said 'we will try and let you know'.  Then we left for yet another appointment with 'Rajesh the guide' who was to show us tea-gardens and have us try the supposedly best of the momo shops in Dharamshala.

The day's village tour had thus ended for something newer that lay ahead.

Oct 24, 2012

Khanyara Day 4

Convinced that we didn't want to cover any more of the 'Panchayat' data and needed to research in further interiors of the village, today we started with getting down from the van at the last stop of Khanyara Khas village.  Thus we embarked on covering the various institutions that we had noticed on our very first day with Rajesh.

Punjab National Bank was our first office to be visited for the day.  As soon as we entered it, the person asked us how we were and questioned 'call kisne kiya tha?'.  We were taken aback and thought for a moment that he is taking us for someone else...or was expecting someone else.  Then I realised and recalled having phoned the PNB office when I was in MICA in order to ask something about Khanyara.  He must have picked up the call.

Thus we didn't have to tell the whole story that we used to tell each and everyone and Q & A got going.  He was a busy man and people kept coming to him for banking work.  He could be seen explaining in detail and with lot of affability, all the procedures and conditions etc to the villagers.  Here again we were served tea and biscuits.  We saw a few NREGA women on the waiting bench, reinforcing the importance if the employment scheme in my head.  We took a few photos and were about to leave soon as none of us felt anything deeper would have come out of more discussions.

When about to leave, he called up some sister of his in Ahmedabad and had us talk to her for no materialistic reasons of his.  This again made me feel amused and obliged that someone gives you so much importance for no benefit sought in return.

Next we wanted to see the Slate Godown and wondered how that could be done.  So we randomly asked a man standing outside the bank where that would be and strange as it was, a man came determined to entertain all our queries, claiming to be a Slate Contractor.  We felt both lucky and a little threatened.  We followed him into his cabin and asked him a few questions.  He also took us to an open-warehouse sort of place and showed us slates of different sizes and prices.  He even gave us a piece of / slice of / sheet of slate for free but that broke on the way.  That made me doubt all the praises he showered upon this mineral specially about strength.

Walking inward-out, we passed the Post Office and spent some time talking.  Nothing too unique or drastic came out and we had started getting the feeling that we had come to expect and anticipate what the village was all about.  Things didn't surprise us too much or didn't make us feel pitiful about the people.  That was a reality check in itself and our assumptions were challenged.

Next we went to the IndroNag temple but were very disappointed to find it under-construction and not particularly beautiful or aesthetic.  That was gain strange as this temple was supposed to have stopped rains from falling on the cricket ground while an IPL match went on.  How could something so famous and respected look so neglected and incomplete.  Something really didn't fit in.  May be the villagers were spiritual but not religious.  This was also a beautiful thought.  They were probably God-believing but not God-fearing.

Next we passed by Jagori NGO and ended up noting down a mini-autobiography of the same.  It was mainly a feminist NGO.  We saw everyone busy in preparations for 'Maa-Beti' mela.  Chart-papers, colours, posters and decorative items were spread out everywhere. This was an event organised to bring daughters and mothers closer so that they could talk to each other about more intimate matters and be more of a friend.  I wondered how the mothers and daughters would react to a direct proposal of opening up on matters of sexuality, hygiene and relationships.  But yes, the concept made a lot of sense.

Recalling our promise made to the Pradhan that we would be coming to have lunch at the Panchayat Office, we went straight for feeding our churning tummies.  We loved the simple hot food of rice and daal with onion bits in it.  It was the most tasty food I had ever eaten with so much restlessness.  To my surprise, while I ate, the cook confessed that I looked and ate and behaved just like her daughter.  It again made me feel so much loved suddenly by a stranger.

When we went to the Nepali couple to keep our promise, they were asleep, it being a post-lunch time.  So their helper asked us to wait for a few minutes.  Meanwhile we went and questioned the nearby Tailor and also a newly opened first of its kind Beauty Parlour downhill in another direction.  These interactions were short and had to be curtailed for lack of much time with us.

As soon as the Nepali couple woke up and got fresh/ changed their clothes, we took our placed inside the Nano of theirs and were taken to their family members one by one.  They even had us meet their most veteran member whom they gave some token of respect (snacks and toffees) on our behalf!  That was again very obligatory.  Each of their family members was more than welcoming and we regretted that due to lack of time and money we would be having to miss out on so much love that these people had to offer.

After many pots of tea, water and biscuits, many marriage albums and many songs, we felt once and for all a strong need to say goodbye.  Nepali uncle shared our anxiety of reaching hotel Kunal too late in the dark.  Thus our visit ended and we boarded a bus back to our base.

Khanyara Day 3

This was the day when everything favored us greatly.  We got up early and bought things like cheese spread and ordered Paranthas from a Punjabi uncle near the hotel.  This helped us save costs and avoid lunch-time hunger when inside the Khayara village.  We had breakfast with Jam and Cheese Spread at the hotel, and it amused me to think how good we girls could be at economy of living, while maintaining the luxury and the taste in life - here with respect to food.

May be we were learning how to get things done quicker.  Earlier it was difficult for us to leave a conversation with a village person once entrenched in it.  But now we had started making eyes to each other and hinting at the extreme loss of time it was leading to.  Such a demeanor was to characterize our dealings today.

First we ran to the Patwari to show him the proof of signature of the Inspector at the Police Station.  We had bought a chart-paper and a few sketch pens to have him help us draw the village map.  But he was more interested in simply allowing us to photograph the old meticulous maps drawn on cloth material.  They were highly detailed and my head reeled at seeing such specificity.  Each road meter was more than a cm in length and when spread out, the whole Khanyaya village map covered almost 90% of whatever empty space there was on the ground.

We asked a lot of questions on soil and land and he showed us their registers.  It was surprising how easily one could trust you and reveal so much information.  We could have been terrorists even.  We felt obliged in many ways.  Their trust humbled us.  We noted the data and then took leave.

Next we went to the Khanyara Khas Panchayat and had the Upa-pradhan called up.  He was to arrive shortly and we waited for a while.  He gave us a lot of demographic data and we noted all that down.  This time there was the Junior Engineer as well whom we had met in passing.  We tried to persuade them to help us draw the village map, and to our surprise it happened quite smoothly.  The engineer was keen on using his own stationery, paper etc to draw it.  We were feeling delighted at every line he drew and he did a great work.  While he drew, other joined around him and started contributing to the map.  This phenomenon of collective sense-making reminded me of a similar activity related to us by a professor of Rural Marketing Communications. At that time I had not imagined that I would ever be engaged in such thing any time soon.  But when it happened, and we girls saw it happening, it sent us on cloud nine.  Out of all the data collected that one map is something I would cherish for life.  We have plans of adding color to the map and give it a more interesting look.

The discussions with those members in the Panchayat would go on forever and there was little stopping them from sharing anecdotes or even exaggerating some events for the sake of telling us more worthwhile things.  We found it difficult to detach ourselves from the group since such warmth had built up.  We were given tea and lots of biscuits to eat and being a little hungry as we were, we did eat many of them.

Soon it was mid-day meal time at the Primary School and we decided to witness that and take a few photographs.  The teachers readily recognized us and offered us food but feeling that it would be unfair to eat what was meant for the kids, we gratefully refused the offer and instead spent a little time observing the process of serving and the kids sitting together for the meal.

Satisfied with the work, we thought of going ahead with a hitherto untouched portion of the village research, the Brand Consumption.  We went to the nearby store - the shop placed strategically at the cross-roads of entrance to Khanyara main road, just near the Panchayat Office.  We sat there and first decided to finish lunch that we had got packed from near the Kunal hotel.  The shop-keeper seemed quite willing to allow us to use his benches under the awnings.  It was a nice peaceful place to sit at and look at the surroundings.  That was one of my best experiences ever.  The clouds could be seen, not very far away, the people could be seen coming and going.  The food felt tasty and we felt so content.

After the food we asked a lot of questions and he answered them one by one.  However, he was too precise and too curt  in his replies though he was interested in us and smiled all the while.  He was one of the most educated persons in the village having done his M.A. in Public Administration from none less than the Central University of Himachal Pradesh.  Learning from him that he sends his kid to a costlier school made it clear that he was ambitious without being too showy about it.  His shop and dressing were ordinary and not very well managed so as to reflect better financial conditions. I was wondering if I could ask him questions on sale of condoms etc but thought it is better to put it for another day.

Feeling that it would be wiser to take leave from the village before it turned too dark, we started walking downhill.  Just then we happened to stop at the Nepali uncle's shop.  Now this was the shop which we encountered almost every single day and they had begun expecting us at a particular time in the day.  When they asked us if we had found the 'Bisprin' hotel the earlier day, we explained how it had ended.  They had us sit in their home-cum-shop a rather shabbily built old rickety structure where the Nepali couple stayed with their helper who sold things and collected money from customers.

They were opening up very quickly in the conversations and kept on telling us more and more about them.  We were feeling whether we really deserved being told so much.  But they wouldn't care.  Smiles and nods were enough to get them going and they told about lost sons in their family, cities they stayed in, houses built in the village and furnished with liberal spending.  When they said that they preferred living in that shabby place and not in their family members' better homes, it was a little difficult to digest.  I didn't want to explore that area.

They asked us to find time and come over the next day to have lunch with them and to travel in their Nano to  meet their large number of family members.  The thought, though being extremely favorable from a research perspective, didn't make much sense from the point of view of 'covering' everything in a village.  We however gave in and promised to come over for the same.  Somewhere we weren't sure they were too serious about it and may have been being courteous alone.

Khanyara Day 2

Now this was our first day when we were to fend for ourselves, completely on our own.  We started from hotel a hour later than we had planned.  It had rained heavily and we were drowned in sleep beyond the alarm time.  But wanted to make up for it with our quick data collection.  Looking for the bus, and being unsuccessful with the same, we managed finally to board the van that went to Khanyara at frequent intervals.  The driver seemed to be too sporty to make us feel safe and we tried to look solemn and serious through the ride.  It was uneasy for a moment sitting jam packed in the van as the workers travelling to and fro had a typical odour to them.  We later got used to the same.

We got down near the Panchayat and went straight to the Pradhan - Ms Anjani.  She spoke at length to us about so many things.  We had rotated the responsibility of taking down things and it was surprising how much easier it was to be in the position of asking questions rather than having to note each thing down meticulously.  It was also a bit strange as they were telling us everything we would ask for.  Still everytime a new question popped up in our minds, I felt wary of being doubted by them or being misunderstood.

Next entered a Nepali ward-member.  She was highly jovial and laughed all the while.  She had kept a fast that day on teh eve of Hartali ki Teej.  This day was akin to Karwachauth in the typical Bollywood decpiction but celebrated in a different manner.  A lot of counting rituals were required here, (counting of grains etc) because of this this lady didn't have time to engage us in long conversations.  She however offered to help the next day.  I blurted out in the excitement that I would help her count the grains if she needed but then I realised that it would be unritualistic since wife was to do that for her husband.  She however laughed it off and said we were welcome tomorrow.

Soon we had the upa-pradhan for company and he was particularly very gregarious.  He wanted to be asked questions one after another.  We immediately thought this would be our typical wiseman of the village.  He had a limp and was sort of veteran but very lively with conversations.  Anjani madam said that she thought of him as her mentor in political and public matters and is grateful to him for the same.  Be it culture, farming, finance, history or health, upa-pradhan knew something about everything.  He spoke in a dramatic manner such that he was telling stories.  It was amusing to listen to him and he put us all immediately at ease.  We exchanged phone-numbers and requested permission to disrurb him for the next few days if need be.  He didn't mind at all.

Just then Patwari entered and he wa a very good-looking young man with royal features and a strict disposition towards people.  He was the first and the only person to ask us about whether we had taken permission from any administrative authority before entering the village.  This frightened us a little as we weren't quite expecting the same.  But we showed him our permission letter from MICA.  He was convinced but still wanted us to get a signature from Police Station or Block Development Office. 

On our way out, we luckily met the Cable guys too.  It was such a delight that we would not need to search them.  They were happy to talk to us and gave us information on the consumption of TV channels and TV serials.  Those guys looked like any other city college guy with bling and gel in their hair.  But to think of the dark clouds of high-risk infections and drug abuse immediately made me feel depressed.

Thus we thought we must leave right away and start working on the permission.  We got to the shop near the Panchayat office and got our photo-ids xeroxed.  Thankfully all of us were carrying the same in our bags each day.  We were feeling very hungry and thought of someplace to eat at.  After inquiring from a few people we found that there was this 'Whispring' hotel which we heard as 'Bisprin' and it took a lot of walking to finally reach to the same when we found out the actual name.  On our way we couldn't restrain clicking a lot of pictures and this delayed our arrival to so called 'Whispering'.  When we reached, we were disappointed as the meal timings were over and we wouldn't get any food.  I was

Thus we stopped our research for the day and went to Dharamshala Police Station as that seemed to be the simplest thing to do.  There the Inspector signed it without much ado.  We had already xeroxed our id-cards on the way and that made it a lot smoother.
This done, we thought of getting something to eat. Not too far from the police station we found a small Chinese restaurant.  We went in and ate noodles.  We had this plan of finding some restaurant to eat outside.  So when coming back we searched but couldn't find any.  We were also feeling scared of the deserted roads and darkening skies.  Thus we changed our minds, bought a few important eating items like Bananas and Biscuits and went back to eat at the familiar and safer Kunal Hotel.

After eating we noted down the day's data collected, it being quite rich this time. We also sat and enjoyed some TV in the hotel room until we felt too tired for it and slept off in order to start early the next day.

Oct 23, 2012

Khanyara Day 1

We started preparations for the 1st visit to the village on a quite skeptical note when we woke up.  But suddenly, all our doubts were vanquished as Rajesh (our guide from Central University of Himachal Pradesh) called us and offered to come along with us to the village on the first day.

We entered the Khanyara area through Patols - where Pradhan of Khanyara Pnachayat resides.  It was a delight to find that they have a woman Panch.  We went to her house and started taking in the surroundings.  It was a little odd to find everything so obvious yet so typical of that place.  The houses were 'pucca' and all of them were roofed with 'slate' tiles.  Khanyara has a special 'slate' rock in the surroundings and the sheets of slate are prepared out of the sliding crumbs of the rock from atop.  Even Pradhan's house and surrounding homes had this characteristic.

She bought us water herself in a steel tray and four steel glasses.  It was again odd to see that Pradhan would be 'working' in her home with no helper around.

Even as we had entered, she could be found knitting a woollen piece for her seven month old child.  She was thin and dressed up well.  She wore a few customary ornaments like bangles and mangal-sutra.  She also had conspicuous sindur on her head.

She was very co-operative and was willing to help us with our project requirements.  She gave us some information about employment schemes and a little about traditions and culture of the place.

When we first entered the typical residential areas of the village, we were trying deliberately to keep smiling because we didn't want to appear as unfriendly or indifferent to the villagers.  During our way to and back from the Pradhan's house we noticed a few landmarks, like a ground in the open on which a yearly 'Mela' is organised and all the people from Khanyara attend the same.

Pradhan, Anjani Kumar, advised us to cover the Primary and Senior Secondary School and he adjacent Primary Health Centre today as Panchayat workers were absent and would be available only the next day.  She said that she had taken a leave to take care of her kid and would meet us in Panchayat Office only next day.

Thus, one by one, we covered those three institutions.  Wherever we went, people offered us water and tea and at the Primary School they even said they would have given us lunch had we come during the 'mid day meal'.  The teachers at Primary School attended to us and talked to us with seriousness.  They wanted to let us know of the difficulties faced by them there, from having to do the clerical work as well.

At the Senior Secondary School, the children who were enjoying the 'lunch' break and playing in the open ground in front of the building, surrounded us and wanted us to keep clicking their pics.  They posed and posed in groups and asked us our names and shook hands on their own.  They were all curious as well as cheerful from their expressions.

When the Principal called us in to wait for a while, we could hear her scolding them and that made us feel guilty for encouraging them into interacting as we had entered.  However the Principal talked to s at length and answered our queries.  She gave a few statistics on the students. To our delight, during the conversation, we found that Rajesh, our guide who was there with us that day all through, was actually class-mates with the Principal's daughter and our hotel's receptionist was the Principal's sister-in-law.  Thus we were put at ease and could get her talking easily.

We next visited the Primary Health Centre.  It was clean in a very sparse way and looked almost deserted from the aisles.  But we found that a sort of 'monthly meeting' was going on in the chamber of the PHC head.  She was a very beautiful woman and we couldn't help noticing charisma in everything that she did.  She was the sort who didn't have to to be expained or probed in too great a length.  She understood our purpose and voluntarily shared a lot of details and a few statistics with us.  It was sad to know that villagers were frequently hit by diarrhoea and otherwise simple to prevent diseases.

A very disturbing fact she revealed in the flow of discussion was that Khayara was a high-risk area and had instances of AIDS and Intra-veinous durg intake among those as young as 10 to 15 years old!
She told us how she had been devising some ways to stock condoms for free use by public in some locations.  I suddenly identified as that to be a major communication need gap in the village. A very major one. I kept thinking about it all through the day.  Just couldn't get it out of my head that such a serene place could hide so much misery inside.

After we left the PHC, we went to the Primary School.  There kids there had just finished their mid-day meal and were back in their classes.  The strength of the school wasn't very high.  We took a few pics of the various wall paintings etc for later records.  The shcool teachers were also a handful and didn't have any subject wise division of responsibilities.  The group of teachers mentioned how they wanted to give their hundred percent attention to the kids but couldn't because of the burden of clerical and staff related duties. They showed us their evaluation patterns and report cards quite willingly.

After the visit to these three key places, we started on our way through the main part of the village to reach the 'Akhanjar' Mahadev mandir.  On the way we noticed a lot of key establishments to which we decided to come later on for research - like parlour, bank, post office, ngo etc.  We stopped midway out of hunger, when we saw a 'pakoda' stall.  There we had stomach full of pakodas and they were absolutely tasty. The temple gave us some breathtaking views especially when we went near the fast water streams that had to be passed on the way to the sacred rock beneath which was the 'Mahadev' temple.  I, as required, flattened out on the ground to be able to push inside the space between the rock and the ground; and witness the idol of Mahadev.  It was the most 'emptying' experience of my life.  Never else have I felt so absent in thoughts.

After this visit, we walked back to nearest bus-stand in order to go to Fatehpur - where we were to meet Mr Nair.  But as luck would have it, Rajesh offered to show Norbulingka monastery till Mr Nair was available to meet us.  Thus we went.  At the monastery however, in spite of having great admiration for the Tibetan monks, I felt quite anxious that their life migh  be very boring and restrictive in freedom, and what that would make of them.  Our visit, if anything, was a welcome distaction in their life - at least that is what I felt.

Later we went to meet Nair Sir and his wife and kid at a specific location.  They said we must come home some day.  We clicked a few photos together and started back on our way to the hotel 'Kunal'.


Oct 21, 2012

Education has confused me

1. Freud: everything in this world is related to sexual instincts
2. Wrong to call someone 'hot'!

1. Everything in this world is an extension of a 'sexual symbol' from pen to palace
2. It is wrong to look like a sex symbol!

1. Stage gives you an opportunity to discover different facets of your personality
2. Wrong to have dissociation between a personality off stage and on stage!

1. It is normal for a woman to find another sexy
2. Wrong for a woman to call another 'scintillating'!

1. 'Shringar' or 'erotic love' is one of the nine rasas celebrated the world over
2. Wrong to display femininity on stage in the context of sexual arousal!

1. One should learn to love 'real women bodies' (stereotypical sexy or not)
2. Admiring a girl's body is 'misogyny'!

1. Losing inhibitions is a part of evolving
2. You have no right to be deviant / sexual / experimental on-stage if you are not so off-stage!

1. We must not derogate mujra women
2. Shameful to do mujra on stage

Oct 18, 2012


There is there is some of it
Enough of it for you to notice
She doesn't do what she used to
With me she acts as if she wasn't supposed to

Are my expectations mistaken
Or is my lens of looking shaken
She smiles but only when facing my side
But a strong indifference does reside

Not that I call her my best friend
Neither that I seek happiness from her
But habit does a bad thing to your mind
And changes in people become unkind

I have begun to hate her now
For the lack of a sense of fairness in her
For the absence of any remorse or guilt
For the blindness to my trust about to wilt

She comes to me only for help
How to do this and how to do that
She treats me like a person you keep as back-up
For any needs that might arise when you wake up

She acts as if afraid of me
She wonders at times what I am up to
Eyes me with ego and suspicion
Feeds daily on a different assumption