Saturday, April 12, 2014
I find it of the utmost privilege to be a part of SEWA youth connect programme, because here I met Sarita, a shy, soft spoken yet very cheerful and enthusiastic girl. My journey with her has been a roller coaster ride, with all kinds of failures and successes. It’s been 3 and a half months now with Sarita, and all that I have gained from her is not less than an accolade.
In the initial month we were just knowing each other, there were inhibitions and to overcome that, I used to talk about family, likes, dislikes, share the important events in my life.....it all started like that and today has grown into a reflecting relationship. Through constant phone calls, determination and trying hard to set up meetings no matter what, engaging with her in every little thing, making her feel that I am there with her, I have tried to put my best for strengthening our relationship and to bring positive changes in both of our lives. I did not notice the drastic change in Sarita before the meeting on 23rd march.
That day her cousin brother came with her. Often when I used to call Sarita he would pick up, talk harshly and gave me all kinds of excuses to not let us communicate, and once he also talked to me in an unpleasant manner asking about the programme and the meetings . I already had an impression about him, so when he came, initially I was very uncomfortable, but then I thought that it was a good way of showing him what this program and meeting is all about. As Sarita and I began with the discussion on the topic for the day, he kept sitting next to Sarita, fiddling with his phone and listening to us. I asked Sarita to write down some points, she was hesitant so I asked her to write in Hindi but her brother interrupted and started snubbing her. She became more hesitant. I had to tell him to take another table in the room and that he was making both of us uncomfortable.
After an hour when the discussion got over and we headed towards the metro station. Her brother started saying that there was no use of the meeting and it was waste of time. I got offended. I asked him why he has such a notion, to which he replied that there is no need for girls to study, they should only take care of the household chores. I got very angry and started bashing him up with my words. I said to him that he being her brother should support her, encourage her to study, to become independent instead of oppressing her. I took it to the larger context and said that because of people like him girls in our country are being devalued. And there it began, I never heard Sarita with that high voice. She complained about her brother freely not being scared of him that he is the one who does not let her go out of the house, about all the wrong things he says to her, and how he suppresses her. That was like a boost for me, having Sarita on my side, understanding what is wrong and speaking up for herself.
Her brother said that after meeting me Sarita had become ill-mannered. When I questioned him about it, he said that now she has started arguing and does not listen to him and goes out of the house. I told him that it’s her life, and he cannot take charge of it, he is not her parent. And then I also told him that he was actually the ill-mannered person because of the way he had talked to me every time I called up Sarita and the way he was talking to me then. I told him that he had no idea how wonderful Sarita is. All this went on for half an hour, and it seemed never ending to me. By the end of it I realised that how insecure this person is, his anxious body movement and changing facial expressions from scowling and snarling to laughing away to avoid and end the conversation, it was impossible to change his views and thoughts because he was acting very ignorant and was not at all accepting or trying to understand. So to turn things into other direction' as response to what he said about the programme and the meetings and also to what he said that he can “teach” her the same things for which she comes for the meetings, I challenged him that he will teach her new things every week, he will have 7 days to do so and so will I in just 1 meeting per week, and I said he can ask Sarita what she learns in that one hour and I will ask what she learns from him.
The sad part about all this was I realised it is not easy to change people’s mind set, it is rooted deep somewhere which involves the whole family, the whole community. I don’t know what her brother must have gained from that interaction but after that meeting all I know is he does not dare to pick my call now. That encounter has actually helped me in removing the biggest obstacle between Sarita and me. The best thing about all was that Sarita stood for herself. And since then I am seeing her growing every day. She speaks up at her home now if she feels things are wrong. She clearly understands that SEWA and I are there with her. For her SEWA is her biggest strength.
I told Sarita about this blog and she too sent a message that she wants to share with all of us. She said that she aims at becoming economically independent in life. She said she wants to do something for her family, her parents specially. She wants to be that important person in the family who can take care of everybody. She has this whole idea of remaining collectivistic yet independent in life.
I got the gift of my honour from Sarita. Now I can see how she is transforming things for herself and for me too. My hopes have gone high now and I am even more determined and focussed towards this programme and with Sarita. I wish that there is no turning point after this and both of us grow and development benefiting from each other successfully.