Saturday, August 27, 2011

Good bye August...

Khamaghani Dear viewers,
I hope you are enjoying the new look of the blog. A lot happened in August, festivals, celebrations, pilgrimage, workshops.....

I went to a short pilgrimage to Ramdevra village 180km west of Jodhpur on the way to Jaislmer. Some impressions from my pilgrims.

The main temple at Ramdevra

Pilgrims chanting
At the Holy lake in Ramdevra village
Fair ground of the Ramdevra villagePilgirms
Beautiful dancing peacock
A small shrine of Lord Ramdevji
My son, Ayushraj

Flowers in our garden and a lotus plant
Festival Rakhi, brothers and sisters festival of love and respect
Soul sisters
Graduates, my soul sisters came to celebrate Rakhi festival with our family

My Aunties came to our home to celebrate the festival
Volunteers of Sambhali Trust getting prepared for the Rakhi festival (Henna painted hands)
Aunty getting Henna painted on her palms
Domestic violence workshop with Sub-Inspector Satyaprakash ji
Dakhu Devi, after her Psychiatric treatment (came to see me for becoming my soul mate sister at the Rakhi Festival)
Dakhu Devi, before the treatment of Psychiatry (tied to the tree)
15th August, our Independence day, Payal Empowerment center girls and Marta our volunteer dancing on a Bollywood songs
Our Deputy Mayor of the town, H'ble Mr. Niyaz Mohammad. Our chief guest of the day at Independence day
Jodhpur Empowerment center girls performing folk dance
Payal Empowerment Center participants performing Puppet theater
Payal Empowerment center participant speaking about 15th August the Independence day

Sambhali Trust participants waiting for the Guests

Some women of the Sheerni Micro-Finance with their businesses in Setrawa

I hope you liked the pictures, please find the final Impression report of Ms. Marta Schmidt

Marta Schmidt

Final Report

Two months have gone. It seems like a dream now. And reality as well. It seems the only reality now – as I have embraced Jodhpur as my home. ‘Arre 40 Rupees bhai sahib’ – spoken to the rickshaw driver. This is my reality now. The dusty streets, the cows and dogs eating rubbish and sleeping along the roads, noisy traffic, the Umaid Palace towering over one side and Mehrangarh Fort on the other; the Old Blue City with the irrigation system clogged with waste, ‘Maidam Maidam’ called at me from every side. This is my Jodhpur.

There were many things I did that I have never expected: –indeed, I got to ride a motorbike on the crazy Indian streets (only the back seat, let’s not go too crazy…); I learned how to use nun chucks and bamboo sticks; I got to play cricket and actually hit the ball with the bat; rescue two kittens and find them a new home; sit in the car with the Deputy Mayor and tell him the way in Hindi; meet with the High Court judge and crack a joke. That is the fun bit.

Now the work bit. For two months I had a privilege to work with some really amazing women and girls of Jodhpur. Because of my ability to communicate with them in Hindi, our conversations and relations were greatly enhanced. They were able to tell me what bothers them, what makes them happy, what their lives are like. There was no language barrier to block our bonding. I felt so honoured whenever they would call me a sister, when they would tie a friendship band on my wrist for the Friendship Day, or rakhi (the sister/brother bond) for the Rakshabandhan.

During my first month I taught basic English to girls who were less advanced than others, while Renu – hired English teacher conducted the class for the rest of the girls. For 3 weeks I worked with Mumtaz, who was a case of severe depression, and who, due to her trauma, had also vast learning difficulties. It was not always rewarding – most of the time the work seemed futile as she could not remember the letters of the alphabet – but she was striving, and those rare moments when she would remember would make up for everything.

At the end of my first month we had new girls coming to our centre in Jodhpur. I worked with them from the very beginning on the alphabet and I was able to excite them about classes with games where they would gain points for naming the correct letter and the winner would get a star or a high five (ok, maybe an occasional laddoo).

During the second month I took over the whole English class in the Jodhpur Empowerment Centre. The girls there, who have never been to school, had visibly more problems with retaining information and it took much more effort to be able to hold their attention for longer. But they had to put up with my crazy as well: I loved making them laugh with sentence examples like: ‘I cook ghobi parathas in the morning’, ‘I want gulab jamun[1], or ‘I love Shahrukh Khan’ (and Salman Khan [2]is ‘blah’ – which would stir a heated discussion with Shweta or Deepika).

During the two months I taught English in the Payal Empowerment Centre to all the girls there. Most of these girls do go to school in the morning and that reflects on the level of discipline and attention. After the English classes we would have dance workshops every day. Because I have been dancing Bollywood dances and classical Indian dances like Kathak and Bharatanatyam for four years now, I was able to teach some of the choreographies to the girls. I have noticed enormous changes – especially with the painfully shy girls like Sushila or Basanti, who would bloom in front of me to the music every one of them loved. Soon after two or three lessons I found that my classes at 4 o’clock were not only filled with our participants but also with all the children from their families. First day I had 3-4 children coming along, the next day I had fifteen! We had so many people we had to take turns! They all loved dancing and I think it build up their confidence and self-esteem. During this time we had three cultural exchanges with the French groups from the organization ‘Sans Frontiers’ and we practiced the dances and a puppet show with the girls to perform in front of the French teenagers (and unfortunately the ‘culture’ of France would be presented in a very unusual form – seriously, how many times can you dance to ‘Macarena’?). They also got to perform in front of the Deputy Mayor of Jodhpur for the Independence Day. Seeing my girls out there courageously on the stage made me feel very proud.

Apart from the teaching, I also worked on some administrative things. I run a Facebook Ad Campaign to promote Sambhali across Facebook users. I set a new Facebook group for Sambhali and a new Fan Page for the Sambhali Boutique. I prepared a new entry for a Shelter Project for Women in Difficult Circumstances on the Global Giving website. I helped Renu Chauhan, the new manager, with the visits to the officials of the Jodhpur Development Authority.

Indian life is like Indian food: rich in taste, never boring but very heavy to digest – too much might end with a case of a Delhi Belly. Those occasional moments of Delhi Belly for me are things that I see and would like to change – the painful hierarchy that leads to the degradation of women in the society, the poverty, the pollution, the injustice that happens to people on every corner. However, Indian food is so delicious that you just keep eating, and you want to come back and have more and more. You roam around tastes and you discover new pleasures and new pains.

I will definitely come back, I want to have my thali[3] refilled again and again. I want to know more about Indian life and definitely Sambhali Trust is the way to go. This grassroot organisation gives a perfect opportunity to bond with the participants and the teachers. The personal feeling and a small scale let volunteers and stuff know the needs of the women and girls we strive to improve lives of in a better and more humane manner. It obviously seems that the teaching goes one way, but the Sambhali girls taught me a lot about myself and challenged me all along the way. I hope that I will leave Jodhpur knowing that for a moment I made my girls’ lives a little bit better.

[1] Indian sweets

[2] Famous Bollywood actors

[3] A platter of food.

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