We knew it was going to be a long day. We had to go up to Kulthi and start the documentation work for a women self-help group . Then we were supposed to come back with them to Gushaini where the training for felt bags would be conducted for the women of Kulthi and Tinder. We were to expect atleast twenty women in the office. We planned the entire day in great detail and made sure that there was something happening each moment.
The meeting was supposed to start in Kulthi at 12 noon so we took a taxi for the village as we had gotten a little late in starting. We reached there to find only one woman present. The others were coming. We had been told that there would be atleast 10 women here and many new faces. So we waited, and then, we waited.
Slowly the women started appearing and there was only one new face among them. In total, there were five women present. As per plan, the President of the co-operative-Keshav bhaiya joined the meeting. He is a very influential man in the area and we could clearly see the positive impact his presence created.
We started the meeting and decided on the group name to “Bhairadu Mahila Samuh” (bhairadu is the name of a god from the region).
Things then started getting pretty intense and upon being pushed, three out of the five women admitted to being a part of another women self-help group organization that functions in a not so nice manner in the region. When we asked them why they hadn’t informed us about this before, they just tried to quote some random political reasons. Keshav bhaiya did not like the excuses he heard and so he did not invite them to the training. Anyhow, we came back to find no woman in the office. It was only the same old fellow interns sitting and working there. Wow. We had been told they were waiting for us and there was no one here. So, we called our contact, Vandana. In two minutes, a few women from Tinder were at the doorstep. They had simply stepped out for some tea. Keshav bhaiya began the training. He is an expert when it comes to working with felt. I also found out the use of that uber tempting roll of bubble wrap in the office now. Refraining playing with it was going to take all the self-control I that I possibly could exercise.
. That went very well, the women were all very interested and participated with a lot of enthusiasm. During the training, Keshav bhaiya told them how he trained women from a lot of villages last year for felt work, jams, pickles etc. but it had all gone to waste as none of them tried to do anything with what they learned. Now, these ones here had an amazing reaction to it. They said that they would make the most that they could of what they learnt, that they would teach other women in their village and put in as much effort as their busy schedules allowed. It was as if Keshav bhaiya’s words had been a sort of challenge for them. We invited them to come to the office the next day as well and they promised that they would. They sure had a good spirit.
.After the women went Killian, Yohan, Poonam and I sat down with Keshavi bhaiya to discuss a few things. The discussion took an interesting turn and we got to learn a lot about the place. He told us about how deep rooted the caste system is here and how the people here believe it to be the will of god. He told us about all the myths that exist in association with the system. He told us about how a lot of people here perceive things and of many other interesting beliefs and systems of the region. This was valuable knowledge about the place and people we were working with. We ran for the customary chai after the discussion, we were starving. We had been up and working since the morning.
The women from Tinder were coming back to the office tomorrow.