An alternate reality for women in India

India, As we know, is modernizing itself in every aspect;  new trends are now hotspots of people’s lives. Development in technology, market and lifestyle of people pretty much gives us the picture of a well decorated and modernized society, but this picture is easily deceived if we delve deeper into the rural lives of society. Our society is still patriarchal in nature; the idea of equality is still in its nascent stage. During my stay in village of Madhya Pradesh as an apprentice of PRADAN made me realize the true nature of our society and the struggle that the women of our society are accustomed to repudiate the hegemony of patriarchy.

Dinatola comes under Umeria Panchayat, Bihar Tehsil, Janpad Panchayat Paraswara and District Balaghat. Dinatola is connected with Ukwa and Balaghat through bus route via Chiklajhodi which is 2kms from the village. It is also connected to Dora and Paraswara through bus route. It is surrounded mostly by forest; mountains are a rare view from Dinatola. The village does not have any natural water bodies except a man made pool. Wildlife in the forest mostly consists of Tigers, wild buffaloes, snakes, bears, rabbits, peacocks, wild pigs and monkeys. Mango and jamun are the abundant fruits found in Dinatola. My journey for village stay started from Ukwa which is 7kms from Chiklajhodi. Three villages Khamaria, Umeria and Tola are within walking distance from Dinatola. It is distributed into 9 wards consisting of ward representatives. There are 150 houses in Dinatola which shelters people belonging to different communities like Adibasis, Powars, Harijans, Baiga, Nai and Dhimar. The people use Hindi and Gondi for conversing among themselves.

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People in Dinatola are very hard working and the women are no exception to this. The women’s lifestyle in Dinatola is defined by their day to day hardships and the strength they exert in overcoming those problems. The general routine of the women of that village starts around dawn. They perform the household chores starting with cleaning the house and the yard. They collect cow dung and other decomposable wastes in the compost pit. For the morning food they collect the required items from their backyard and cook the food in large quantity so that it would suffice for both morning and noon. Washing of clothes and utensils is also one of the primary jobs for the women besides cooking.  The women of Dinatola also help with farming works in the field and their backyard. The backyard is almost maintained by the women of the village; sowing, weeding, giving manures, all of these works are maintained by them. In the fields, they help with making beds, ‘para Lagana’(sowing of rice) etc. They often go to the weekly market in Ukwa all by themselves or assist the male members with it. They even work as laborers in the works issued by the Panchayat.  The women of Dinatola are no stranger to rules and regulations; they have associated themselves with different ‘samitis’( small groups formed within the villages solely consisting of women members or SHG) even though time acts as a great hurdle in their life. From a general point of view, the women of Dinatola really involve themselves in almost all kinds of work thus finding someone with striking personality really becomes tough. Here I elucidate that lifestyle through the life of Mamta Didi.

I interacted with various women of Dinatola and Mamta Maladhari was one of them,, a woman with an amazing personality. Her family belongs to Harijan community. Among the 9 wards in Dinatola her house is in the 10th Ward. She leaves with a small family consisting of her husband and two sons.

The fighting spirit of Mamta Maldhari is not ephemeral. She is really an inspirational person if seen from that aspect. She has been a constant member of Sri Mahalakshmi ‘samiti’ for the past 5 years. She attends all weekly meetings and is also the representative of that SHG. She has seen burgeoning of SHGs and women’s participation in it and even some leaving SHGs. She maintains the copy of two ‘samitis’ and doesn’t even charge anything for her profit. She never hesitates in meeting government officials about discussing any issues regarding the amelioration and betterment of the village. The ‘sajib’ and ‘sarpanch’ never used to sit in the Umeria Panchayat and the students of the village really faced problem reading the materials where the signature of the ‘Sajib’ and ‘Sarpanch’ is necessary. The people of Dinatola used to go to Balagaht and adjusted themselves to this situation, but she took the initiative to lodge complaint against those two in Balaghat and Paraswara. She was not influenced by the turpitude act of the ‘sajib’ and now the ‘sajib’(secretary) and ‘sarpanch’(head of the panchayat) visits Umeria Panchayat every Wednesday.

Recently she had a fight with the Ward Panch. She went to Janpad Panchayat for some other reasons, but the ward punch thought she went there for complaining against her. He was scared that she will lodge complaint against him and he will be in trouble. She didn’t keep quiet with this issue, she went to Umeria Panchayat and even threatened Sajiba and Sarpanch that if something happens in the future, she will drag the ward Panch to Paraswara and teach him a lesson.

During my recent visit to Umeria Panchayat I observed her fearlessness. If she was not convinced by the reasoning of ‘sahib’ and ‘sarpanch’ she demanded a more solid answer. She was the one to raise the issues regarding ration card, widow pension and Panchayat work. She, along with other women even managed to start a work for the road construction near Umeria. She is not hesitant about visiting Paraswara or Balaghat. She is a permanent member to visit the government buildings along with others. The other women are always seeking her help as she has visited more than anybody else. She attends the federation meeting and all the work related to SHG.

She performs her household duties of cooking, washing and cleaning on a daily basis. She helps Harilal Bhaiya with farming. Her family doesn’t own any land and her house is also incomplete. She even goes to work as a laborer for the works that are given by the Panchayat. She  goes to market to assist in shopping and banking works. Her family’s expenditure is huge if compared with the income. Regardless of all these duties, she really maintains a balance and performs her work. This growth and sprouting of awareness in the minds of the women can be symbolized by a butterfly coming out of its pupa.

We generally go on with our mundane life and become petulant regarding the problems of our life. Life is not an easy path and it has its ups and downs, sometimes it throws us in convoluted situations that may give us the thought of quitting. The life style of women in the rural areas is indeed motivating and inspiring but the foremost thing that it teaches us is to enjoy life to its fullest.

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An alternate reality for women in India

by Bibek Dutta time to read: 6 min
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