Flipping through the pages of my memory, I can but recollect my cherished moments from Soda which had seemed at the outset to be another volunteering programme but added an incredible experience to my life.
We finally reached Soda after a 2 hour journey from Jaipur full of dusty roads and haranguing sandstorms. However, the never ending mustard fields visible from the window pane, the gleaming sun, the clear unpolluted sky, half-reaped furrows and gentle wind filled us with contentment as we entered the village. The bright sun bestowed coruscating sunshine at noon inviting the ‘Bindinis’ to work on the farms, only to be paralleled by the beauty of the sunset as it simmers down the chaos of the day.
I did not imagine during my time in Soda that little moments like Shalu’s naughtiness, Kailash ji’s dislike of eating maggie over her chapatis and Motiyar kaka’s warm gesture of letting me wear his Safa would leave me with uncountable memories worth cherishing for the rest of my life.
Our work comprised conducting a social audit on the pension schemes under the National Social Assistance Program in the village, which envelops those unable to earn a livelihood; the elderly, disabled and widowed. The surveys were unexpectedly eye-opening and staggering which made us ponder again and again.
The village is divided into 8 hamlets where we conducted surveys regarding the functionality of the scheme. We also held interactive sessions on governance & gender issues. Ramjipura was one of those hamlets, a 5 km walk away. The road framed by boundless dancing mustards without a living soul in sight offered us quite some interesting encounters.We were able to conduct governance session and surveys smoothly due to the perceptive audience. We were privileged to be a part of the grand celebration held on the occasion of birth of a girl child. This hamlet uplifted our hearts and minds.
While we conducted hectic surveys and governance session on the core functions of the Panchayat so as to be authoritative investigators in the day, the evenings were full of the giggles of kids playing in turn reviving our old childhood memories.
We were fortunate enough to meet those children; the amazing souls made cards for the innocent ones who had lost their lives in Peshawar. They filled their dreams’ colours in those 6 inches of paper, managing brilliantly, to convey the message of peace and harmony across the border.
In Soda, I felt like man has become a mere run-down machine who has no time to acknowledge nature’s beauty and peace. I firmly believe that women are the ones that can surprise you with their intellect and diligence. The women of the village could be found working hard under the scorching sunlight. They were truly surprising in this regard; aware of hygiene and health issues, they demanded schools for their daughters and broke the taboos of menses and chose family planning. Indeed, in the village, I was able to see how each woman is worthy of applaud.
The memory of long walks; admiring the scenic beauty, the peace of village life away from the noise of the capital still refreshens me. Waking up bright and early with the hope of exploring something new, and hitting the sheets with heavy eyes which were due to endless talks with new friends.
One would never like to surrender those fond memories of the 10 days. Merely penning down the experiences of the winter project under Asmat, transported me back to the village where the day began with aroma of herbal tea reviving our senses and pumping in new hopes for the day. The dal bati churma, literally flavoured with utter love acted as a stress buster. The friendly folk with their interesting gossips, lingering on the streets of Jaipur, purchasing the products made by the SHGs, resting on the dewy grass recollecting all day’s work with a strong sense of satisfaction and happiness.
This was truly a learning experience where every moment was a celebration .
– Aashi Srivastava, Winter 2014 Volunteer and Core Team Member