Friday, March 19, 2010

Of made up women and women who made my day

(Pictures at Sunai when parents protested children being hit at school)
Yesterday we went to the Sunai village to find out why all students from the village were absent. It turned out that all the parents were upset that one of the teachers was always hitting children sometimes so hard that it resulted in minor injuries. I know that hitting kids in school is pretty commonplace.When I joined in class 6 the school I would pass out from the incentive was ''no exams, no one hits you and no uniforms''.
The parents started screaming at the community mobilizers Neeta and Deepak who tactfully calmed them down by saying they were on the parents' side. They urged the parents to go to school and complain.
The parents also said that this teacher made the muslim students stand up on the bus when a Hindu student didn't have a seat. The Sunai village is predominantly a muslim one and the whole village predictably gathered demanding to know why a school that doesn't believe in caste/religion allowed this to  happen. Obviously ideologically it doesn't but it is impossible to completely remove it from the minds of all the local students and teachers over such a short span of time (10 years).
Interestingly, the muslim parents also said that they trusted this school so much that they sent even their older daughters(Class 6 to Class 10) to school- something they don't do otherwise. However they didn't approve of the fact that this 'beating teacher ' put on make up in the bus while accompanying kids to school on the bus. They asked first of all why she didn't know how to treat children and what sort of a mother she was. We told her that the teacher was unmarried. Then they asked why unmarried women should wear make up and essentially began to assassinate her character. The community mobilizer explained to me later that it was unacceptable for unmarried women to wear make up.
Obviously this woman has to face the consequence of violating the school's policy against hitting children but it makes me sad that ultimately the questions asked about her or fingers pointed at her all relate to her sexuality or her future role as a mother.
I told CQ about this and he was like (insert American accent ) ''Maaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan , single women have to wear make up coz they have to get a husband's only married women who don't...''
I had to guide him gently from the sex and the city Manhattan of his imagination and habitation to this world.
I also met Mamta who has four kids and an absent migrant labourer husband who never sends money .Mamta lives in a small clean one room house with a yard in front plastered with cow dung.  She makes money by tailoring and is hoping to get a job at the school. A) She was so beautiful man ..I couldn't believe she had four kids with her super model body and all.
B) She was basically way below poverty line but she was so spirited and bright and smiley and confident and enterprising that it made my day. C) She charges fifty rupees for stitching a Salwar Kameez. My friend Panty Padmashree( original nick name) who now lives in Miami would pay $$$$$%@@@ times the price for that service in Bangalore.
Also there is this American volunteer who came with me. Mamta offered us water and the volunteer was asking me if it was safe to drink. I don't usually drink the water in the village because it's made me sick before.Chai and fod is fine - I usually have thirty cups of Chai a day. Mamta thought that he was asking about her caste before he could drink the water.
This crushed my heart soo badly ..I was feeling so paaapa for her. ( Should I start blogging in English or is this fine?)
She said that she was going to educate her daughters for sure because she couldn't afford  a dowry. I told her that maybe an education itself is a dowry.Actually I was quite proud of that line. A lot of times, I can't think fast enough in Hindi to say exactly what I want to say so I feel really inadequate because there is so much I lose out on .
Apparently the cheapest dowry here is 50,000 Rupees and it can go up to four lakhs. Her monthly income is 1500 Rupees and she has three daughters.

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