I have visited many nearby villages of Harda, Madhya Pradesh, to form SHGs (Self Help Group) in the last few months. I was dumbfounded, by their crippled thoughts of blindly following customs and rituals, dogmas and stereotypes. Most unpleasant was the fact that they admitted to it arrogantly. I would like to share some insights and observations during my field visits.
Among the villages I work in, people seem prejudiced about the gender of their children and prefer sons over daughters. A girl name Kherun (this is a fictitious name) already has two daughters, at the age of 21 and has a third child in her womb. She is anaemic and quite weak. The mother-in-law has already passed the verdict.
“Chathve mahine me test kara lo, ladki hai to gira dena” meaning, “take a test in your sixth month. If the child is a girl then abort it” (Kherun’s mother-in-law)
Another woman, Shakuntala bai (fictitious name) was against girls education because girls skip school, bunk classes and “jungle me mangal karien hai.” She considers that before girls defame the family “unko nipta do” meaning, “get them married”. My blood was boiling when I heard this, and I strongly condemned this. I couldn’t stop myself. A horrifying thing happened which was beyond my imagination. In the middle school of Kathadi village, Laxmi Dhanware (fictitious name) a Mid Day Meal worker, was ostracized from the kitchen because she was having her periods. Neither she was allowed to sit on the carpet nor could she serve the food to children. On asking the members replied, “ye abhi achoot hai.” The so called “patriarchs”, the men of the villages, play cards and pass their time gossiping. They take money from their wives, for gambling and alcohol. There are several other incidents which on hearing, many times ruins ones peace of mind.
I did not understand, how women can call another woman “achoot”, and behave with her as if she has committed a crime. The women, in my opinion, do not seem to realize, that their own children could develop wrong notions watching their mothers, because of lack of basic education and awareness in these areas. The mother-in-law has no idea about the consequences of abortion. She just wants “ghar ka chirag.”
Such ideas, have demotivated me many times, and their behavior seems to reflect that they do not want any change, especially change of ideas and customs. They only want the benefits of government schemes or aid in terms of money. I may sound rude but these were my observations and what I felt on the field. In 21st century, humans have reached Mars and doing wonders that were unimaginable a few years before. But in these areas, it is as if time has gone stagnant, the same as it were before Independence. Their own beliefs and customs are coming in their own way and restricting development in the truest sense, freedom from restraining biases towards others.