She’s a Small Town Girl

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As some of you are already aware, we had a lightning short visit to Kanha Tiger Reserve during the Holi weekend (13-16 March, 2014). Details about our visit to the jungle that inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book will be shared via another blog post. For now I would like to talk about this small town girl.

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Actually the post is not about this small town girl, but about every single girl of this small town. We reached in the evening on the first day and went straight for the safari even before checking into the hotel, because of a 5-hour delay of our ‘superfast express’ which made us almost miss the safari. Thus when we travelled through the village after the safari on our way to the resort, it was pretty dark for us to see anything much.

The next day we got up early in the morning and started our journey for another safari at around 4 a.m. We returned in the afternoon and that’s when we got to see the beautiful tribal village in which our resort was situated, just 7 kms from the Mukki Gate of Kanha Tiger Reserve.

On our Gypsy trip back from the Tiger Reserve we saw lots of children on bicycles going back home after a day at school. Some of them were taking respite from the afternoon sun along with a few friends underneath the Mahua, Mango and Banyan trees. What caught my attention was the fact that most of the cyclists were girls between 10-15 years of age and that they were easily mingling with boys of their age.

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I casually asked our driver, guide and a certified ornithologist, Mr. Rakesh Solanki about the overall condition of girls in the village. Solankiji has been there in this village for the last 8 years after his stints at various other Tiger Reserves. He mentioned that children of almost all the families of the tribals (mostly Gonds and Baigas) go to the primary school that is there in the village. After primary education the parents refused to send the girls to school as the senior school was situated in a distant village Samnapur. He said that the government has now started giving away bicycles to the girls to enable them go to the senior school and this has brought in a surge in the number of girls joining the senior school.

The peace, happiness and carefree attitude of these girls made me wonder,

Don’t they look much more happier, peaceful and safer than our girls in the cities?

Is it because they are not privy to the crime rates like our girls are?

I immediately asked Solankiji what is the condition of girls and women in these villages. The elders of these villages when informed of an affair between a girl and boy of different tribes, allow them to get married. If a woman is known to have an extra-marital affair and her husband complains to the village panchayat, they summon the lady and ask her why she doesn’t want to live with her husband and why she wanted to be with the other man. When she makes it clear that she doesn’t want to continue with the husband, they let her leave him and move in with the man of her choice.

Surprised…aren’t you? I was as well.

I then went on to ask him what happens in case of rapes and other crimes. He said these villagers seldom go to police for any of their problems. They prefer to tackle them locally. He mentioned that such cases are almost negligible in these villages. And if something of the sort happens, the accused is thrown out of the village. I wasn’t very sure about this punishment, but overall it sounded like a very sensible place with wise people. His words brought in tears of joy in my eyes.

Isn’t this what Women Empowerment is all about?

Or is it something different that the poor little Mama’s boy was trying to explain to us on national television?

While the men in the village toiled in the scorching sun in the farm lands or were seen repairing or constructing their houses, the women were seen at the water wells, vegetable patches or cleaning up the houses, or helping their husbands in their construction work. But all in all, I didn’t see anybody except one old man sitting idle.

We have a lot to learn from the remote villages, especially from the tribal villages, which are much more advanced in their thoughts on woman and equality. Till now, I had only heard of woman being subdued or overpowered, but here was a village where women were given their share of freedom. Or at least, the next generation was getting empowered.

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This mother was proud enough to tell us that her daughter Damini had just completed 4th standard and will now get into 5th standard. When asked whether she’ll send her daughter for further education, she said that she’ll definitely send her to Samnapur for further schooling. I wish they do have a few colleges in the remote villages so that the parents who have come this far, do go along a little further and send the children for higher studies.

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These are the cute little angels who wished me ‘Good evening, aunty and when I gave them a toffee each they wanted to know, ‘Aunty ka birthday hai kya?’. My heart jumped with joy when they waved us a good bye in their sweet voices with those lovely little smiles. Bless you angels!

This village definitely makes me want to sing…

Aashayein khile dil ki…

Ummeedein hase dil ki…

Ab mushkil nahi kuch bhi, nahi kuch bhi…

Do listen to the song…it’s a beautiful one from KK Menon.

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23 Replies to “She’s a Small Town Girl”

  1. Wow! I am so happy to read that such villages exist..
    Although I would love to envelope them from the wild world so that the virus does not go anywhere near them!
    Love the song that you tagged along with this story (heard it for the first time, though!)

  2. good to hear about a real civilized community when all the newspapers are filled about barbarous customs like khaap panchayat’s banning jeans or ordering gang rapes on girls for the crime of falling in love ..good post 🙂

  3. Clap clap clap! Rekha, thank you for bringing alive this story for your readers. You have written it such that not a single detail of positivity will be missed. It is this that happens when the government and society collude to think of “women empowerment”. I have never been to Kanha and the surrounding villages but I am so happy to read this!

  4. Kudos Rekha for taking the time to highlight how even villages that we think aren’t forward thinking enough, are in fact much more than we city dwellers are. Inspirational stories and almost the stuff of what fairy tales societies are made of. I reckon Mama’s baby boy may have skipped this town all together. They could teach him a thing or two about women empowerment.

  5. Wow, so so glad to know that all is not lost with our country.. to think such villages exist today is such a pleasant thought.. glad you got to experience this and even more happy that you wrote about it. I hope those villages always stay this way and I hope some of their humanity rubs onto the rest of the country in some way or the other..
    Thanks for this post Rekha… it really made me smile..

  6. These kind of positive stories never make it to the news and I am glad for bringing it to us. This village is doing what every part of our country should be doing.

  7. Kudos Rekha for writing about it. Yes there are many such villages. My husband belongs to one such in rural MP, we visit it quite often. And though there are many practices which I may not approve of but overall at macro level there is a huge change in outlook. More and more women are getting educated, there is zero tolerance of crime against women, NO child marriage etc etc. Thousand miles covered…thousand more to go 🙂

  8. Thank you for bringing this real-life story to your readers!
    We city-dwellers tend to look down on people living in rural areas as backward. The truth is some of them are much more enlightened than us. They practise what we preach.

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