Nov. 20, 2008 – Visit to Devi
This is going to be a difficult post to write, just as the actually visit was difficult. When I first began Panchkarma, Devi, one of the massage therapists, the younger one I mentioned, 21 years old, had henna on her hand one day. I asked her about it and she said she does it herself, and if I would like, she can do for me when I finish pachakarma. I said I’d love her to do it for me, but never imagined she would actually remember almost 4 weeks later. The day before I finished, she said “tomorrow you come…I do henna..you eat lunch..Thik hei?” Well, of course Thik hei (OK).
So, I finished my last day and headed off wither to her house. She lives on the other side of the bridges, between lakshman Jhula and Ram Jhula, but closer to Ram Jhula, off the main road. On the way, she began telling me about the conditions she lives under. You remember I told you they are 5 daughters, the oldest married, the other two of marriageable age waiting for enough money for a wedding before arranging a marriage. Her 24 year old sister is first on the list, and then Devi. They have no idea where the sum of 100,000 rupees (minimum) will come from for each wedding, but are hopeful. The father doesn’t work, and hasn’t for many years and so her small salary of a little over 1000 rupees per month for a part time job, and her sisters salary as a nurse/midwife is what is supporting the family.
Her two younger sisters, as she and the older two, have no access to proper education as they do not have the money for a good school. (Remember I told you about the poor education the village kids get as the teachers either don’t bother teaching or don’t even show up). She asked if I’d like to see the school
where her youngest sister learns and of course I said yes. Well, when we arrived, all the kids were just outside or roaming around talking to each other, or sitting and chatting in the classrooms. I assumed it was recess, but she no. This is what the school day is mostly like. The several teachers were sitting inn the “teacher’s room” chatting and the kids were out and about. They DID seem to have some form of learning as there was a blackboard
with writing on it and some were writing in notebooks, but most were just roaming around. Devi explained that only kids with s some money, or regular supporters, could go to a good school in town and have a chance of going on to higher education, but the families, like hers, were destined to perpetuate the cycle of poverty from generation to generation. She said she would love to learn math and science, but of course there was no chance of that. She received what little education she has, as do her younger sisters, with Dr. Arora’s assistance I understood.
Well, we continued on to her house, which actually looks not too bad from the outside. There is a mud courtyard and in the back a couple of cows (which don’t give milk for some reason-perhaps they are now pregnant, I don’t know). Inside, there are two rooms and a kind of entrance which also has a bed in it. The room you see in the picture is Devi’s and the entrance is for her older sister. Her father has his own room, and in Devi’s room also sleep , all in the one bed, her Mother and two younger sisters as well.
They have electricity but don’t use it as they have no appliances, and even the fan they use rarely as it is too expensive. They have no running water, and no toilet. They do not have an outhouse..they have to go into “the jungle” when they need to go…quite a walk from the house! They can pump water down the road from a well the government provides and carry it home to use for bathing, cooking, washing dishes etc.
They eat chapatti, rice and dahl, period…and now they just ran out of rice and may be without for some time. They eat chapatti for breakfast and dinner and rice and dahl in the afternoon.
When lunch was served to me, it was really difficult to accept it, but there was no way I could say no. without offending. But I really wasn’t hungry as I just te kicheri, so at least I could honestly ask for a very small portion. She had instructed her mother to cook with very little chili as a guest was coming. I hate to imagine what their food is like with the full amount of chili!!! Turns out her father cooked that day, as her mother was up in the forest cutting wood and greens for fodder for the cows to eat and for cooking. They have a gas balloon but try not to use it as it is also very expensive.
She explained that until about 6 years ago, they had no windows and no roof…just tin and cloth. The land was originally given to her grandmother by the government, and slowly they put up walls, but never could afford a roof or windows. About 6 years ago they finally got up a roof and glass windows, but the house was still extremely cold, and it is not even winter yet.
Her mother later came down from the mountains with the full load of fodder on her head. Devi told me that in all the years she knows her mother, she has never gotten a new sari to wear, and this is her only dream! And I saw, when she arrived, the sari was truly threadbare, and the sweater she was wearing underneath it was full of holes.
.I told her I could not promise anything, but I am going to see what I can do toraise some money and ease their lives even a little. They are one family out of hundreds of millions here, and they are certainly not the poorest of the poor, but if I can help even one family in some way, it would be something.
Although I enjoyed spending this time with Devi, it was all so difficult to assimilate. I promised to go back and visit again, and from now on will bring a full bag of fruit a couple of times a week to devi at work, to take home for her family, and when I get into the market again, will buy a sweater and shawl for her mother as a surprise. When I told her I would try and find a way to raise some money for them, and if I succeed, the first thing she must do is take her mother to a sari!
She was extremely happy I had come, and her Mother was truly gracious. Her father was so sad to see, and she apparently has no respect for him at all, and wouldn’t even let me take his picture…as if he was not worthy even of that!
It was not an easy day for me, except for the fact that Devi didn’t stop smiling once, nor did her older sister when she came home from work, or her Mother. But I will make it my business to go for another visit, and have promised Devi a pasta meal at my house…which brings me to the next post…either later today or tomorrow. Getting my kitchen outfitted and getting ready to begin cooking.