This title was inspired by my supervisior Seema. Her and the team at Aastha Parivaar have faced so many obstacles to keep the organisation going. Yet, despite all of this they persisted and continue to do such essential work for the sex workers and their children in the community.
This idea is encapsulated in the following whakatauki:
“Whāia te iti kahurangi ki te tūohu koe me he maunga teitei”
“This whakatauki is about aiming high or for what is truly valuable, but it’s real message is to be persistent and don’t let obstacles stop you from reaching your goal.”
Week 3: 30 jan – 5th feb
Monday to Wednesday bought a mixture of feelings. Feeling a bit disheartened that I do not know more Hindi and cannot fully communicate with a lot of women in my unit. Yet, not letting that worry me too much and being grateful there are a couple women who speak more English that have been so excellent at translating conversations for me!
Anagha, one of the women in my unit, was celebrating a relationship tradition that she would do in her home village, and she gifted all of us a beautiful metal plate, and sweets and put flowers in our hair!!! Feeling the love!!! On the same day, they also showed me the best route to the train station, so from there on out, I was training to work! Igniting my love for the trains in Mumbai! (the PMSA whanau and I were lucky enough to afford the first class tickets, and mostly being going against the traffic, so did not have to deal much with being sardined in the carriages – a daily privilege that most locals can’t afford).
On the train home, a co-worker shared with me that she barely sees her husband much due to him working at least 12 days, 6 days a week. As well as how excited she was for their anniversary that they got to spend an extra whole day together. Make me reflect on the privileges of our 2 day weekend and personally never had to consistently work such long hours. A lot of stories made me realise how much I had taken for granted spare time, whether this is for family, friends or for myself. My co-worker also explained that her daily commute totals at least 3hrs a day, and even more time gone!
I got to go to my supervisor’s office on Tuesday, and it was great to be able to work in the same space as her, and prepare for the upcoming conference, to which I had been invited! Have so much respect for her and her team. They pour so much time, energy and love into the organisation. At times going without pay or put their own money into projects when they don’t have enough donations for sponsors. They have faced so many challenges along the way and haven’t always been sure if they could continue it, but their perseverance has kept them going! Such an inspiration to never give up and to work hard for what’s important to you. An important note, I had the most delicious chai at her office, and we shared an Indian pizza which was absolutely stacked with toppings and cheese!! So yum!!
I have found it hard to focus in unit 2, and I have come to realise it must be the heat! Luckily they have two little fans. However, it is still hot even though they had a cold spell for most of the time we were there! I can’t comprehend how challenging it is for women at the peak of the summer. In such a small unit, with little air flow, an air conditioning unit would help a lot – yet the funds are not available for it. Because of this, I tend to go to a cafe after work that has air conditioning – this let me focus a lot better and try to get work done (and maybe a cold drink helped, too!).
I was lucky enough to be invited to go along for Aastha Parivaar’s overnight workshop in Lovnavla for their ‘Orientation and Dissemination for Aastha Parivaar’s organisational policys’.
What an incredible day. Woke up at 5:45am to Ola over to a meeting point for the bus pick up. I was feeling a lot of gratitude to be invited to the overnight conference and get to meet the majority of the Aastha Parivaar team! Most of these women never get the chance to travel, domestically even yet, internationally. So this was a really special opportunity for them to connect with each other while being celebrated/rewarded for the essential work they do for the communities.
Before everyone had arrived, I was waiting in the lobby of a hotel with 2 women from AP whom I had’t met before. Straight away they made me feel welcome and told me about their lives. It was heartbreaking to hear that they had both lost their husbands, which seemed a lot more ‘normal’ than I would have thought before. In a culture where marriage and family are such a focus topic, I could imagine it would amplify the pain of being a widow. Often, when meeting new people along the trip questions about marriage would arise very early in the conversation. Can’t imagine how these simple day-to-day interactions would bear so much weight and resurface such painful memories for these women.
Best bus ride of my life. The 3hr commute to Lonavala went in no time. Speaker on, a bus full of excited women, singing and dancing most of the way there. Whether the women were sitting down and clapping, or standing up with me in the aisle of the bus as if it were a stage. Everyone has such high and infectious energy. It continues to amaze me on this trip that despite the challenging and traumatic lives these women have survived, they are able to put that aside and celebrate each other so beautifully. It makes me reflect on how the connection and support these women have for one another is such a protective factor for the hard times they go through. Whether this is sharing their food, singing, or dancing together. It’s a sombre thought to think about a lot of the communities I have been around at home that are not as connected as they could be and what benefits could arise if they were more connected – how do I bring this back with me?
Adding to the excitement of what I now called the party bus, we popped a tyre and bottomed out as the bus was essentially off-roading on this windy inclined road.
Arriving at the accommodation after a disposition of motorways, rural areas, bush and now this open valley landscape with faded green grass and rugged hills surrounding the flat area the resort lies in.
Great introduction session of team building and development activities where an external woman came and did the exercises with the group. She did a great job at getting everyone engaged, and would be interested in doing that one day. It hilarious doing some of the activities and all of our ‘childlike’ competitive sides came out.
Lots of beautiful experiences from the conference seeing the sunset at the top of the hill (accompanied by monkeys, dogs and cows), getting insight from consultants who organised the event, dancing for hours after dinner and being taught dance moves by all the women. It was so heartwarming for the women to get the chance to have so much fun together.
It was a eye-opening experience talking to one of the women, Anagha at dinner. My PMSA group were lucky enough to be going to Agra to see the taj mahal that weekend. When talking to her about this, she shared her dream of going on a plane. However, she knew that dream was unlikely to be a reality for her so she now that that dream for her daughter, who is currently studying. Again, it made me reflect on the privilege I have in so many aspects of my life and wish that Anagha could be in the position to have the same chances.
Anagha also mentioned that I was her first international friend and that she felt so proud. She said she wanted to hand write all these compliments to give to me. AHHHH! She’s such a sweet human being. Already miss her so much.
Throughout the trip so far I have been quite anxious about whether I am being as productive as I can or producing the best quality of work that I can. However, I need to keep an open mind about what being an intern with AP means. I also need to take the time to get to know the people, the organisation and work with my supervisor to see what it possible to get done in my time frame.
Fantastic to see the workshop conference presented by Seema (my supervisor) and Chitan (consultant). Once it had finished, all the different units took their turn to thank and show gratitude towards Seema and the leadership team. Due to it being in Hindi, I couldn’t quite understand what they were saying, but in a way, I didnt need to. Just seeing how they spoke and expressed their thankfulness to Seema was more than enough to understand the significance it was in their lives to being part of Aastha Parivaar.
After the talk, I could interview a few women about their experiences with Aastha Parivaar. Chitan was kind and helped me translate the questions I was asking the women. Great content for AP’s social media. also, it was precious talking to Chitan at lunch about his perspective on life, and how he lives minimalistically – he can fit all his belongings in his car, only has what he needs, and travels where he needs to for work. He has also done alot of research into eating healthy, as a vegan, he found he gets a lot more energy from getting a plant-based diet benefitting his physical health and mental health. We also talked about religion and the power of having faith, no matter which religion or spirituality you follow. He also mentioned that he is motivated to do free work for organisations like Aastha Parivaar as he recognises that their funds are so limited and how important it is for those to go towards more outreach in the community. It made me think a lot about how I have viewed work in the past and its transactional nature. Clearly, you need to be in a privileged position to do this. However, I would like to remember this for my future once I make enough money to support myself. How, then, can I give back to others, especially if I already have what I need – being conscious of my spending decisions and aware of the value of my money to someone else in need?
Sat and Sun
What an extravagant weekend trip that is hard to put into words. Visiting the Taj Mahal was such a privilege. It is such an incredible structure, with such fascinating history and intricate details, and even just the scale of it takes your breath away.
The word juxtaposition popped into my mind throughout this weekend. Seeing such a monumental structure, while just across the river, people are living in makeshift housing. How is this now tourist attraction raking in so much money benefitting the local people?
While keeping in mind those thoughts while still appreciating that we got to experience the Taj, something that would be a dream for my work colleagues.
A nice sudden 4:30am sunday rise up. I was sick. Oh…bugger…here comes the Dehli belly. Quite fitting to be back in Dehli. Thank god for Caitlin, who was rooming with me in the hotel, I’m sure a very memorable experience for her, too ahah! Me and Tabby both ended up being sick at the same time. It was weirdly nice to both be feeling that rough together on the long bus ride back from Agra to Dehli, and then the flight back to Mumbai which we almost lost our seats for. Also insanely grateful for my roommate Tash who was taking care of me that week! So many blessings left, right and centre!
Wow. Thank you again for making it this far. Please comment your own thoughts or refelctions, I’d love to hear whatever stuck out for you or any similar experiences you may have had!
Ka kite for now!