XLRI – For the greater good
It is almost a month in XLRI and there have been more than hundred surprises in this period of time. However the most heart-warming surprise was ‘Village Exposure’ program. Honestly, at the beginning, I was looking at these 3 days as a vacation, especially after excruciating start of B-school life. But what came after going in village made a huge impact.
At the beginning of this trimester itself we were assigned with the NGO – Kalamandir. My group was sent to the village named ‘Baharagora’ near the boundary of Jharkhand and Orissa. In this village, Kalamandir is employing an innovating idea of ‘micro-financing’. Under this, they are giving the loans to women to run their businesses. For some women they had given a training to make small scale products and help them earn money. Amount that women get is either 5000 or 10000 and they are supposed to repay the amount in monthly installments of either 500 or 1000. This entire process is handled by Mrs Nitisha Bera (one in black sari). And our job was to interview these women about how they run their businesses, problems they face, impact of money on their businesses etc.
Since these women run their businesses in village area where consumption and demand is on lower side, I thought paying 500 or 1000 per month will be a daunting task for these women. However none of these women had any problem in repaying loan, in fact they wanted more money in terms of loan so that they can expand their businesses. Naturally, our question was, can you manage monthly payment of 2000/2500 per month? And we got answer with a smile on face, “Hann hann, kyu nahi?” (Yes Yes, why not?)
There was a sense of confidence with these women. They had a feeling that they can win the world and I think this is the biggest achievement for Kalamandir. Child marriage, especially for girls is rampant in india, but when we enquire about what these women want their girls to be, we got responses such as, I will make her graduate, I want her to assist me in my business, I want her to be a teacher. In those answers there wasn’t any wish or request, it was more like a demand, “I WILL make her graduate!”
We interviewed a lady who is in her 70s (the one in a photo). She got the training to make ‘Agarbatti(dhoop)’ in training camp. Now she makes agarbatti for 4-5 hours per day. To sell these agarbatti, she walks 15 KM to nearest market. And she wants more money (loan) to expand her business. Can you believe it? A lady in her 70s wants to expand a business! When she was telling her story, we could sense how immensely proud she is about her work. She had a feeling of satisfaction that she is earning, that she is contributing, that she is worthy of something.
In one incident, when our interview was going on with one group, one lady just stopped us and asked us to finish her interview so that she can go and sell some saris and we were kind of eating her business time. Okay! For a moment we kept looking at each other. In a village which is on a border of Orissa and Jharkhand, where nearest city is 100 KM away, someone is so busy that giving interview is time consuming! Talk about passion.
Thought of the blog – When I joined XLRI, someone told me that your life is going to change forever and I must say, even though, it is just a month, XLRI has started making difference in life. Village exposure program gave me a reality check. I look back towards my journey and I realize that how blessed I am to get a good family, friends and most importantly an opportunity to do something in life, but the question is what about those who are missing on that single factor of opportunity? I think somewhere down the road god has given us the responsibility to assist those people in achieving their dreams. They also have the passion, they also have the willingness, they are ready to work hard, they are talented in their own way only thing is missing is a hand to pull them up! And if we are so engaged in our own dreams and forget to give them a hand, then I think we are missing the purpose of life…