perjantai 6. heinäkuuta 2012

Benefits of development are not reaching everybody in Gujarat

Gujarat is often mentioned as one of the most developed states of India. Or at least that’s how Gujarat’s BJP government and its Chief Minister Narendra Modi want to frame the status of the state with one of the most prominent growth rates in India. 

However, according to a local newspaper (Ahmedabad Mirror/ May 12, 2012) 32 percent of the children in Gujarat are malnourished. This figure was released by the state Women and Child Development Department but the Human Development Report India 2011 claims the figure of malnourished children to be nearly 45 percent. That is a lot. These figures put into question Gujarat’s claims of being the most developed in the country. Benefits do not seem to have reached everybody.

The problem of malnourishment seems to be most prevalent in the adivasi districts of Gujarat. The highest figure of 5.4 percent of children severely malnourished is found in Narmada district (according to the state Women and Child Development department).  Districts like Dahod and Vadodara are also among those with high proportion of malnourished children. 

Also, a while ago Indian Express (May 26, 2012) published an article stating that the benefits of building a contested Narmada dam have not been flowing to the adivasi population of the nearby area. The villages near the dam still lack the promised drinking and irrigation water facilities. The government gives lack of electricity as the reason for not failing to provide water from Narmada canal to all the 93 villages included in government’s water supply scheme. So far only 18 villages have availed the promised water. It seems a little bit strange that the well-known electricity problem was not taken into account when planning the project. It is not the first time though when the benefits of building a dam are not evenly distributed…

According to Ahmedabad Mirror Gujarat state government is working with National Institute of Health to conduct a survey on malnourished children. The institute will also find out of the problem of malnourishment is genetic…  

keskiviikko 4. heinäkuuta 2012

Names and Tattooes

I guess we have all thought about the importance of the name to our identity. Name is something that we want to hold on to or something that we want change as a part of identity or status transforming process. Usually the issue of changing the name comes up during the marriage negotiations and it only concerns the last name. And it is for ourselves to decide.

In the villages of Dungarpur, there is a tradition of tattooing ones own name, friend’s or husband’s name on one’s arm. Tattooing in general has been more popular before but on young girls I have only seen tattoos with their own name on it.  Boys have tattoos too but I feel that the names tattooed on the arms are mostly common among the girls. Somehow I found it curious that one would want to get a tattoo with  one’s own name on it. 

Just while ago I heard for the first time about another tradition according to which in addition to the last name, the women are given new first names by their in-laws when they get married. In general it seems to be a tradition that people are a little bit ashamed of. When asked people claim that is not done here, not in this village or even in this part of Rajasthan. However, I have met a couple of young ladies who told me that they had been given new names after marriage. 

In marriage, a woman moves to her husband’s family and adopts their manners and behavior appropriate to a daughter-in-law. Changing name seems like a finishing touch to the separation of the woman from her natal home and the process of transforming her from a daughter into a wife and daughter-in-law. Changing a name feels so radical.I was just wondering if there might be a connection between the name giving tradition and tattooing the name on the arm. As if to confirm that this is my new name. But I doubt it, just crossed my mind. And anyways, many unmarried girls have tattoos too. You never know what kind of meanings and purposes people have for their tattoos whether cultural, social or personal. And by now I know that, in this area, the relations to the natal family are by no means cut after the marriage. 

Having writing tattooed on one's hand seems like a curious tradition considering that in Dungarpur so many women don't even know how to write their own names. Just last week I asked about a tattoo on one young lady's arm. It was in latin alphabets and said Namesa. So I asked if her name was Namesa. The lady along with her friends started laughing and told me that her name was Sunita. My further questions received more nervous laughter in response. Maybe it was her friend's name. Or maybe it was a classic mistake by the tattooist: You ask for a leopard and walk out with a donkey tattooed on your back. Unfortunately, many young people being illiterate, there is no guarantee that they will get their own names tattooed on their hand...

lauantai 19. toukokuuta 2012


‘Life is art without and eraser so be careful while taking any small decision about valuable pages of life’

Or on the other hand,

‘Life is like a novel and every day is a new page. So if one page is sad, next page will be happy. So don’t worry, turn the page and enjoy life’

Examples of the quotes that people send each other as SMS, usually in the mornings or evenings. 

Some like to share quotes concerning views or guidelines for life daily whereas some people, like me, are happy with less frequency. Nevertheless, exchanging these quotes is a nice way of keeping in touch and communicating with friends. Sometimes I also feel that the point of sharing the thoughts is in sharing than actually following the views conveyed by the quotes. The advice may in fact contradict each other resulting in that after reading a number of them, one gets easily overwhelmed by all the alternative guidelines for life. On one day ‘life is art without eraser’ and the next day ‘life is like a novel and every day is a new page’.  Both expressions are nicely formed though, things that are well said.

Related to the interest that people have for things-well-said, I have noticed many people’s fascination for good song lyrics. People like to sing old romantic classics and discuss about the lyrics -at least with me while they are translating them for me, sometimes highlighting some specific expression as especially beautiful or true.  The old songs that usually tell a love story undeniably deliver the message in a very nice form and many people like to critisice the new Bollywood  hits for the lack of depth and imagination.  Of course, people everywhere share admiration for good lyrics but somehow I feel that here (in India?) the importance of putting thoughts into words or speaking well is emphasized.

Amartya Sen starts his book The Argumentative Indian like this: ‘Prolixity is not alien to us in India. We are able to talk at some length’.  In the text that follows he analyses the importance of heterodoxy and argumentation, having different kinds of ideas. This is not exactly to the point but I do feel that the fascination for words and things well said might be somehow related to putting high value on speaking and presenting different kinds of views. Words in them selves are important if they are well chosen.

Of course, coming from Finland where every act of speaking and using words (which are scarce) are considered as something that one has to cope with for the sake of communication and where small-talk is non-existent, to me the extensive use of words may sometimes feel like excessive. ‘Silence is gold', there’s a Finnish quote for you.  I don’t want to go too deep into the national stereotypes but I do feel that words are differently used and represented in India, compared to Finland. Interesting case in point might be to compare the Facebook posts and updates...

lauantai 28. huhtikuuta 2012

In the bus part 2, 3 and 4 (in a nutshell)

Travelling in a bus in India is usually an interesting but not always so pleasant experience. I guess I had a too rosy picture of bus trips till I had to take bus to Ahmedabad and the next day from Ahmedabad to Delhi. I do not know why didn't I just go to Delhi by train.

I was late. I had planned to leave in the morning to avoid the heath of the afternoon but by the time I reached the bus stop, it was almost noon and the temperature was rising. In the afternoon it goes up to 40 C or so.  I had to take the government bus from Dungarpur to Ahmedabad so I enquired about the next bus from the counter. "12.30", was the answer. So I waited for one hour, went (or fought my way through) to the counter to by a ticket (usually they sell tickets only after the bus has arrived to the platform). "The bus is full". "When is the next bus?" "At two".   So I did not want to wait for one and half hour and started asking around about private buses. I found the buses and eventually I also found a one with an empty seat after walking around shouting: "Khali seat hai?" I got a lady's seat meaning that there was another lady sitting next to me. This time it was a young mother with two small children.

Break. Men smoking bidis in the shadow.
By this time the temperature had probably reached the 40 degrees and the children were feeling it too. Immediately after the bus started from Dungarpur one of the children started crying. In fact, either one of the children would be crying all the way to Ahmedabad. I also took part in the operation of soothing them although I was also worried that my strange appearance was what initiated their crying. Nevertheless, my appearance also had a calming effect as the children would go very silent when looking at me. I also helped in filling up their bottles with water and milk, not an easy task in a moving south Rajasthani bus. The bus stopped in every village on the way and once at a roadside hotel giving the passengers an opportunity to have some chai and snacks. In the fierce afternoon heath, the men where smoking their bidis in the shadow of the bus. After five hours of travelling, the bus reached Ahmedabad and dropped me somewhere. From there I had to take an auto by which it took one hour to reach my 'Ahmedabad home'. So in the evening I thought, lesson learned, do not take bus in the afternoon.

Next day around five o'clock I was in front of a travel agancy waiting for my bus to Delhi. It did not come. After tenth time of asking what is happening I was informed that the bus was cancelled. I waited for the next bus but it got cancelled too so I waited for the third bus. The third bus was late but it did turn up. In the bus I fell asleep immediately and after a bumpy overnight ride I woke up in... Jaipur. All the other passengers had left the bus so I got out too and enquired (I felt frustrated) about possibilities to get to Delhi which was the destination written on my ticket. Luckily there was a bus leaving after one and half hours. The guy from the travel agency offered me some chai and I felt better though I already knew that I was not going to make it to the first day of the conference where I was going to attend. 3 PM was the approximate time of arrival in Delhi and that meant spending the afternoon in bus again.

Feeling sleepy, I covered my face with my dupatta, wore my sunglasses and closed my eyes and turned to face the window. This didn't stop the man sitting next tome from trying to constantly talk with me and ask my phone number during the next eight or something hours that this "five and something hours" drive trough the deserts took. In the afternoon sitting in the bus was equivalent to sitting in front of a sandblaster and I also realized that I had not eaten anything since previous day's lunch. I guess that was also putting my mood off. The gentleman sitting next to me did ask one relevant question though: "Why did you take this bus, this one stops everywhere, there are so many good buses..." After the afternoon I finally arrived in Delhi. All my suffering and bad mood was gone when I got in to my friend's lovely and homely apartment, got some food, a bath and clean clothes. Lesson learned, do not take bus to Delhi.

I did take a bus from Delhi to Udaipur though. And it was nice. So I only recommend not taking a bus from Ahmedabad to Delhi. Train is better.

lauantai 24. maaliskuuta 2012

About Change

Future growing in the wheat field.
”I think these people don’t wan to change their lifestyle” said my interpreter when I asked what kind of impressions did she get of the villages of Dungarpur. My first reaction was denial because it seemed to me like claiming that people’s lifestyle (or poverty) is their own fault. On the other hand it could be seen as a form of empowerment giving people the agency over their own lives. Change or not, own decision. However, people are not always in the position to make changes or to see alternatives to their lifestyle. Sometimes people who want change are not given the right kind of support to make it happen. When looking at the larger picture we also need to ask: what is development? What would the ‘right’ kind of lifestyle include? What kind of change are we (or the NGO’s) suggesting to these people?

Another question is, where does the change begin? With Swallows (Finnish development organization cooperating with SEWA) we have tried so many times to put the content of the project into words for the purpose of communication, etc. The project is compiled of many parts including SEWA membership trainings (empowerment of women), agriculture trainings (supporting livelihood), promoting micro entrepreneurship (washing powder and incense stick making, nurseries), child care centers, water pumps…  So what is the essential substance, the heart of the project?

In Dungarpur I have got to know another development project by Save the Children India (as it happens, in cooperation with Save the Children Finland). The project is about promoting child sensitivity. The multifaceted concept is not that easy to turn into action but what it really implies is changing the attitudes of people. After discussions with people from STC, I have started to perceive more clearly that essentially SEWA’s work is about changing attitudes as well. The objective is to empower people to help themselves. In order to do this, they might have to absorb and embrace new ideas and ways of arranging their lives. Although SEWA is a women’s organization, I’m writing about people because SEWA has to work hard on persuading the men as well. The benefit of changing perception is not always immediate and there lies the difficulty. People who are living from hand to mouth don’t necessarily have time to think about the long term benefits. So changing attitudes takes a lot of persistent work and the results of the project may also not be immediately seen.

Comparing SEWA’s work in Dungarpur and Vadodara districts (Swallows’ project is in work in these districts) provides a good example of the results that can be achieved. SEWA has worked in Vadodara since the beginning of 1990’s and in Dungarpur since 2006. When meeting members in Vadodara one can sense the change that they have embraced. Women are more used to talking and speaking in public whereas in Dungarpur women may come out as really shy in the presence of strangers. In Vadodara many members are very much used to organizing their lives and taking decisions, planning for the future, managing things. I Dungarpur this change has just started and members are starting to internalize new ways of doing things, that is saving money and making long term plans instead of day-by-day-living.

To return to the initial comment about people not wanting to change their lifestyles…  It might be true in some sense. However, the many members of SEWA that I have met last year and during the last few weeks, have proved to me that there are women in Dungarpur who do want change and who are strong enough to go for it too. There are many success stories, big and small. Big changes might bring changes to the whole lifestyle. Smaller changes might be about just having drinking water nearer to the house. To some people this change is adequate.

I guess the point that I am trying to make is that changes are happening but they won’t happen overnight. In development projects it is also difficult to predict the so called end result, since change is a process. We can’t know all the effects of the project 20 years from now.  Neither can we assume that development and change will follow the same path everywhere but cultural and social factors have their part to play. All in all, change is inevitable but people have the power to decide the direction.

lauantai 10. maaliskuuta 2012


Sain uuden ystävän matkalla Ahmedabadista Udaipuriin. Muutaman tunnin matkan jälkeen uusi ystävä oli tarjonnut minulle suklaata, teetä, aterian tienvarsiruokalassa ja lahjoittanut minulle huivinsa (kun kehuin sitä kauniiksi). Itse sain tarjottua jossain vaiheessa vastapainoksi muutamia kaurakeksejä. Lahjanantamisen voima ei tunnu olevan minun puolellani. On kuitenkin tullut selväksi, että tie puheisiin tuntemattoman kanssa käy vatsan kautta. Intiassa on hyvin luonnollista tarjota viereiselle matkustajalle syötävää tai vaikka vettä pullosta, minkä jälkeen tilanne on avattu keskustelulle.

Ystäväni oli matkalla raskaana olevan siskonsa luokse ja tulossa serkkunsa häistä. Kun meillä oli hyvää aikaa, ehdimme käydä läpi ihmissuhdekiemuroita ja erityisesti avioliittoaiheisia pohdintoja, joiden olen huomannut usein tulevan esiin nuorten kesken.

Avioliittoaikeet herättävät tytöillä sekä innostuksen että ahdistuksen tunteita. Toisaalta avioliitto on selkeä päämäärä elämässä ja tavoiteltava asia, jotain uutta ja jännittävää ja toisaalta taas tytöille se merkitsee yleensä kodin vaihtumista toiseen, uusien sukulaisten (tai kokonaisen suurperheen appivanhempineen, kälyineen ja lankoineen) elämään sopeutumista. Uudet tavat ja uudet ihmiset aiheuttavat jännitystä. Järjestetty avioliitto sinänsä ei ole vastustuksen kohteena ja esimerkiksi ystäväni tapauksessa sulhanen oli mieleinen. Silti uuteen perheeseen muuttaminen 21-vuotiaana ja ero omasta perheestä ovat vaikeita asioita. Tosin yllättävänä käänteenä kuvioihin oli ilmestynyt kilpakosija ja tytöllä olikin nyt tarkan harkinnan paikka, sillä päätös koskee koko loppuelämää.

 Päätös koskee myös koko elämää siinä suhteessa, että koulutuksestaan huolimatta hän jää vaimona ja miniänä huolehtimaan kodista ja jättää työelämän. Vaikka yritin jutella kannustavasti siitä aikuiseksi kasvamisen vaikeuksista, en voinut olla ajattelematta hieman surullisena sitä, että fiksu ja eläväinen tyttö jää kotiin loppuelämäkseen (väheksymättä kodintekijän roolia). Ehkä päätöksen lopullisuus, se että avioliitto vaikuttaa täysin ratkaisevasti koko loppuelämään, on syy siihen että päätöksen mittakaavaa on vaikea omasta näkökulmasta käsittää. Uusi elämä vaatii valtavia sopeutumistaitoja, joita kyllä uudelta miniältä ja vaimolta odotetaankin.

21-vuotiaalle ystävälle taas tuli yllätyksenä, että tällainen naimaton täti opiskelee vielä eikä ole edes kihloissa. Surullinen kohtalo.
Kuva huivista vaarinpain koska blogger ei sallinut sen olla oikein pain.

tiistai 28. helmikuuta 2012



Nakyma parvekkelta.
Päivät muuttuvat vähitellen lämpimämmiksi ja talven viileät aamut ja illat antavat tilaa polttavalle auringonpaisteelle. Rajasthanissa Dungarpurissa on vielä hieman viileämpää kuin Ahmedabadissa mutta tiedän, että kammottava kuumuus iskee tannekkin parin kuukauden kuluessa.
Muutin Dungarpuriin viikko sitten ja asuntokin on jo hankittu ja tulkki haastatteluja varten löytynyt (ja hävitetty kerran, löydetty uudestaan kerran).  Alun perin Dungarpurin ”pienempään kaupunkiin” asettuminen vähän jännitti mutta jo muutaman päivän kuluessa olen löytänyt monenlaisia tuttavuuksia, saanut hääkutsuja, illalliskutsuja, illallisia, PALJON APUA sekä oppinut chapatin, parathan sekä kananmunacurryn tekoa ja muita hyödyllisiä keittiötaitoja. Keittiötaidot taitavatkin tulla tarpeeseen, sillä olen hankkinut omaan keittiööni suurimman osan hyödyllisistä ruuanlaitto- ja ruokailuvälineistä kaasusylinteristä alkaen.
Asiaa harkittuani, tuntuu että keittiön olemassaolo tekee kotoisamman olon. Toki ruuan ostamiseen ja valmistamiseen menee jonkin verran aikaan, mutta rehellisesti sanoen en ole vielä kertaakaan kokkailla keittiössäni sillä tarjottuja illalliskutsuja on tullut riittävästi. On liedestä kuitenkin se hyöty, että saa kahvin ja pesuveden lämmitettyä aamulla.  Intialaisen ruuan valmistaminen on kuitenkin ehdottomasti to do-listalla. Jos ei muuten niin, siksi että ruoka ja muut kodin työt tulevat perheen ohella helposti puheeksi naisten kesken.Kotityöt yhdistävät.  Ja kotityöt ovat tapa rakentaa kotia, muokata omaa tilaa. Itselleni on esimerkiksi tärkeää itse siivota uusi koti ennen kuin sitä varsinaisesti voi alkaa käyttää. Kun on käynyt läpi joka nurkan ja asetellut tavarat paikoilleen, on kämppä tavallaan otettu haltuun.
Naishenkilöitä, joiden päätehtävänä on kodin ylläpito, kutsutaan home makereiksi, kodin tekijöiksi. Termi eroaa selvästi vaihtoehtoisista titteleistä, kotiäiti ja housewife. Ensinnäkin maker viittaa aktiiviseen tekemiseen ja toiseksi titteli on erotettu sukulaissuhteista ja se on sukupuolineutraali. Kodintekijyys viittaa henkilön aktiiviseen työpanokseen kodin tekemisessä. Kodin tekeminen kuulostaa myös aktiivisemmalta kuin esimerkiksi ylläpitäminen. Koti on todellakin jotain mitä jonkun täytyy luovalla työpanoksella tehdä.
Kotiäiti ja housewife taas yhdistävät naisen sukulaissuhteisiin.  Äitinä tai vaimona oleminen jollekin on ikään kuin syy kotona (tai talossa) olemiselle. Mielenkiintoinen on myös koti –ja talo-sanojen ero.  Äitiydessä ja vaimoudessa on aktiivisia puolia mutta kodintekijän titteli cuo silti mielestäni paremmin tunnustusta sille suurelle työlle mitä (tässä erityisesti Intian kontekstissa) naiset tekevät kodin eteen. Kotiäiti tai housewife eivät myöskään kuvaa kovin hyvin Intian maaseudun asemaa vaikka yleisesti ajatellaan, että heidän paikkansa on kotona. Monet heistä tekevät töitä omilla pelloilla, toisten pelloilla ja metsissä ja muuta fyysistä työtä siinä missä miehetkin (ja usein enemmän). Sen lisäksi he ovat ehdottomasti home makereita, äitejä ja vaimoja. Vaikka vaimona oleminen ja äitiys yhdistetäänkin kodin tekemiseen, tekevät naiset paljon muutakin. Ehkä äitiyden ja vaimouden ja perheen paikka on kotona ja naiseutta ajatellaan ensisijaisesti niiden viitekehyksessä vaikka naiset ovat mukana monessa muussakin. Vaikka vaimona olemisen, äitiyden ja kodintekijyyden välille voi vetää yhtäläisyysmerkit esimerkiksi Dungarpurin maaseudun kohdalla, on kodin tekemisen sukulaisuussuhteista erottamisella seurauksia.
Kodintekijyys mahdollistaa ajatuksen erilaisista kodeista. Kodintekijän ei välttämättä tarvitse olla äiti, vaimo tai nainen. Eri asia on se mitä ihmiset kulttuurisesti kodilla käsittävät. Kotiin liittyy yleensä läheisesti perhe ja siten siis sukulaisuussuhteet kuten äitiys ja vaimona oleminen. Mutta kodintekijyys ei eksplisiittisesti oleta tällaista suhdetta olevan. Implisiittisesti termi voi toki sisältää ajatuksen, että kotia tehdään perheelle. Äiti ja vaimo voi olla olematta kodintekijä. Ehkä voi olla myös kodintekijä olematta äiti tai vaimo. Ehkä minä voin olla kodintekijä Dungarpurissa itselleni. Vaikka se ei olisikaan pääasiallinen tittelini, teen kuitenkin kodintekijyyteen, tai no rehellisesti sanottuna, ainakin Intian kontekstissa, naiseuteen liittyviä puuhia. Kotia, kodintekijyyttä, vaimona olemista, äitiyttä ja naiseutta ei voi erottaa kulttuurisesta kontekstista. Silti pidän ajatuksesta, että kodin tekeminen on aktiivista työtä eikä äitinä tai vaimona olemista.