Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Village in Tamil Nadu

Every year my college sends the students to villages in different parts of the state for a week long rural camp. It's called an outreach programme. A programme for the students to get first hand knowledge on what life is like in the villages, what their problems are and what we can learn from them.

This year our department along with two others went to Sendivakkam, a small village in the district of Kancheepuram in northern Tamil Nadu, India.

who says a little girl from a small village can't be happy?
who says a little girl from a small village can't be happy? 

No one was allowed to bring their mobile phones let alone use them! We slept on the floor, we had to be content with the drinking water that tasted like charcoal mixed with salt and we had to walk for hours just to get to the neighbouring villages. The point was to be like the locals - no modern gadgets and luxuries that we take for granted.

lunch break
lunch break with the neighbouring village school

Our objective was to interact with the locals. And in situations like these when one goes to places he's never been before its human nature to have preconceived ideas on what the people will be like:  their nature, the way they'd react to questions and how they would see you - a foreigner walking in their lands...

Thats right, this was how I thought they would see me:  a strange foreigner speaking a funny language, with a camera around his shoulder, trying to speak to them using hand gestures and needed Tamil friends as interpreters for any serious conversation. I thought at best they'd be indifferent to the many questions I have for them. 

day care
day care - too young to attend school

But things aren't always how you'd imagine them to be. Upon our arrival we were greeted by the local catholic priest and some kids. A very warm welcome. And there was more to come. 

Boy, was I wrong as ever! 

one happy kid
one happy kid!

Our first friends at the place were the local school children. They were a lively bunch who incessantly asked us questions in the minutest detail.  

sendivakkam church top
the local church overlooks the entrance to the village

I later learnt from the priest the majority of the villagers were Christians - a fact that he proudly shared with us - a Catholic village. You could say it was a strange revelation because it was the last thing that would have come to my mind. 

junior rodeo?? hmmm...
junior rodeo? hmmm...

While we were there, it never failed to amaze me that people could be so kind and generous to strangers. Try going to a stranger's apartment in the city. You won't find people offering you all the milk they have or go through the trouble of running to their garden and pick some fresh fruits just to make you feel comfortable.

rural awareness camp
getting prepped up for the long day ahead

In the end I had only one question in my mind: Why are we not like them - friendly, kind and generous? 

the whole department with the local kids
my department taking a photo with the kids

Maybe its the city life thats to blame. Maybe its our friends. Or maybe its ourselves that we need to look into.

old man
an old man turning for a pose