Rendezvous with Kumbhari
December 16, 2009 Pune, India - It was indeed an extraordinary experience for me last Sunday to be harmonious with the kids of the Kumbhari village of Ahmednagar in the State of Maharashtra. The occasion was not pertaining to my work with any of the NGOs, rather a wedding of a close relative. I had been to a small village like this almost after fourteen long years. What pulled up my ecstasy was the soothing climate of the village, the simplicity and openness of the people, the mind drifting beauty of the sugarcane and grape farms and of course the feeling of being rooted to the soil. I must admit that the feelings are hard to be expressed. However, I must admit that despite several of our technological advances in Indian cities, the villages are the places where we get to see the real image of our country.
The wedding was an hour behind the actual schedule and this bestowed me and Pratik, my brother-in-law an opportunity to interact with the local village kids. It is doubtlessly true that villagers of the Maharashtrian villages hardly bother of a formal marriage invitation before they make up their minds to attend it. A good news spreads like a wildfire and this fact was backed up by the soaring number of the villagers gathered in the Wedding-Mandapa. Unlike the city dwellers where people hardly bother to know who their neighbors are, this just illustrates the feeling of affection and harmony that prevails amongst the people of the remote Indian villages even today.
It didn't took much time for me to realize that we were surrounded by some ten to fifteen kids, all in the same age group. In small villages like Kumbhari, the local Gram-Panchayat schools are the obvious choice for some truly economical wedding ceremonies. The kids knew that although it was a Sunday afternoon, yet they had a special reason to come to their school today. I felt like starting a conversation with these sweet little kids and as a step ahead with it, I started asking them their names. Valmik, Tushar, Vijay, Aditya, I started straining my grey cells as they kept on recording all of them into their memory. Once the intro-session was done, I was totally amazed when one of the kids asked me my name. Of course, I do not want these village kids to refer me by my name esp. amongst our other relatives. Inspired by the ongoing craze of the television reality shows, I decided to play some games with them. Guess my name and here you will win a gift for yourself - the deal was crystal clear. But that was indeed an unfair deal, I pondered. So we decided to give them some hints. It starts with 'Nee' - the clues kept on coming until one of them guessed it right. That was Aditya, who just won an ink pen for himself. But this was unfair, the other kids complained, rather jealousy made them think of numerous reasons why Aditya didn't deserve the gift. He is from seventh standard, Valmik complained. The majority of the kids here are from the fifth grade; hence your deal is unfair, the group continued. And it didn't even take me a moment to realize how grave situation I had landed myself into. It took me sometime to make them understand that the quiz had its own terms and conditions and that it was irrespective of their ages and grades.
The quiz spanned several questions from the school text books, something they might be finding uninteresting during their school hours. But this game certainly made them realize their worth and the power of knowledge. We were able to read their minds so easily. I was particularly intrigued by Vijay's answer to my Mathematical question - twelve multiplied by twelve. Somewhere later, one of the kids told me that Vijay had got me the correct answer after a brief workout he had done in sand. One forty four, he seemed so excited as he presented me the calculated answer. All he wanted was a new pen as a reward to his efforts. Amen, wishes were granted.
Talent has been deeply rooted even into the farthest vein of India. Unfortunately, I feel sad to see so many young kids deprived of quality resources and infrastructure for their learning. Many of these little kids are forced to leave their education due to lack of proper guidance, amenities or a much essential financial support. The village of Kumbhari is an epitome of several struggling common people living in distant Indian villages. My rendezvous with the people here was remarkable and the quality time I have spent here has enchanted my mind. Wish I could go back and start leading a simple life as they do. No, is the answer I get instantly when I recollect my life, its priorities and dreams.