Tata International Social Entrepreneurship Scheme
Letter from Murshidabad
July 20th, 2013. Murshidabad
When you are reading this letter, I am working in an Indian village. Normally, I wake up at 6 AM and travel to study centers nearby to conduct research there. Afterwards, I sit under a huge banyan (just like the Buddha) and organize documents while learning basic Bengali from little kids. My favorite tree looks like this:
Lunch is served at 2 PM followed by a short journey on a muddy road back to my house. Around the pleasant sunset hour, once again, I can concentrate on my work. When the darkness swallows the sky, in my orange mosquito net, I begin to pray for a night with no power failures.
Thanks to the support from Tata, my daily life is actually way better than the locals’. I can skip the cooking and start eating. The house workers manage the cleaning and laundry. If I travel far, a private car will be provided. On top of these, I have the chance to breathe in the same rhythm with the India that I signed up for. It is not a country either in black or white, but an organism which nurtures more dynamics than ever and keeps evolving. On the country road, people use loudspeakers to publicize their candidates for the forthcoming local election. Cell phones have found their way to India; peasants can leverage information and communication technology to sell their harvest at a fair price. The study centers that I am evaluating offer free tutoring to teenagers from low-income families; the teachers here guide their students with the “flow map” that integrates normal teaching with computer-based project learning.
Just like my motherland China, India has its own bottlenecks. Wherever I go, I never forget to count the number of female workers. The number reaches significant amount in Mumbai but falls down in Kolkata. It becomes unnoticeable in villages where I visited and climbs up again in Darjeeling, which has a large influx of Tibetan refugees. A man who supports a female political candidate with a full heart may meanwhile block housewives from getting a decent job. Another observation is that, the majority in my district are Muslim, whereas most of the good English speakers and rich people that I know are Hindu. Ethnic segregation has no difference from caste discrimination when we talk about social equity in a serious manner.
When you are reading this letter, the pouring rain outside the window is absorbing the heat. A small patch of land under a broken piece of cloud is getting wet for the third time today. You can imagine that I am sitting alone on a wooden bed (which serves as my make-shift table here) and enjoying my little war with the mosquitos. It is no perfect life, but it is unique enough to be remembered for a long time.