Meghna K is a member of the Rang De Writers team and has written and helped 500 individuals get financial assistance in a year. Our team contains over 80 people from all walks of life all across India — write to firstname.lastname@example.org to join Rang De Writers.
As the early morning sun rays disperse the night’s darkness, I looked around the streets, probably for the first time in a long time. Dairy farmers are directly selling milk to customers, flowers vendors tying colourful petals tog into a beautiful garland, vegetable growers selling their produce to wholesalers and retailers, kids, who should be at school are selling newspapers on the road — a whole other part of society that needs our care and support. Aren’t these the people that we seek to help as part of the Rang De family?
I have travelled on this road from Bangalore to Mysore countless times but it all looks different now, as if a third eye has been opened. Maybe it’s the eye that looks at the world in a socially conscious way.
The trip agenda: Auditing and checking how and where the loan is utilised, mainly 1st and 2nd time borrowers and writing an Impact story based on these people. Generally, impact stories for 3rd and 4th time borrowers should involve in-depth analysis — how each cycle of loan has helped them economically and socially and helped women achieve empowerment and improved their psychological well-being.
I knew I was working with the right people when:
1) A board at our field partner Vivekananda Institute of Leadership Development displayed this lovely quote.
2) Farheen, an Impact team member and my new friend from Kolkata who is only a couple of years younger to me only by age and definitely not by sensibility, bought food for an aged lady begging for alms outside the hotel where we had lunch, rather than just giving her some money.
I realised today that the main goal of Rang De is not to give loans.
The main aim of Rang De is to ensure borrowers are moving towards self sufficiency. There is nothing more pleasing to Rang De than to know that the borrowers are independent and don’t require our loans anymore.
The SHG president of Devalapura carries out cultivation and plans to provide vocational training to women so that they don’t have to work in the fields. She wished every month’s loan could be waived off for 1–2 borrowers but then the field partner explained this was not possible as the amount the borrowers pay monthly is consolidated and provided to other new borrowers and the network grows this way.
When asked what she would do if one or two borrowers didn’t pay the interest in a particular month, she answered that she would pay it from her own pocket as she trusted her fellow group members to pay back the amount whenever possible. She was ready to vouch for her group members, a rare quality among people.
Then we came across a unique story — a borrower who was fluent in English and worked previously as a videographer for LNT, a post he left right after the company shifted him to Hyderabad. He wanted to stay and take care of his family and run his father’s idly shop because his family is important to him.
Next, we visited a banana/fruit vendor. He had bought a cart with the loan. Previously, he used to sell his wares in the same place while sitting on the street. His mom suffers from cancer and he has spent Rs 50k on her treatment. He buys fruits from mandi and parks his cart there.
Sadly, his past has been haunting his present and will continue to haunt his future as well. It was very disheartening to hear about someone whose future plan is to just sustain his current business and repay all the loans.
The burden of debt was most visible in this particular borrower through his eyes and his timid voice. He had started this business six years back and sells mainly bananas.
Six years earlier, he used to work as a manager in a plywood company but had to quit after a foot injury. It was a sad story and we only wished we could do more.
When Pramod (Impact team member) asked me if there was any difference I felt as a writer after meeting the borrowers and how it would affect my writing, I frankly didn’t have an answer
Now that I think about it, prior to today, I was an outsider, never having been directly in contact with the borrower or the field partner. The info about life in rural India was all from the media. Now that I’ve seen it for myself, I have spoken to people who work extremely hard for a living, people who, despite enduring difficulties in life, never fail to hope for the best.
I have interacted with people who are ready to vouch for their friends during bad times — such people reassure the faith I have in humanity. They show us that there are still a few good people around.
What effect this will have on my writing, I don’t know but surely it has had an effect on me as an individual and it’s an experience I will always treasure.