Elena Rozova, student from Denmark, interned with us in January 2012. Here is a brief account of her field trip to Palakkad, Kerala.
Coming from a wealthy Western country with heavy consumption of culture, what was I anticipating from a field trip to a rural Indian village,will it be eligible for Rang De’s microcredit? Firstly, I expected to witness overwhelming poverty and dreadful living conditions. Second, I was prepared to meet hard-working people, exhausted and showing no signs of joy. To my surprise, not all of the pre-conceived notions appeared to reflect the real picture.
Of course, poverty and shortage were present everywhere, but, surprisingly, despite all that people seemed to be enjoying their lives. Welcomed as a guest of honor and treated in the best possible way, from the very beginning I was once again assured that the lesser people have the more cheerful, hospitable, open and willing nature to share whatever they have.No doubt, they were sincere when expressing their gratitude for the micro-loans and telling how much the quality of their lives have improved since they received the credits.
When westerners often get upset, if not able to afford a luxury car or another designer bag, rural Indians are able to enjoy simple things like a glass of milk from their cow or just knowing that a second-hand sewing machine will provide some income in the coming days. To many of them, this is a TRUE luxury as they have experienced severe poverty before receiving their first microloans. During the trip, I met many glad and proud owners of kettle, owners of small teashops and snack stalls and tailors all of which are real proofs that microfinance does, indeed, work.
So, we can learn a lot from the rural people. The first thing here should be appreciation of what we have without constantly striving for more and complaining what we do not have and we cannot achieve it. We have to remind ourselves that it is possible to be happy without a penthouse apartment and that there are people in need of very basic things — and they are still able to smile!
At the same time, we can help rural Indians a lot, too. As of now, help is desperately needed to improve sanitary situation in villages (in many of them you will not even find a pucca toilet). Both children and adults need to be taught some basic hygiene rules. Of course, one might argue that rural people have been lived like that for centuries and that old habits die hard. With that in mind, no changes are expected to happen overnight; it will be a long process of educating and training, hopefully resulting in improved living conditions and greater joy of micro-loans.