‘What seems like…’ is not ‘What is…’

September 1, 2008
By Rang De Team

During our field visits to meet borrowers, I have begun to question a few stereotypes that I seemed to have about people. Stereotypes that I found in myself but are not exclusive just to me. I have seen some of these come up again and again when I interact with my friends as well.

One of the common expressions that we seem to have about the poor is ‘ They have a refigerator, how can you consider them poor’? The other most common one being ‘They are dressed so well. She looks pretty well off!’

These were pretty much my expressions as well. Deeper interactions with borrowers have made me correct myself and change my perspective. A refrigerator, Television or even a mobile phone are all symbols of status and prestige to all of us. And it is just the same for people from low income households. Only the effort that might have gone into acquiring these are much greater in case of the latter. May be some of us say, that is not judicious use of money. What would one call a huge shopping bag bought by swiping a credit card. That according to me is not judicious use of money either. As you can see there is a common pattern in the way human beings think and act, irrespective of the background one hails from. Its all about perceptions.

All it takes to change these stereotypes is to take a step back and look at people the same way we would expect others to look at us. Then, a refrigerator in a small room of 4 feet by 6 feet will by no means serve as a determinant of someone’s economic status.

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