In the run-up to the AID conference in College Park, the youth conference on Friday gave kids a chance to learn games and songs related to people’s unity, share experiences related to conflict and injustice, meet the speakers and learn about their work, and talk about ways to work for peace an justice from their own perspective and using their various talents. Continue reading
On the third day of the conference I could actually relax and focus on the talks. And what high-energy talks there were – first Kiran Vissa on agriculture and farmers and then Geetha Ramakrishnan on the rights and struggles of unorganized sector workers. Continue reading
Moving along, in the late afternoon there was the follow-up session on 10xAID, after which the Executive Board and Board of Directors presented the Annual Report and then Kamayani and Ashish talked about their work in Bihar. They talked about MNREGA and other issues of workers’ rights, village level discussions with women as well as with men on gender equality, and about the nirman work they were starting with children’s education.
And then there was dinner. Not just any dinner but the Reunion Banquet. Some of the folks from the early years of AID came along with their families to share stories from the times when they were all roommates dreaming up schemes for the future of India, or how to dumpster-dive a Xerox machine and make it produce the first copies of Dishaa, the AID newsletter.
So the interesting thing about having everyone stay in the hotel together is that after coming back from the conference we conferenced some more. In the hotel lobby, a small group gathered round to ponder questions of caste, class and gender in a discussion format similar to what Ashish and Kamayani use in their village workshops. Rashim had circulated a short list of questions earlier, with the title “Did you ever wonder?” It seemed like people really need to talk about these questions and rarely take the time to do so. I used the opportunity to share something I had no other place to share, regarding the trials of the police officers charged in the Freddie Gray case, and what our feelings about the verdict say about our own place in society. What would we do if we were in the place of the police? And why is it that none of us is?
Human rights defender and member of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties, Trupti was a woman who could be counted on in times of need. My direct interactions with her and Rohit were few, but I remember her as someone who was always there. When I came back from the Narmada Satyagraha in September 2002 and had a few hours in Baroda before catching the train back to Mumbai, she was there. “Do you want to talk to the press?” she asked. “Because they are continuously calling.” Rumors were afloat that 50 satyagrahis including Medha Patkar had been washed away and there was no news of their condition. No press had managed to cross the rising waters into the valley and I was the first to reach a city. I used her computer to send a photo to the press and it appeared on the cover of the Maharashtra Times the next morning and there was a press conference in Mumbai in the afternoon.
Like this she would have helped so many people in so many ways, over and above the work she did through her own organizations.
To think that she will be there no more is very difficult. We remembered her in a moment of silence at the AID conference in College Park, on May 28, 2016.
Shyamala, Lakshmi and Sonika got the conference to a bright and melodious start with a welcome followed by “A Chal Ke Tujhe,” a musical gem from the sixties, beckoning us towards a future of peace, hope and love.