Preparing for Sankranti

Looking at Sainath’s new website, People’s Archive of Rural India, I have grown more and more excited with every moment.  The everyday lives of everyday people, the diversity of rural life, rural voices, rural ways of expression … everything he talks about resonates with me and I am eager to take part in this project. Continue reading


A funny thing happened on the way to the Anganwadi

Along the way to the anganwadi in Appalagraharam,  we saw a group of children playing outside, in civil dress.  A rare sight, and not just because it was a weekday.   They were all girls.  We often see boys running and playing outside, but rarely do we see girls playing games that take up more space than the front porch [1].  Here they were deep into a kabbaddi match.

What’s the occasion?” we called out to them.

“Picnic!” they replied.  We walked further and saw another group, this time both boys and girls, playing various games.

Two adults stood nearby wielding sticks.  I went to chat with one of them.  What are they playing? Whose  turn is it?  Why are you holding a stick?  He dropped the stick.  We must not hit.  We agreed.  I turned back to find that Ravi was chatting with the other teacher.  I found them engaged in the same discussion!  I went to join them.

When we use force, we teach only how to use force, I explained.  We may think we are teaching some right way or right principle but all we teach is that when you have power over another, you may use force.  Maybe this is what we experienced as children and are now practicing upon others.  But we can change these dynamics, once we are aware of them.

Though the teacher dropped the stick when I questioned him, would he have done so if a student had questioned him?  Does the environment of the school allow the student to question?  That would stimulate critical thinking and responsibility on the part of the student and the teacher.

When I walked back from the Anganwadi, I noticed the stick was back in his hand.

1.  See also R. Ramanujam, “Gender Construction In The Informal Curriculum,”  Education Journal — Gender and Education, Volume 1, Number1, April 2005, p. 49.  Accessed online on Dec 30 2013.

and Position Paper 3.2 of the National Focus Group on Gender Issues in Education, National Council of Educational Research and Training, November 2006, Accessed online on Dec 30 2013.


Krimson 35

Krimson 35

18th January 2013

Appalagraharam, January 8

“The doctor gave me this,” she said, putting a strip of medicine in my hand.

“For what?” I asked.

“To have regular periods.”

“Have you been having irregular periods?”

“Recently I had one 15 days late.”

How about before that?

No, only that one time.

Oh honey, I thought. But I did not say what I thought.

“So you had only one late period and you told the doctor you were not having periods regularly?”

“I told the doctor I wanted to have children and she said this would make my periods come regularly.”

“What prompted you to go and see this doctor?”

“Well a few of us ladies were talking in the village about how we wanted to have kids and one of them was going to see this doctor so I thought I would go along with her. The doctor gave all of us this medicine.”

The medicine was Krimson 35.

If you type Krimson 35 into the google search window, your results will come from sites coming under the category of “Pharmaceutical blogs” like:

These sites allow visitors to post questions and also answer questions posted by others. They also allow advertisers to reach out to those posting questions and answers. There is nothing to prevent advertisers from posting and answering questions on the site as well.

and on down to
where you have the option, apart from browsing or posting on the forum for free, to seek an answer from an online doctor, for a fee.

I was surprised that I did not get results from a single university, hospital or government site. Not even Wikipedia. Still from what I read I could gather that this medicine was prescribed for PCOS and it did not seem that the doctor had gathered enough information to determine that my friend had PCOS. I asked her when the doctor asked her to start the medicine. “She said to start it.” she replied.
“Did she ask you to start now or on a particular date?” I asked.

“She just said to start it.”

Hard to tell whether the doctor said to start now or later. The websites I had checked said that one should start taking the tablets on the first day of the menstrual cycle. I do not know whether this is correct either, but it does not seem to be what the doctor communicated to my friend. Moreover, this appears to be a contraceptive.

I felt like going and asking who else was taking this medicine. But I was not sure how to go about it. I asked a friend who is a doctor in Mumbai about it and he said, “About Krimson 35, there is a fair amount of misuse. However, it is a response to the demand from families and the pressure to bear children – fertility, as you know, being a central point in the Indian context.”


Little Things

Little Things
14th January 2013

Jasmine Garland photo by Leelawadee

“Give J___ Auntie a string of flowers.” my mother-in-law told me. Suddenly I grew tense with a sense of not knowing what to do.

I had a long string of jasmines which I had cut into small pieces and was giving out to my daughter’s friends at her Sankranti party. My mother-in-law and a couple of her friends were sitting on the sofa.

I busied myself in the kitchen so as not to have to respond to her instruction right away. Away from the crowd, I reflected, why had I become tense? I realized that it was because I was not sure how I could give flowers to J___ Auntie, while K___ Auntie was sitting right next to her. Then I realized that the solution was simple, give flowers to both J____ and K____ Auntie.

Why had this obvious solution not struck me right away? Why had there even been a “problem” requiring a solution?

Let us go back to the instruction, “Give J___ Auntie a string of flowers.” In giving this instruction, my mother-in-law had made an assumption. Someone who had not made that assumption might have had two questions:

1) Why had she instructed me to give flowers to J___ but not also to K___ Auntie?
2) Why hadn’t she herself given out the flowers?

For both questions, the reason stems from a distinction made between a married woman whose husband is alive and one whose husband is no longer alive. My mother-in-law had instructed me to give flowers to J___ Auntie because both of us fell into the former category. She did not give out the flowers, nor did she ask me to give flowers to K____ Auntie, because she and K___ Auntie fell into the latter category.

Upon hearing her instruction, I felt the tension of being unwilling to follow it, but it took me some time to unpack all this to understand why. Once I understood, I saw the way. I picked up three strings of flowers and gave one to each – my mother-in-law, J____Auntie, and K_____ Auntie. K___ Auntie immediately asked, “why me?” I just smiled. My mother-in-law explained, “she doesn’t believe that there should be that difference,” and put the flowers into her hair. K___ Auntie replied, “Yes, these customs should change.”

Note:  This article appeared as “A String of Jasmine” in the monthly newsletter of Association for India’s Development


Re: Presenting . . . AID Calendar 2009!

Re: Presenting . . . AID Calendar 2009!


Aquene Freechild presents the AID 2009 calendar, hot off the press in Berkeley at the Students for Bhopal Annual COnference.

ROTI: Sharing Food, Sharing Values, 2009 calendar of AID makes its debut in meeting of Students for Bhopal, Berkeley.

SfB volunteers gave the calendar a warm welcome, noting the strong solidarity between the causes of the Bhopal survivors, the struggling farmers and all whose livelihood and justice for Bhopal. Aquene noted that such connections were brought out in Dominique LaPierre’s novel 5 Minutes Past Midnight in Bhopal
as well.


Learning to Speak, Learning to Listen

How can we catch the elusive moments in the teaching experience where learning actually happens?  Where can the literate, educated, and developed among us go to learn the precious lesson of how to speak.  Fewer and fewer places in society allow this. My experience on the Rajamandry Island mini-school has made me ponder this question.

A, aa, E, ee … Learning to speak, learning to listen
Aravinda Pillalamarri

Learning to speak, learning to listen Continue reading