Friday, February 20

We went to Deep Griha (which means Lighthouse in Hindi) as our ‘outing’ for the day today. It was a very interesting experience. It is an organization that was started by a female doctor – I don’t remember how many years ago – and it is now a large organization that has three different locations in three different slums in Pune. The organization caters to women in need primarily; however, it is open to men as well. Because of the fact that women have a more difficult time getting educated and being heard in general, there are more female clients than male. The presentation about the organization was slightly sales-pitch-y because they are looking for sponsors for children in order to send them to school, pay for their uniforms, feed them, and provide them with medical support. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it may be which was nice. It was an informative presentation, actually.
Because the WAGGGS event of this year focuses on HIV/AIDS we mostly focused on this aspect of their organization, however they also work to provide continuing education courses. They offer computer, literacy and numeracy, and tailoring classes that provide the individuals with employable skills. And, apparently 100% of funds raised for each individual child goes towards that child’s needs – which is pretty rare in our neck of the woods, I think! In any case, it was interesting to learn about the program.
We then went out with two ladies that volunteer at the centre to visit the slums in which the organization is located. That was the highlight for me – as odd as that may sound. Obviously, it isn’t possible to visit the slums alone or only with westerners, so this was pretty much a unique opportunity. I knew that the slums were well organized from reading stories and stuff, but it was amazing to actually see just how friendly and efficient the area seemed to be. This is the India that you see in the movies – where the kids are all around saying “hello”, “picture”, etc. They never touched us or were uncomfortably close at all, either. Although there were 40 000 people in the small area, the air was cleaner than where Sangam is located in Pune – probably because less people can afford vehicles. Cleanliness is a big thing here in general, and everyone was well dressed and clean! Everyone was excited to see us and the photo opportunities were endless. It was very cool.
Back at Sangam, after a late lunch, we had a session on advocacy. No one would volunteer for the activity, so I ended up (along with another lady) volunteering. We had a debate about whether or not testing for HIV should be obligatory or not. I got the side that said that we should not have the right to choose to be tested for HIV. It was very interesting because then the group could either go to my side or the opposite side while we were both shouting out our points! I really do love debating things!! It makes me happy…anyway, the results meant nothing because the group had prior instruction cards of which side to go to in the end…but it is an interesting debate. I wonder if obligatory HIV testing would help to get the disease under control? Here, the biggest issue is the stigma associated with the disease – they kept saying that we don’t have that stigma in the Western world, but I am not so sure I’d agree. I think that people that are infected with HIV/AIDS still discriminated against at home as well. Perhaps we talk about it more than here because we are more open about sexuality in general, but I don’t think those that are infected/affected are treated the same as those who are not.
We had an awesome session with one of the Indian locals that works at Sangam. It was a simple question/answer period. But, it was very informative because so many random questions were asked and answers brought to light. For example, arranged marriages still exist. However, legally, they girl must be over 18 years of age and the guy over 21. The biggest differences seem to be between rural and urban areas. Child marriages may still exist in the rural areas – but can not necessarily be announced, because they are technically illegal. When a couple gets married, they go and live with the husband’s parents because the inheritance is traditionally handed down through the son. The key word there is traditional because wills have been commonplace for about the past 2 generations, however, because all girls go and live with and are taken care of by their husband’s parents; they have no need for their legal/willed inheritance when their parents die. This may change over time as things evolve and as girls become more independent, I guess.
Another subject was housing. It seems like it is just like it has been done at home. There are rentals and there are owners. They can get a mortgage, etc. Makes sense, really. What else? Holding hands. Guys around here hold hands all the time – not exactly something that is seen around home too often. Holding hands with the same sex is considered a sign of friendship and nothing more. Girls can hold girls’ hands and guys can hold guys’ hands. However, a guy and a girl can’t hold hands! It isn’t correct for the opposite sex to hold hands! Apparently it’ll start rumours about affairs and scandals!
After dinner we had a guy come teach Bollywood dancing! It was hilarious! He was really funny, and learning all of the completely cheesy and awful moves was entertaining. We spent an hour learning different steps and choreographing a dance…it was great! Very warm, but totally awesome.
Tomorrow is our big WAGGGS celebration activity thing with the local scouts and guides. We are playing games and ‘discussing’ HIV/AIDS with them. Discussing being in quotations because there is a slight language barrier present!!! It should be interesting. Thankfully it is in the morning so that we will be out of the sun when it is really hot!

0 thoughts on “Friday, February 20

  1. Hi AJK Sounds like a trip of a life time! What an experience. We got home Sunday hada great trip but it’s so cold here I can’t beleive we came back to this stuff…. Yikes.Will try and keep up with your adventures. Cheers Uncle Dave

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