Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Good Encounters: English, Mushrooms, and Marriage

Though being invited over for chai may be custom, it isn't an everyday "thing" to be stopped on the road and asked for English lessons.

Enthused and eager, a local woman who works at a fabric shop, located on the main road, did just that. Calling Katherine over, this woman expressed great interest in wanting to learn English. Raadha Devi is a forty-two year old mother of two, and is certainly a woman unlike any other. Her husband is a bus driver; her daughter, a twenty year old nursing student, and her eighteen year old son is preparing to join the army.

Upon inviting Katherine into the fabric shop, she called her daughter, Shivani, to act as an interpreter between the two. Because they were excited to learn that there is more than just one foreigner living in Rait, they walked Katherine home, and spent some time with the rest of the interns. Within this brief visit, you could see Raadha's lively and jovial personality radiate throughout our back veranda. She made bracelets with us, taught us a few Hindi words in exchange for some English, and as a gift, she gave us two bags of mushrooms. It was then that we learned that Raadha grows and sells mushrooms and works at the fabric shop to help her husband bring money into their household. Before leaving, she invited us to her niece's wedding, which was just weeks away. Her laughter and warm presence was a reassurance, in lieu of our Young Women's Association's stagnancy.

We make frequent visits to the fabric shop where she works to say hello, look at the clothes, and practice English. Because Raadha was the first person to inquire about lessons, we used the lessons we prepared for our YWA members to introduce conversational English to her. This was helpful in assessing the quality of the lessons we've created. We spent about an hour going over salutations, introductions, and role play with miniature dialogues. Making small mistakes, Raadha caught on quite fast and can now introduce herself or someone else in English.

Early one Tuesday morning, we traveled to Lunj to attend her neice's wedding. We assume that because there were five foreigners on board, the bus driver mixed some pop music into his Himachali playlist, serenading us with the sounds of Akon and One Republic. Once there, we were fortunate to be part of all of the traditions taking place on the last day of the marriage. We met the bride, watched and participated in the haldi ceremony, and ate some incredibly delicious food. Raadha's relatives were excited to converse with us, asking about our work with EduCARE, as well as how we were enjoying our stay in India. Her family spoiled us with sincere Indian hospitality, reminding us that in Indian culture, "a guest is god." Supplied with endless sweets, one relative bought us chocolates and took us to the river, as another took us to the Masroor Rock Cut Temple.

Once the celebrating began, Raadha and her daughter proudly showed us off to everybody as their guests. We received about as much attention as the bride and groom-- so many people wanted to take pictures of us and with us! We laughed and danced the night away and were asleep no later than one in the morning. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay awake long enough to see the bride and groom off, but in all, our time with Raadha's family was an unforgettable experience.

You don't meet too many people, bold enough to stop you on the street and ask for English lessons; many will stare and some may respond to your "namaste." I find myself in awe of Raadha's bold personality. Though we've only known Raadha a month, I've taken so much from our time together: her charisma, her initiative, and her family's hospitality. Everytime I pass by the fabric shop, I anticipate her bright smile, warm laugh, her heavy-accented "hello," and her inviting "bato" (sit down). Learning of the microenterprise potential at-home mushroom cultivation has for women, mushroom farming is a project we plan to begin with a few of our YWA members in May.

Alanah Grant - USA
Women's Empowerment Project Manager, Rait

1 comment:

  1. Congrats on making such strong connections in another beautiful part of the world. I'm sure the people of Rait will never forget this unique crossover experience! Cheers to continued success :)