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Wednesday, 20 January 2016

India Part I: Delhi & Vijayawada


My time in India is at once both a cliche and yet not at all. Tourist sites are forgone for sitting in dusty classrooms, hearing girls cry as they spoke about being saved from marriages at the age of nine. It has been spent on bumpy buses, staring out the window. It has been spent absorbing everything around me, and thinking so very hard about what it all means. 

We arrived in Delhi, a city much colder than I had anticipated. Bundled in three jumpers, for Abu Dhabi has made me more sensitive to the weather, our days began. We drove from meeting to meeting, having lunch, and tea, and coffee, with a host of fascinating people. We talked to a judge about the death penalty, to a feminist lawyer about how ‘women's empowerment’ can come at a cost to the real cause, and to a PHD student about the need to educate men in the quest towards gender equality. We walked through the Sanjay Colony, a slum, and observed the quiet businesses operating within the rooms, the children attending school in shifts to ensure maximum attendance, the doctor who saw 100 patients a day in his one room surgery. 

From Vijayawada, two flights away and fifteen degrees warmer, we drove to a small village and met with social action committee members. Tears dripped down a woman's face as she recounted the abuse from her husband before telling us about her subsequent escape; the woman is now a leader in her district and highly respected. We sat in the aforementioned class room as girls chanted the number they could call if they were being forced into marriage. I witnessed so many telling of stories, of women and girls, and men and boys, who were fighting against practises that were damaging their people. 

These people are changing things about their communities and their country, and they are challenging patriarchal norms. They inspired me with their determination, with their local solutions to national problems, and with the scale that such groups have grown up to. They had seen things they didn’t like, and they did something about it. 

Writing this blog post made me nervous. I don’t want to exoticise the country, nor do I wish to portray any imperialist notions, though I fear my education is teaching me that as a white woman the two are almost inescapable. I sit uncomfortably with my feminism at the moment, not sure where female empowerment turns into harmful gender binaries. To say that I desire equality is a given, to say that I don’t know what that means is a troublesome reality. Does my awareness of this make it better? Is it something I can reconcile? I hope so. 


Our next stop is Hyderabad, a city in Andrah Pradesh. I hope to show you more, to tell you more, and to learn more.

11 comments:

  1. Beautiful photos! I agree that it's hard to find that balance. I want to understand what is going on in those countries and actually be able to help, but I often feel guilty that we think that we can, when in actual fact we will never know what it;s like to live under those circumstances.

    Love, Eline
    www.elinesreturnticket.blogspot.com

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    1. I know the guilt you're talking about, and it worries me that an attempt to gain an understanding of what those circumstances are like can become something of a voyeurism. Thank you for your comment, and for your kind words about my photographs.

      Liza xx

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  2. This sounds like an incredible opportunity, but I'm hesitant to use that word because it almost feels too positive. Clearly this has been a very difficult trip, one which at times has been extremely harrowing. However, at the same time I think you're portraying it carefully, thoughtfully and critically, and these methods of thinking can only be the way forward. Awareness helps a lot, but a critical awareness and engagement - which is what you're doing, in my opinion - is an important step further.
    Thank you for making me more aware of some of the issues surrounding these parts of India, but also of the projects there which are aiming to support and improve the situations there. I'm really looking forward to your later posts and finding out more.
    Lx
    http://lucyeyf.co.uk

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    1. Lucy, thank you so much for your thoughtful and reflective comment. Your kind words about my writing and your understanding of what I wanted the post to be is something I really appreciate.

      Liza xx

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  3. Beautiful post :-) My husband is half Indian and a trip to India has always been high on the list, but recently news about how far the country has to come in terms of gender equality has put me off a little, which is a shame. Going out there and hearing the stories of survival must be both harrowing and inspiring.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! It was as you described, but I would say that it is definitely worth a trip - learning more about such situations can only be a thing.

      Liza xxx

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  4. I'm from Sri Lanka, India's very close neighbour, and I have to say - I love how you tackled this topic. You did well, not only in terms of writing style, but in trying to understand the situation instead of make assumptions. Good on you!
    Minaali
    The Snap Narrative

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    1. Thank you for your comment Minaali. I was very nervous about posting so I'm so glad that you felt I handled it well :) I've heard Sri Lanka is amazing, I'd love to visit one day!

      Liza xx

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  5. Firstly, I am from Vijayawada and was really happy to see my city's name on your blog. I hope you had a great time in my country and you're always welcome again. Looking for your interest in India, I would really like to suggest you must visit Rajasthan, Bihar, and North-Eastern India. The scenario in this part of India is much worse and you can watch films like Maanjhi- The mountain man. All the best and Keep up the nice work.

    Dhawal Kataria

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment Dhawal! I really enjoyed visiting Vijayawada, and would love to go back to India. I'll definitely keep your suggestions in mind.

      Liza

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  6. Really great read! Thanks for sharing x

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Thank you so much for taking the time to comment and share your thoughts with me. I read and reply to each and every one.

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