Digging Deeper

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I can easily say I have an abundance of love in my life. Lots of good love mutually exchanged with my parents, Abuelita, siblings, boyfriend, best friends and several of my extended family members. I feel that for me, life is good and life is worth appreciating.  When I was young, I grew up with basic commodities, never really going out for pleasure since we were a family of eight (my parents, my 4 siblings, myself and my grandmother), but never ever lacking basic needs. I’ve known this all along. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t well off. We were fine. Today, I see myself as being blessed. Lucky to be born where I was and lucky to be born into the family to which I belong to.

Getting involved more in my internship has truly invited me to become a critic of my own life and my way of thinking. I came here to witness poverty and poverty intervention and so far, this has allowed me to make direct connections with my life. People ask me, “How do you like India? And my response now is, “I like it.”  Never had I seen so much going on all at once. I’m talking about masses of cars maneuvering around each other, honking endlessly with no one getting upset because that’s just how they do here. I’m talking about hundreds of people walking on the streets, bicycles riding right next to two wheelers or big busses, three-wheel bikes hauling hundreds of bricks and various other material for who knows how many kilometers, donkeys trotting along the street, cows, goats, camels, elephants, the informal sector of both random items and street food, men crouched down talking in groups, women with their beautiful sari’s usually walking in pairs and sometimes carrying something huge on their heads. There is just so much.  Although sometimes some of the things I see are very dangerous and can be seen as an accident waiting to happen, people here are living life.  They’re doing what they have to do to keep pushing forward. This is how I tie it back to me: back home, as my brother put it, life is so easy. Although I do see my life as a blessed one, I hate to admit that sometimes I complain about the littlest things, sometimes realizing it too late. Being here makes me realize that there is so much more to it. Being here, especially alone, makes me think about appreciating the simple things in life way more. Now, let me make myself clear, I’m not totally on an extreme side of this thought, I’m simply saying there’s room for us to reflect on our lives continuously. As Arthur and Joan Kleinman put it, “there is no single way to suffer; there is no timeless or spaceless universal shape to suffering.” With that, I want add that a lot of us see India as a third world country, one full of poverty and backwardness but there is so much more to it; vivacity.  A liveliness that some of us back home fail to experience blocked by our modern technological commodities, by these comforts that in reality make us lazier and anti-social as the days go by.

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Above Pictures show some of things I’ve experienced not related to my internship: A trip to Choki Danni, Eating traditional Rajasthan food, eating street food for the first time (delicious and I didn’t get sick!) and an aerobics class with Pooja (indian style) that was absolutely amazing!

Then of course, there is poorest of the poor in India. Up to now, I can only share what I see. When I visit the settlements, I too see a dynamism. People here lack clean water, proper infrastructure, education, health resources among many other things, but they still manage to genuinely smile and keep going, being extremely resourceful individuals and highly resilient. When together, I get a good sense of their established relationship where they treat each other kindly and make each other laugh. It’s beautiful to see and I can’t help but really like it. When I get there, although I look like an Indian girl, it is obvious to them that I am a visitor. Once, I even had a group of women think I was a doctor, speaking to me at full speed in Hindi about their children’s problems. Good thing Pooja was beside me to explain that I did not speak Hindi and that I was not a doctor, just a visitor.

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Above: All around beautiful children that love getting their picture taken! 

For my project, I’m assigned to film a documentary on the interventions Health of the Urban Poor program has implemented.  Right away I thought to myself ‘ I should have at least taken one film class’, but now I’m so thankful that this opportunity has appeared, directing me to learn something new in the past two weeks. I downloaded Adobe Premier Pro and have been watching tutorials, reading about it and am excited to start the filming and editing, putting what I’ve learned to practice.  I couldn’t have asked for a better project. I’m being seen as a visitor who is here to witness the challenges the urban poor face and document the interventions that are happening in those communities. I’m hoping to get creative with it while keeping in mind the politics of visual documenting, keeping in mind what to avoid while documenting this and also being guided by what the Kleinmens said, “We must draw upon the images of human suffering in order to identify human needs and to craft humane responses.”

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Women here gather for the Godh Bharai ceremony, where women of the communities celebrate the soon to be mothers. The 7 or 8 month pregnant women receive gifts organized by HUP, but only if they’ve fulfilled their pregnancy health criteria, meaning they’ve attended sessions of maternal health, have shown up to their routine check ups, received their shots and have taken their iron pills. 

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Here is a pregnant women about to receive her gifts while the others sing worshiping songs. 

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Here i’m sitting in on an Adult’s meeting, where young girls get educated on puberty in a created safe zone. I sat because I was invited to sit and of course was not going to reject the invite but I did not understand any of it since it was all in Hindi. I did however, receive very warm smiles from all the girls and laughed when they laughed naturally. This experience put a huge thought in my mind about how young girls are so precious, leading to a thought of something I’d like to do in the near future. More to come on that later! 

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4 comments on “Digging Deeper

  1. Noelle says:

    I really enjoy reading all of your experiences. And I feel like we are so spoiled here! Learning about others lives and seeing how genuinely happy people are definitely makes me appreciate my life and be more thankful for the things that I have. Please keep the blogs and pictures coming! I will read everything you put out! :).. Love you, my friend.

  2. comadre says:

    It does give perspective, and makes me wonder if the will to live/to survive being challenged daily is what adds to people’s vitality. But how it does that without crushing the spirit. It’s so cool you’re making a film! I think that Kleinman quote also hits it on the head as to why the “Girl Rising” film didn’t resonate as much as it could have — perhaps its stylized approach minimized the suffering ….

    • bjhernandez says:

      I would totally agree that being challenged adds to people’s vitality. Often times the people that have been challenged the most throughout life are those that, if given the opportunity, the ones who contribute the most to society. In the cases of those who live their entire lives challenged, i too wonder how it happens without their spirit being crushed. I think of Abuelita Monica. I wish I could talk to her more on this now…but I’ve always seen her as an amazing women, who has experienced poverty, deaths of so many of her children (including the little girl that died as a 7 yr old), the death of her husband, etc., and still managed to be the sweetest person I’ve ever met, always so optimistic. Still today, she is strong and has the will to live and do things. How does that happen? And you’re right about Kleinman’s quote and “Girl Rising”…while watching several documentaries on interventions, i see a lot of focus on the intervention’s success and often feels fake, like they are more focused on promoting the intervention/program.

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