After our intense and awareness building conversation with “Himanch Ji” and a few moments of reflection on what we learned, we broke for lunch. The mood of the day switched, as lunch was a special celebration of the end of the monsoon season, Sair. The holiday is celebrated by visiting neighboring houses to enjoy the company of others and the bounty of the post-monsoon “harvest”. We split into four groups to share a meal with the diverse families of the village. Each Auntie Ji served us a unique and flavorful meal, ranging from Chana Aloo to “pumpkin”. Some Auntie Jis made extra “sweet roti” to offer the gods. After the meal, we said our goodbyes and explored the village for a bit. We wandered upon a breathtaking green clearing- a lush, beautiful ride paddy, bordered with mountains and scattered with trees, a moment that provided a new answer to our Question of the Day-“What is an experience you’ve had that felt like an alternate reality?”
The next day we met with Jen, a Fulbright Scholar, who researched wool production and the regional market in Himachal Pradesh. She is currently working to support the sustainability of shepherding communities.
After a brief chai and biscuit break, we began a conversation with Seshan Ji, a Sambhaavnaa Scholar, on Gender and Patriarchy in both Indian and American contexts. We did an activity exploring different aspects of patriarchy in US society and contrasted them with patriarchy in India. We also learned about the intersecting relationship of caste and patriarchy and a new feminist movement to Smash Brahminical Patriarchy.
The following morning, we heard from Saeed Mezza Ji, a film director who spoke to us about caste and modern Indian politics. He described caste as “one of many systems of social stratification around the the world”. He also expressed his admiration of Buddhism and Jainism as revolts against the caste system. Touching on Islam and Sufism, Saeed Ji continued to explore the various spiritual avenues that people take to escape the rigid restrictions of caste. Our later discussion of modern Indian politics was guided by the question: “Do greed and aggression fuel development?” We talked about the rise of the BJP and discussed our hopes for a more equitable future for India.
Our time at The Sambhaavnaa Institute for Public Policy and Politics was marked by a greater understanding of the grey nature of development and progress and a deepening of our individual perspectives on sustainability, consumerism, gender, and quality of life.