A visit to the field – Experiencing the Kishori habba (Kishori festival)

Last Thursday, I went to visit one of the field projects with some of IT for Change's field workers. The Kishori Chitrapata (images by adolescent girls) project has now been running for eighteen months – its aim is to address the learning needs of out of school adolescent girls or kishoris. At the end of the technical part of the training, the team faced drop-outs and decided to meet every kishori to ask them why the energy levels had gone lower. From those video interviews, the idea of organising a festival came out, where the entire team from Mysore would be present and all girls and women would come dressed in sarees.

The festival was also a way to launch the social part of the training, which starts this week. The day started with the kishoris filling in colours into a rangoli pattern. Then, there was some dancing, singing and chit-chatting. For lunch, the Kishoris had brought food from their homes which we all shared. Post-lunch, the team acted a series of short plays about what the kishoris could be in five years time – a health worker, a teacher, a NGO worker, etc. The day closed on a discussion about the role plays, and an oath taking about the future trainings. That's what I got to experience.

My visit was the first step towards building the content for the web page of the Mysore field centre which means that, during the whole day, I was trying to build links between what I was seeing and possible ways of communicating it to an external, possibly international, audience. As it has happened so often since my arrival in India, my European eyes were asking questions that were not always relevant. Having already interacted with teenagers with school/family difficulties, I was recalling the way in which girls would treat me as an older sister, as a friend, or as an adult, depending on the topic we were chatting about. Observing the kishoris, questions about friendship, familial relationships, expectations, dreams, frustrations arose, as well as the constant reminder of the specificity of the Indian rural setting, as well as the memory of the many conversations about arranged vs. love marriages I have had since I arrived in Bangalore. Not being able to interact directly with the girls made it frustrating, but probably prevented me to make mistakes in bringing up questions which are totally out of their reality. And what now? Read books about the Indian rurality? Go back to the village and continue being an observer not really participating? How to find a middle-ground between being a total outsider and actually capturing a part of their reality to create a meaningful and accessible content? This first confrontation with a new reality opens up new perspectives, asks questions about work processes and ethics – resolution in progress! – and also, reminds of many other realities that will enrich yours.