Rural Immersion Programme (RIP), the six-days, five-nights long residency at Parivartan, Siwan meant for the students of classes XI from Delhi Public School, Patna began on October 23, 2016. Under the RIP, student participants along with their teacher mentors got an opportunity to explore rural realities in the most authentic state, to dabble into the folk and classical art forms, and to interact with eminent personalities and visionaries.
The warm reception of the students and teachers with the overpowering bellow of the Ransingha, the traditional war horns that have been used for centuries to welcome & signal arrival of important processions was for me the first of the numerous never-seen-before experiences that I encountered.
The induction ceremony, Parivartan tour with the idea to make the students familiar with the ongoing work in Parivartan followed by the project initiation session where each group was assigned a particular village to visit and learn to understand and empathize with were some of the highlights of Day 1. Discussions amongst students, teachers, mentors and village volunteers of the eight groups formed the crux of this exercise. Providing this platform to the Project Groups to interact with the village volunteers was important to understand their milieu. Students put forth various questions about their assigned villages and its social dimensions after which they chalked out a plan for the following day’s village visit.
Day 1 of field Visit where the eight Project Groups went to their assigned villages, each group was accompanied by a volunteer from Parivartan and was met with a local volunteer at the village, both of who were to provide route guidance and facilitate the students’ interaction with the community. The six hour visit was to capture “the first look” of the working area which in my opinion was necessary to collect visual impression and basic information on the physical environment of the locale. To accomplish this, the Groups met up with native villagers with help from the volunteers, and tried to garner basic understanding of the village in addition to collecting primary data for further work.
Day 2 of field visit where the students visited various households, interacted with the community and on the basis of the impressions the groups gathered, each Group mapped their village, and attempted to identify the key socio-economic issues of the area.
Face to Face with a Progressive Farmer
Experience and expertise are the best ingredients for inspiration– this is the adage behind the Face to Face session through which not only the students but I also got the opportunity to interact with a guest speaker Sudhanshu Kumar who has worked at length in the field of rural development. He is an agricultural entrepreneurship specialist and social worker in the Samastipur district of Bihar. He is also the headman of his village Nayanpur for the last 4 terms. Kumar is a History post-graduate from Delhi University who has devoted past 28 years to farming. He is nationally acclaimed for producing exceptional quality of maize, litchi and mango.Listening to his personal journey from the village to the cities and then back to the village again, enumerating the challenges he had to face from his friends and family, Innovations and ideas he employs to increase the yield of crops and help the agriculture industry in his area flourish was something that influenced me tremendously.
Constructive & Collective Action for Community
The third day of Field visit where all the 8 Groups proceeded to their villages with the intention of reciprocating the help & hospitality received from villagers over the last 2 days by way of implementing the development plans conceptualized by the respective Groups.
Understanding the significance of sanitation, students conducted effective cleanliness drive at schools and Chhath Ghats, had Handwash demonstrations in schools & community to encourage healthy habits, prepared teaching aids for Aanganwadis, enacted Nukkad Natak to spread awareness about social, educational and sanitation issues. Slogans like mera gaon saaf ho, ismein hum sabka vikaas ho caught the pulse, and the Groups’ ideas and efforts turned out to be so useful that the local people fully supported & appreciated their endeavour. Be it installation of bamboo gate for the school in Baliya, or conversion of the community hall into classroom space in Jamapur, or construction of stairs at Chhath Ghat at Banthu Shriram, or plantation of chilly plants at Bangra Ujjain, or street play performance at Jamapur, or path making at Narendrapur, or cleanliness drives at Sanjalpur, Gonthi & Ruiya Bangra, each deepened the zeal of social responsibility in the students and hope for betterment in the villagers. This activity certainly gave a strong message in the community of how collaborative positive action can work wonders.
Graceful performance by Sharmila Biswas, a well-known Indian Classical danseuse then Mayurbhanj Chhau concert performed by the exquisite troupe from Mayur Arts Centre, Bhubaneshwar, popular Indian folk dance form native to the Mayurbhanj district in Odisha and Hindustani Classical Vocal concert by Kumar Mardur, a young and talented artist from the Kirana Gharana organised in collaboration with SPIC Macay in the evenings reiterated the value of our culture which somewhere also encouraged the young audience to put in efforts towards keeping our heritage alive.
Sparks & Hopes
After three days of Field Visits wherein the students had garnered an understanding of the community and the challenges they face, it was time to show the students how Parivartan actually works through its seven verticals, and what a typical day at field looks like. This last field visit was a great learning experience for each one involved.
As the name suggests, Cultural Mix is the segment of RIP that showcases performances by DPS Patna students punctuated by acts performed by youngsters from the community. This two-hour potpourri of rural and urban talent show is organised with the intent to bring forth the variances in the two cultures and to provide a platform for the youth to do what they do best—sing, dance and have fun!
While the eight Project Groups probed at all socio-cultural and economic aspect of their respective villages during the field visits, and a couple of common concerns were found at all locale, every Group was at liberty to analyse and scrutinise any one issue they deemed apt and suggest plausible solutions to the same during the Final Presentation session on the last day of RIP. Being part of this made me realize that the ideas suggested during the presentations not only depicted our young students’ genuine interest and empathy towards rural India, but also reflect upon the ingenuity with which they have suggested pioneering solutions.
In my opinion the program was successful in kindling the spark of social responsibility in the students and leading them towards constructive action for the community in whichever profession they choose to pursue in days to come. I wish i could get similar exposure when I was in school.