Kutch- A plethora of varied hues | Milaap

Kutch- A plethora of varied hues

It was 4:30 a.m. The sky was full of tumultuous dark clouds. And the wind was briskly sweeping across the land of Kutch. There was eerie silence on the roads.  The only sound piercing the quiet was that of the hullabaloo being made by the autorickshaw drivers standing right at the bus stop. Lifting our heavy bags we headed over to one of the autowalas and provided him with the details of our destination. Thereafter the situation was a bit chaotic. Because it wasn’t just me in that small auto, there were four of us; me, Ms. Mamta, the HR manger of Prayas, a unit office member and a volunteer and not to forget the cumbersome luggage, all of us completely jam packed in that three wheeler roller coaster ride. That surely was a memorable ride. Kutch, one of the most ethnically diverse districts in the state of Gujarat is a celebratory land of art, crafts, music people and its very nature. But what made this three day’s sojourn in Kutch so highly exceptional was the sheer number of tender hearted and amicable people that I met during the entire period of stay.The Gandhidham branch of Prayas has been involved in conducting AIDS awareness education since 2003 through the NACP-III program. Here they primarily focus on High Risk Groups (HRGs) such as commercial sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSMs). Opportunely the following day there was one such meeting to be held with some of the sex workers in the rural area of Gandhidham and the unit office members invited us to be a part of it. There was this sudden pang of inquisitiveness that I felt. Never before had I gotten a chance similar to this. All those qualms faded away into thin air when I realized how these women were so well informed regarding the subject of sexually transmitted infections and how imperatively they took this subject. The conversation with them flowed so smoothly that at one point I found it to be staggeringly impressive.“Madam, no matter what the customer says, we make it a point to use protection,” said one of the sex workers with a staunch voice.[caption id="attachment_4238" align="aligncenter" width="850"]Prayas team along with the MSMs at the health camp Prayas team along with the MSMs at the health camp[/caption]The other event which left an indelible imprint on my mind was the health camp organized by Prayas in the rural side of Kandla Port; one wherein free health checkups are conducted for all the villagers on a regular basis. After the initial set up, it didn’t take a lot of time for a seething mass of people to gather over there. Through this camp I got a chance to interact with MSMs. Not only were we invited to their homes but they sincerely started sharing their stories. Initially there was a bit of uneasiness in the air. But it didn’t took a while when Aishwariya, an MSM peer educator, started showing all his various costumes that he usually likes to put on when dressing up as a woman.“My family threw me out of the house and refuses to accept me but this is my life now,” said Manisha, one of the MSMs, the sadness in his eyes was clearly apparent as he said this.[caption id="attachment_4239" align="aligncenter" width="850"]Patients waiting for their turn at the health camp Patients waiting for their turn at the health camp[/caption]The conversation with them was not only riveting but it made me contemplate or rather pensively think about how difficult survival can be.Certain things and happenings make you realize how often you tend to be judgemental. But its just over a point of time that with just a little effort of knowing the other person that all those preconceived notions vanish away. That bridge of understanding gets built. And when that happens, it just feels right.[caption id="attachment_4240" align="aligncenter" width="850"]Gulping a breath of fresh air, with the children in Kandla Gulping a breath of sweet air, with the children in Kandla[/caption]