Demo borrower meeting at the trainingIn retrospection, Mr. Bhadresh Rawal (Director, Prayas) started a development project in Bhabra (Madhya Pradesh) in 1997, which has over time, now turned to a full-fledged establishment that has impacted over 14 areas, one of which goes as far as Assam. Prayas work ranges from micro-finance to water and sanitation to housing to youth empowerment to awareness campaigns. It is interesting to see how the organization has played such a crucial role in so many lives over the years.Fortunately after the training session, I was able to experience some of this work by embarking on a road trip (maybe, more an official visit) later that week, with Mr. Rawal and Mr. Amit (Operations Manager, Prayas). They were going on one of their quarterly audits and I was trying my best to shadow them without being a nuisance. We headed from the Prayas Head Office to Dahod in the morning and got there sometime at noon. On reaching the Dahod office, they conducted a review meeting. Interesting Prayas Fact: All meetings are conducted on the floor. They lay out a mat on which everybody sits and discuss matters-at-hand whether it's an internal audit or borrower meeting. From Dahod, we made a quick stop at another center in the district for a similar purpose and then moved towards Madhya Pradesh. Prayas works in two districts in Madhya Pradesh; Jhabua and Bhabra.
Todi TreesMadhya Pradesh like Gujarat has limitless, rich and green lands where you are more likely to find farm animals than people. An indication to having entered Madhya Pradesh is the todi tree; they are almost at every 5 kms enroute Bhabra. Bhabra holds Prayas' first field office. The office is a simple 2-storeyed structure that is right in the midst of all the unbounded green farms. After breathing some of the fresh field air and eating makka (corn) parathas for dinner, I couldn't wait to go for my field visits early next morning.
Women of Bhorkundiya"Ho Ho", that's how the villagers of tribal village, Bhorkundiya, greeted us (Kalpanaben - field officer and me) as we walked through the farms to visit one of their homes. They were warm, inviting and welcoming. One of the women whose house we were to visit, was out for the day so her husband took care of us. He got us fresh green grams from his garden and settled us on a cot in his front porch. As we were speaking to him, a few women began to gather. Very soon, Kalpanaben, I and a whole bunch of women were engaged in a conversation about lifestyles, jobs and vegetables. The vegetable conversation was probably a one-sided one, as most of it was them teasing me for my lack vegetable growing knowledge. In my defense, I've only gone as far as watering the money plant in my house. So on our walk back, they made it a point to introduce me to onion, potato, tomato, methi, banana, mango, coriander and several other plants, trees and saplings.It was an enriching experience and I will go far as to say, rural India and it's people are beginning to grow on me. I can't wait for Roadtrip 2.0