Saturday, February 04, 2006

Change Brought With Wheat Flour

A night before the Bike rally, Reedmal stood in the kitchen, boiling together wheat flour and sugar. He made a paste and then some of us went out on the roads of Barmer. We used the paste as glue to paste the posters on the wall. The rally was just a day away and we wanted the people of Barmer to come out in large numbers to attend the public meeting which we had organised in the town.

The next afternoon, Bittoo Bikewallah, donning a multi-coloured turban, kick-started his bike and sped away towards Jasai village. Amidst the beating of drums and ceremonial welcome, a village elder flagged off the rally with the help of a pink handkerchief. Shouting slogans in favour of girl child rights, Bittoo and various rallyists from Jasai arrived in Barmer.

As the evening descended, people from twenty-one villages like Haathma, Jasai, Khadin and Siyani began to arrive in the town. Holding banners, which had on them the name of their villages, these groups joined each other and soon a mammoth rally walked upon the main road of Barmer. As people waiting for buses and eating at the roadside joints watched the rally pass by, some of them joined the rally. As fists were raised in the air, an old man began dancing on the songs sung by activists.

It was at the public meeting where Pappu Devi created a revolution. She is a young woman, the mother of a young child. She came to attend the rally and volunteered to speak from the dias. When she spoke, there was pindrop silence among the audience. She said she was stopped by her husband to attend the meeting. But she told him that she could not afford to stop now and had to go. She publicly spoke against the custom of veil and child marriage prevelant in the Rajasthani society.

In the night, the shopkeepers began to down their shutters. It was time to go home. But hardly did they know that they would reach home at least one hour late. And the phenomenon responsible for attracting them was Naresh. He came to the stage, facing the mike; his hands held closely to his waist in attention mode. He began singing a song. Two minutes after he had begun, the audience was galvanised. People lifted their chairs to come closer to the stage. There was a thunderous clapping after he had finished.

Right afterwards, a young girl activist Laxmi spoke about her experiences with comics. She talked about the decline in girl child sex ratio. No sooner had she finished talking, a man appeared and spoke to us. He said he was very impressed with the camapign and wanted to sponsor Laxmi's education for few years. It was a good news for Laxmi. For us it bore a testimonial to the fact that hearts very changing.

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