March 5, 2006
Yesterday was a travel day- we left Bhuj at 11am and reached Barmer at 1am this morning.
Mahesh Panpalya, the Director of Dhara Sansthan, welcomed us with open arms (and friendship bracelets). Not only did he arrange for us to visit two schools, but he also called the press, two of whom came to see us. Dharam Singh Bhati, a reporter for the Rajasthan Patrika, interviewed us at the Dhara office, and a reporter for E TV came to see us at the Deaf and Dumb Residential Educational Camp, a school supported by Dhara.
On our way to the school, we passed a wedding procession, where we got plastered with color. Hanging around the periphery were two girls, their hands and legs covered with muck, presumably from cleaning the sewers. They were mute, and afraid to come close, but their curiosity kept them on the fringes of all of our activities. After washing up, one of them finally got the courage to come into the classroom at the Deaf and Dumb school. We insisted that she be allowed to stay and participate despite motions by the other adults to remove her. The other girl (pictured below) stayed on the steps. When I moved towards her to give her some paper and crayons, she ducked away a few steps until she realized I was not going to hurt her. Even then, she reached out her arm to take the crayons, keeping her body as far away as possible. This girl is the lowest of the low in a society where organizations like Dhara are working to mitigate castism. As we were leaving, we waved to her, but she didn’t wave back – she couldn’t imagine that anyone would actually be waving to her.
Next we went to Mayur Nobles School, a school for approximately 1,100 boys, where 70 residential boys were assembled to write letters. Mahesh’s young daughter and the daughters of the principal of Mayur Nobles stole the show, upstaging the boys in song and dance. But I couldn’t get the image of that girl with mud on her arms and legs out of my mind.
Later in the evening, we drove to Jaiselmer.