Around the village, it’s like a movement has started. In every other house people are talking about my father’s daughter that’s roaming around the village. Following that they say “yeah, it is true. Rather we better these kids through education than give money to the temple”. On the day of Poonam hoards of people flocked to the Mataji Mandir (Temple built in honor of the Goddess Maha Kali, Goddess of Strength). That day, the temple would make hundreds of thousands of rupees. We went past one of the saints that runs the temple and it looked like his pocket was exploding with cash.
The Mataji Mandir is located in my village and the Trustees of the temple own a huge plot of land. On this plot of land, there is the temple and the village school. The government has given the school principle a large sum of money to build a bathroom and even build a new school. However, the temple trustees aren't giving the school the land to build this extra bathroom. They are even talking about knocking down the school.
When we went to the village school this morning, the principle told us what the temple trustees are planning to do. I asked one of the people who knew a lot about this when he came to visit my mom today. I asked him that if the temple is here for the people of the village then aren’t the kids considered the people of the village? Shouldn’t the village make sure that its children are educated? He shrugged his shoulders in response.
The girls at the school
On our way to the village school, the kids either called me the “photo girl” because I always walk around with my camera or the girl on TV (I was interviewed by one of the local news stations and the story aired last night). We went to the village school this morning mostly to see how the education is for the kids. I sat down and talked to the students separately and also sat down separately with the teachers. I asked them different questions and learned about the few kids that go to the school consistently. As I was writing down the names of the kids that go to school consistently, I saw that there were no Patels. The last names that I saw were from what people consider the Harijan (Mahatma Gandhi coined the term Harijan for the untouchables) and Ravar classes. The Patels in the village go to private schools in the neighboring towns.
As I got from grades 1st to 8th, the list of kids that consistently go to school decreased. I started out with about 35 kids in 1st grade and it decreased substantially to 6 in 8th grade. I decided that throughout the years I would see whose name is on the list year after year.
My cousin had reason to ban me from the Ravar's part of the village. This evening they showed up at our house while we were eating dinner and didn’t leave until I came out. This is the third time they’ve come by to tell me about the boy who was in 8th and needed help paying his fees. This time they brought by the boy whose name is Dharmendra. Dharmendra’s mom came along with Daksha’s dad (who works our farm) and a few others. Another lady came to tell me to pay her son’s fees.
I knew that they didn't need help paying the fees because Dharmendra’s brother takes a motorcycle to college and is studying engineering (which we knew they were paying for without a problem). We could tell that they were lying about some things and I was reluctant to take his information. I love helping others, but I disliked that they were asking for a free handout.
After they left my cousin sternly told me that yes, they are poor but there are only a few that are good people. The rest will do anything to wipe you clean.