When Manjari met Badamanjari

January 20th, 2016

Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes ~ EF Schumacher

This is about a story of two entities carrying the same name and few similarities; however the differences make this quite a story.  It began when we took a journey from Bhubaneswar to Koraput to see a few micro hydro projects. I was assigned to document the good practices and was figuring out ways to start.

By the time we left Bhubaneswar, both the characters were already developed and discussed by my colleagues. One was part of geography and the other one was human existence. One was the means to progress the other one was progressive. One was hopeful about the hopes of the other one. One was a place to visit and other one was the visitor. One was Manjari and the other one was Badamanjari.

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Badamanjari Village, Koraput, Odisha

It sounds funny, but what made me write this blog was something which we in Practical Action believe -giving the human touch to my work. Though it started with pulling Manjari’s leg, (she’s the Senior Energy officer from the Nepal office) we all were heading to Badamanjari where we have demonstrated a micro hydro project linking it with sustainable livelihood under project SMRE (Sustainable Micro-hydro through Energizing Rural Enterprises & Livelihood) with a support from WISIONS.

Crossing the hilly terrains of the Eastern Ghats, we were heading towards Badamanjari on the second day, we were constantly teasing Manjari making her more inquisitive about the place. We crossed the beautiful valleys of Koraput on our way, taking photos of beautiful landscapes. We passed several small villages and hamlets but Badamanjari was still far away. I was ready with my camera to capture the moment when Manjari meets Badamanjari!!

I could hear the beat of drums and local instruments. I guessed a wedding was happening seeing the crowd of people. But as soon as we came closer, a few familiar faces came towards us, which made me sure that we are in Badamanjari and the music was to welcome us. We were overwhelmed but things that happened after that made our day. When Manjari got down from the car, the women put garlands around her neck and also on ours – this was a grand welcome, beyond our expectations.

To our surprise, the women took Manjari to dance with them with the beats of local songs and the instruments. I could see a perfect sync between Manjari and Badamanjari. It was a beautiful village in the foothills of tall mountains with colourful walls and magical music of water flowing from the surrounding fountains.

After nearly two hours in the village, when we were returning, I asked Manjari, about her experience and I was expecting her to be happy and positive about the warm welcome and the time we spent there. She had showed the villagers how to operate the powerhouse smoothly.  After a few seconds of silence and a deep sigh, Manjari replied.

Her reply initiated a discussion about something which we must bring into our practices in the village.  We had community meeting where there was a proportionate number of both male and female  villagers attending. But when it came to participation in the discussion the women said very little, despite being asked several times. One of the villagers was translating the discussion in local Kui language but it made no difference. The women remained silent and we were unsure whether they got anything from the discussion or not. I could see the worry in the words of Manjari while she shared this. She was unhappy to see few women participating in the development process. She also raised a valid point that no women from the village have a clear idea of the micro hydro project and things that are benefitting their village.  No women accompanied us at the powerhouse.

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Women from Badamanjari Village, Koraput

There is a need, for these women to come out of their cocoon.”  she said. With these words of Manjari, I could connect to a lot of situations and suddenly Manjari made me realise that, I have also taken the video interviews of a male villager whereas it could have been a women sharing her bit of story.

We had already left the village and it gave me enough space to rethink and realise the real essence of development.

As a development professional when all our efforts are heading towards making life better of marginalised communities, our ethics should compel us to take a stand on bringing equality in all spheres. Gender equality must feature in our actions in the field and rather than just being a term in the development dictionary. All our projects and people managing projects and supporting services must be sensitised to work on this. Because real essence of development lies in practice rather than theory – this what Manjari made me realise.

As they say, we learn from our mistakes. I am hopeful to give justice to my work at a personal level by abiding by such ethical values. Beyond all good memories, hardship and fun we had during the journey I will take away this learning which will make me a better individual and a professional as well. Yes, it was a story, a real one. Of two entities with the much similarity of name, but beyond the names I could feel the invisible bond unnoticed.

I looked out of the window and saw the setting sun and a silver lining there at the horizon.

2 responses to “When Manjari met Badamanjari”

  1. Sarat Kumar Patnaik Says:

    Yes Mr. Ananta, We really appreciate the observation made by Manjari during her visit to the Village. Though the project was implemented successfully and it benefiting each and every individual of the village, some where we fail to ensure active participation of women. Definitely KFA Values gender equality in all its activities. The duration of the project was too short and full of works to be done. In a place like Koraput (Especially tribal women) needs a little bit more time to get involved and develop their capacities. We have taken some initiatives like promoting a Producer’s Company with the support from NABARD, in which we hope to fill that gap. Again I am thankful to you for all your efforts in writing such a nice story in the blog.

  2. Purna Chandra Tadingi Says:

    I’m so glad to see this video, because I belongs to Badamanjari,It #awesome,#fabulouse video. Thank you so much. ……

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