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Showing posts from 2011

Jaani's Missing Pension: A narrative of corruption eroding financial safety nets

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When Jaani grins, her warmth is infectious and my face can’t help but mirror hers. She has five front teeth left now – ‘old age has robbed the others’ she tells me very seriously, her eyes threatening to laugh again. Widowed three years ago, she lives with her son and daughter in law and their son, a little chap named, of all things, Shaitan Singh (troublemaker)! 

“How old are you Amma?”
I have to shout so that she can hear me properly. She falls into silence and I am not perturbed by this. I have often found that against the rural landscape, where time takes on another pace, numbers like age have a way of being forgotten. As if, in a place where time is measured by the passing of seasons and the position of the sun in the sky, remembering one’s age is hardly worthwhile. She finally decides to give me an answer, “Sixty or so.” I smile and dutifully note down the answer. My aide, a regular social worker in the area shouts at her affectionately, “Dukariya (old woman) you’ve got one leg in…

Humble beginnings: What do Jogilal Meena’s mittens have to do with my PhD?

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When I started my Ph.D., I thought I had clear ideas. I was going to understand water scarcity and how it affected farmers. I was going to try and figure out why the crores of rupees the Indian government spent on water management programmes across the nation were yielding unsatisfactory results. I had studied about this, worked on this—surely things couldn’t get too cumbersome. And then someone said the word. Epistemology. The science of knowledge. What? I felt discomfort stroke me with its clammy fingers. I get a curious itch in my brain when I don’t understand a word, and this one prodded me incessantly; I couldn’t shake it off, I couldn’t ignore it. It would pop up in conversations and articles. And then came the question: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
From that tangential thought, to the project I am embarking on today, I slowly appreciated that to unravel anything, we must first explore our constructions of reality. What qual…

Where again?

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It is tough to explain to people where Pratapgarh, the location of my field research is. Traveling from Delhi, Pratapgarh seems to be at the very end of the earth and for once, I am not even exaggerating. You start off in one of the fancy (and pretty impressive) luxury buses that Rajasthan Tourism is (justifiably) proud of. They cater to the more 'touristy' parts of Rajasthan, the Jodhpurs and Ajmers, Pushkars and Jaipursfor tourists alone deserve good transportation, general public be damned. When I called the tourism office, they told me I would be in a Volvo-Mercedes bus. I put down the phone suitably impressed and understandably flummoxed. That not one, but two auto giants were gracing my mode of transport would have been flattering if only it was not so absurdly unbelievable.