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Tribal Women Make The Most of Leaves For Livelihood
Rakhi Ghosh

Sampati Kahanra has a deep connect with the forest. From ever since she can remember she has been walking the dense covers to pick food, firewood and leaves – earlier with her mother and now to run her own home. Up at dawn she quickly finishes her chores and then traverses the jungles abutting her small hamlet in Odisha’s Kandhamal district with other women. Together they forage for Bhalia seeds, tamarind, mahua flowers, and most importantly, Siali leaves. Back by noon with her collection, she sits down to stitch plates, locally known as ‘khali panna’, and bowls from the durable leaves. It’s time-consuming and Sampati does get tired sitting for long hours on the floor of her thatch-roof hut carefully binding the leaves together but she knows that this will enable her to bring in much needed money for the family. Whereas earlier, she used to make a pittance – Rs 200-Rs 300 per month – today, thanks to a Indo-German venture, which is exporting the biodegradable leaf plates internationally, her monthly income has increased to Rs 3,000. In fact, three Self Help Group federations in Kandhamal, Sambalpur and Deogarh districts are benefiting from this initiative that has given a whole new meaning to this otherwise labour-intensive, home-based work done by impoverished tribal women.

“We sit in groups to stitch plates and bowls. Some we use at home while the rest is picked up by the agency. Earlier, we used to stitch them roughly but now we take care of the quality of the leaf as well as the stitch.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP822F 1250 words

Friends Who Look Out For The Kids
Alka Gadgil

It is 4 pm and the school has closed for the day but the children linger on, hanging around Sudarshan Waghmare, 35, seasonal farmer by profession, dedicated Balmitra (children’s friend) by passion. As the little ones cheerfully play around and loudly recite poems and sing rhythms by turn, the young man look on indulgently. He is responsible for ensuring that each one of them completes their education and also enjoys their childhood. Waghmare has been trained to do this as part of an innovative intervention that is focused on preventing unsafe seasonal migration of children in the area for sugarcane harvesting. Today, be it Waghmare, Bhagwan Bhise or Sulabha Bam, the only female Balmitra, each one of them is ready to put in the time and effort that’s needed to “monitor their studies and extra reading; spend quality time with them, playing games, singing, doing arts and crafts; and visit their home everyday to ensure they eat right and get to talk to their parents who migrate for nearly six months in order to find viable livelihood”.

“Balmitras like me are educated but unemployed; most of us are seasonal farmers. However, this responsibility has given our life a new purpose. I have realised that there's so much to do in the village itself.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP823U 1240 words

The Mother Becomes The Saint
Saadia Azim

It was Mother Teresa’s 106th birthday last week and in another few days the world will formally know her as Saint Teresa of Calcutta. But praying to the Mother for compassion and the courage to face challenges – qualities she lived by and practiced in her lifetime – is already the norm for visitors thronging the Mother’s Home in Kolkata. People walk into the hallowed premises of the Missionaries of Charity to pray, volunteer, seek spiritual guidance and counselling; many come looking for financial aid and medical support. And the nuns who are keeping Mother Teresa’s legacy of reaching out alive are always there to help and give solace. Of course, as the day of her cannonisation comes closer – incidentally, there will be a live screening of the mass from St. Peters Square in the Vatican at Mother Home – the people of Kolkata fondly remember the great woman. While many talk of incorporating her ideals of supporting the less fortunate and respecting all human beings irrespective of their race or religion, there is a group of young, independent photographers who have initiated the Sainthood Project that captures the Kolkata that the Mother fell in love with.

“Be it Christians or people practicing other faiths, Mother Teresa has been an icon for everyone. For me, it’s her capacity to bring everyone together that makes her a saint.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP824 1250 words

Dribbling Hostilities Out Of The Park

Rawan and Samah have much in common. They are about the same age; they live in the same city — Mafraq, in northern Jordan — just a short drive from the Syrian border. They are affectionate, dedicated mothers to daughters who go to the same school. They share similar responsibilities, joys, and struggles in their daily lives. But one crucial difference sets them a world apart. Rawan is Jordanian; she has lived in Mafraq her entire life. Samah is Syrian; she and her family relocated in the city after fleeing the devastation of the Syrian war. Rawan’s daughter Lana, a Jordanian, goes to school in the morning with other Jordanian children, while Samah’s daughter, Hanan, attends classes in the same school during the afternoon with her Syrian peers. For the longest time, their paths didn’t cross. Then the two girls met at a football camp, which marked the beginning of an enduring friendship, one that has cleared a lot of mistrust that exists between the locals and the refugees. For Syrian refugees in Jordan, integration into the Jordanian society has been fraught with challenges. Suspicions and rumours taint how each group perceives the other. But an intervention which brings together adolescent girls from both countries as part of special football camps is breaking through the hostilities.

“I never thought I would play or talk with Syrian girls. The camp gave me an opportunity to get to know them closely and understand we have a lot in common.”

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: JORP823 620 words

Of Food Memories, Social Identities And History
Book Excerpt

In essence, the story of the Kayasths, a community that were scribes to the Mughals and later bureaucrats in the colonial times, is the story of an older Hindustan, one that is slowly being forgotten, as liberal, creative spaces get squeezed out in an increasingly schizoid world. However, in her book, Mrs LC’s Table, published by Hachette, Anoothi Vishal, columnist and food writer, combines her memories of her imperious grandmother and her impeccable gourmet sensibilities to a create a harmonious tapestry of food, culture and history. An excerpt.

‘As Vishal recounts the fascinating history behind signature Kayasth dishes – be it dals converted artfully into subzi and snacks or mock-meat delicacies made of the most innocuous ingredients – what emerges is a story of adaptability and inventiveness.’

[Photographs Available]

 WFS Ref: INDP825 900 words
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