A River of Hope
As all of you know, Buda got to go on another rural visit this past week to Honnavar, which is located on the west coast about three towns south of Goa. On the evening of the first day we were there, we drove down to the river where we found a few large boats and some smaller canoes along the water.
We all climbed, one by one, into a canoe that had come up along the shoreline and waved for us to get in. Instead of sitting forward like we would in a regular canoe, we alternated one person facing right and the other left so our weight was balanced. A man stood in the back of the boat and used a long rod to push off the bottom of the riverbed to set us in motion. Seagulls flew above us as we glided across the glass-like water. The river was so calm and had such a peaceful feel to it.
We were on our way to meet a family that lived across the river in a little house on the waterfront. When we slid up on the sand beach on the other side of the river, we were greeted with a dog wagging its tail as we stepped out onto the concrete steps that lead to a few small houses on the shoreline. We walked to the neighboring house where we met a father and a son. They had been making coconut husk rope for ten plus years, but we soon learned that they had stopped making the rope two months earlier. As they began to explain the process of the rope making it wasn't long before we realized that both the father and son were drunk. They argued otherwise and continued to try and show us how to pound the soaked coconuts to extract the fibers that you then hung on a line to dry. As we watched and tried each step in the process, the father started to open up to us about his family.
The father had two sons and a wife. The oldest son had moved to Goa for work and left his family while, even with the encouragement of his father, the other son refused to leave to go to the city. None of this was too much of a surprise since we had seen many families from rural areas split up to find work, but what he told us next we weren't prepared for: his son had beat his wife. You could see the hurt in the father’s eyes as we asked if she was ever going to return back to their family. He never responded and looked down at the dried coconut husk and proceeded to clumsily weave the husk into strands for the rope.
Out of all of the interviews and stories we have heard, this one hit the hardest. Their family was falling apart, they had to stop manufacturing rope due to the lack of laborers, and they had started to drink throughout the day to cope. I wanted to help this family. I wanted to fix all their problems and get them back together again, but I knew that this would not be possible for me to do. So I just stood and watched and made rope with them until the sun had set. We waved goodbye and the father pleaded for us to stay. He offered us dinner, even though he barely had enough to provide for himself.
Walking back to the canoe, I felt hopeless. We were just walking away to continue with our lives, but they could not just walk away from theirs. My problems seem so insignificant and yet with all the resources that I have, I was still unable to help.
As our projects ideas become more and more real, I hope that at least one of us sitting in this room will be able to really make a difference, and maybe, if we put our minds to it, we all will.