A Supermarket Interview
I am struggling to come up with a topic for my blog today. I want my blog posts to be poignant yet funny, simple yet profound, and poetic yet real. Instead, I worry that I will weave around all of these things madly, and somehow miss every single one. Writing is hard, and it is especially hard when you don’t know what you want to say. I think, instead, I will tell a short story, and hope that the story speaks louder and clearer than I ever could.
Over a week ago, SuKyong and I went to a small supermarket near UTC a while ago with the intention of finding someone to interview. The purpose of this exercise was to practice engaging, listening to, and learning from a diverse group of stakeholders. We ended up talking to two of the young women who worked at the store, with one translating for the other. We started by talking about trivial things, and connecting over compliments of each others’ clothing. The young woman who spoke English said her name was Pria, and that she had learned English in school.
SuKyong and I told her that we were here in India to study for three months, and that we had just arrived about a week ago. Pria told us that she had partially completed a college education in commerce, but that she had had to drop out half-way through to support her family. This made me think of our friends at St Joseph’s College, many of whom study commerce, any of whom are probably much like her. After talking a bit longer, Pria told us that she got married when she was nineteen. She mentioned that she had a child, and her face lit up when she talked about her young son. We talked about many other things as well: we learned that she lives with her mom and son, while her father works abroad in Singapore. She loves eating her mother’s cooking, and we laugh about how she much prefers it to her own. She also says that her husband does not live with her, and that he does not send any support for her or the child. We don’t probe any further.
Near the end of our interaction, she talked about how she was working hard at the shop so her son could receive a good education. In Poor Economics (by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo), they talk about how children with educated mothers are far more likely to receive substantial education and access to other opportunities. I was glad that she was fighting for education for her son-- but it made me think of the fight for her own education. How very close she was to completing her own fight, and yet how quickly a single circumstance could bring her back down. It seems that she has transferred many of her dreams to her son, and his future. I think this is the way it often is. As for me? I still hold out hope for Pria’s own dreams-- in whatever form they may come.