Our second rural visit has led us to Ankola, where the Halakki hamlet is located. One of our tasks for BuDa Folklore is to capture the rural and tribal way of life through photographing, recording, and interviewing.
Today we visited Sukri, an elderly Halakki woman who is nationally famous for her songs and dances. She received numerous awards throughout her life, including the Padma Shri, one of the most prestigious cultural awards in India. As we were chatting with her, her daughter-in-law approached me out of nowhere and started to brush my hair with her hand. Bewildered, I looked up and saw the warmest grin looking down at me. I grinned back and asked how she is and how her day is. Now it was her turn to be confused so I turned to Tipu, our translator for the rescue. She said fine for both questions quickly and went on to ask if I had seen her mother-in-law’s collection of awards. I responded “No, but soon we would '' and continued chatting with her.
Apparently, many people came all the way to the Halakki hamlet to check out Sukri’s award collection. But our mission was different, we just wanted to chat with them. Our conversation went back and forth between her, Tipu, and me then me, Tipu, and her for about 15 minutes. I learnt that she has a 15 year old son and an 18 year old daughter. When asked if her husband would help her take care of the children, she shook her head.
‘So what are your hopes and dreams for your children?’ I asked, trying to change the subject. With worry in her eyes and distress in her voice, she replied,“[for her son], simply not to become an alcoholic like everyone else in her village.” Her husband had passed away ten years back due to alcohol abuse. Later, I also learnt that Sukris is a huge alcohol ban advocate as I watched her video on Youtube.
I saw pain in her eyes and was lost for words. For a moment, I just sat there, in silence with her. I knew she felt that I felt her pain too. Is this the legendary pain of the beneficiaries that we learnt from GCIL class? Should I be delighted that I finally recognize their pains? Or should I rather not because this is all too real. No, I should be ‘happy’ that I figured it out so I could empathize with them better, I told myself.
Her devastating eyes when reminiscing about her alcoholic husband have been haunting me since. I realise that the more agonized I am, the more I want to push myself to find a solution to ease her pain, and her communities’.
To lighten the atmosphere, I moved on to ask about her daughter. Her eyes brightened up when she shared with me that her daughter is doing well at college. Since her daughter is interested in learning dances and songs from grandmother, she would love for her daughter to grow up to be able to travel around performing, to be well known, to be well respected, like her grandmother.
We asked if her daughter was home and wanted to say 'hi' but she was too shy to come out and talk to us. Till now, I still regret not talking to her daughter also that day. I wished that we had insisted on meeting with her daughter just to tell her that she has what it takes to become just like her grandmother if she puts her mind into that. After saying goodbye, we left feeling uncomfortable, unsettled, yet motivated.
I realized then that that is when we learn and grow.