Sarah's Last Week in Kodagahalli
Looking back on my final few days in Kodagahalli, several images come to mind. Women in brilliantly colored saris, bending under the coconut trees to pick rice and herd sheep in the humid sunlight; Krishna, our cook (pictured below), shyly venturing into my computer classes and trying out a computer game for the very first time; 30 or more children running in the dust of our car as we pulled out of the village for the last time. It was a more emotional goodbye than I imagined, which shows the extent to which this village has affected me. I came to Kodagahalli with a strict sense of my purpose there, which I attempted to the best of my ability, but I did not anticipate that I would end up so trapped in Kodagahalli's charming, idyllic undertoe.
It is this feeling in Kodagahalli - that life may be simple, but that it is ultimately 'channageeday', or super - that makes the place both enjoyable and frustrating. Enjoyable for the nights spent munching on pourris and sipping steaming coffee on a straw mat; frustrating for the days spent trying to convince the women of the village that investing their time in the Ubuntu workspace can really help them. I realized this week that one reason the Chennapatna workspace functions so well is precisely because of its proximity to Bangalore. With the comforts and opportunities of the city almost within reach, the women of Chennapatna are aware that their lives can be enriched. But in Kodagahalli, distant from the city and enveloped in its own natural beauty, it is easy to forget that life can be enriched. In many ways, it already seems so. While I was there, I was reminded of a passage from Barack Obama's "Dreams from My Father". When Obama returns to his father's home village in Kenya, his cousin explains to him that the people in the village have come to have this "idea of poverty", because of the people from the city who come and tell them, "you are poor". This "idea of poverty" was not originally there in the village. Of course there are many different reasons why the Kodagahalli workspace has not taken off like the Chennapatna workspace, but I suspect that a comparative lack of an "idea of poverty" may be one of them.
With the Greenpeace bag order now complete, there was not much activity at the workspace this week. But it was encouraging to see that the space was becoming an acknowledged place of activity. Women stopped by to peek in, and left soon after. I hope that when another order comes in, these women will stay to participate. But I suspect it will take longer to break the tradition of making the bags at home rather than in the workspace. The women who don't think they need the help come to the workspace to do everything but make bags, and the women who would like the help take the material home to make the bags, either because they have other things to do during the day, or because they don't want to be seen making bags in the workspace. It's tough for me to discern exactly why. But the one thing I am sure of is that the dynamics and hierarchy of the village, which only become clear after a long time spent in the place, matter more than anything. The workspace will have to function in the Kodagahalli way before it can change the way that Kodagahalli functions.