As the congestion of the city gave way to the rural countryside, the first thing that came to my mind was Disney’s The Jungle Book: vast, flat plains with a mix of palm trees and many others that I don’t know by name. Lily ponds filled with bright pink flowers; rice patties as far as the eyes can see. The large, orange sun setting behind the mist covered mountains in the distance. Every few kilometers there’s a small tribal village where children stop playing and the women stop their back-breaking work to watch in curiosity as strangers pass in a white shiny SUV.
Despite the beauty, my 1200 page Lonely Planet India book has exactly one page dedicated to the state of Jharkhand, India. Essentially, it says, “Don’t come here.” Jharkhand is one of the poorest states in the country, and health and social indicators are some of the worst. Never one to take the easy road, I am about to embark on my third trip to this remote region. I will be writing to you from a city located in Jharkhand called Jamshedpur. Made possible by a 2012-13 Fulbright-Nehru Research Grant, I will spend the next nine months piloting a program that addresses family planning needs among women’s groups in marginalized tribal communities.
I hope to share with you my experiences living in a place that, compared to Chicago, could not be more different, yet I can still call it home. I want to share with you the stories of women with whom I cannot directly communicate, yet we still speak the same language. Finally, I hope you will follow me through both my joys and frustrations as I travel throughout this warm, beautiful and colorful, but at times overwhelming, country.
*Please note that the views and information presented in this blog are my own experiences while on a Fulbright exchange and do not represent the Fulbright Program or the Department of State.