In Rajasthan, a visually impaired man puts his life on the line to get a concrete road built.
Video Volunteers (VV) runs India’s only reporting network that’s focused exclusively on providing broad coverage from the poorest, most media-dark districts in India. We currently have 206 individuals trained across India’s most diverse and marginalised communities, who all earn a living as a VVCommunity Correspondent (CC). Our goal is to grow our network to ensure India’s poorest and most conflict-ridden districts have a video producer and news outlet.
“That boy wouldn’t have died had there been a road in the village. Two-three women also died in childbirth. I couldn’t take this,” says Hanuman Gujjar, a visually impaired man, about why he started a campaign to get the three kilometre road to his village concretised.
Hanuman lost his eyesight at the age of eight. With a single-minded determination that comes from overcoming obstacles all his life, Hanuman took on the challenge of improving life in his village.
The 300 odd residents of Gandayata Village in Rajasthan’s Sawai Madhopur District could not remember a time when there was a concrete road leading up to their village. In its absence, they walked through fields; narrow dirt tracks. Everyone from the Auxiliary Nurse Midwife, to farmers to the school teacher and the Village Head were exasperated by the inconveniences faced. Pregnant women, and sick people who had to be transported 8 kilometres to the nearest hospital in makeshift cots. Farmers found it difficult to get their produce – red chillies the area is famous for – to the markets.
In February 2010, Hanuman, along with other community members, started a five-year-long concerted effort to fix this situation. The problem was two-fold. The only possible road would have to built through fields belonging to the powerful Gujjar community. They were not willing to part with the land even after the community collected money to pay them. On the other hand the authorities responsible kept passing the buck between them.
Meanwhile, the community, who are mostly wage workers, had lost hope and had more or less left Hanuman to fight the battle on his own. Hanuman persisted, and escalated the matter from the Village Head to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Revenue Officer, Land Record Officer, Governor, and finally the then Chief Minister, Ashok Gehlot. At regular intervals, they drummed up the local media’s interest in the issue as well.
It was in 2015 that matters came to a head. At a lok adalat (government-run legal camps), the community submitted multiple applications to the Sub District Magistrate demanding a decision on the road. Hanuman Gujjar submitted an application threatening to commit suicide if the matter was not resolved in 8 days. “On 8th August 2015, we got our road,” says Hanuman. The threat had convinced the landowners to part with a section of their farms.
The new road had made a remarkable difference to the lives of the community. It is evident as they beam at the camera, praising Hanuman for his dogged determination. The story is an inspiring example of not being bound by physical limitations.
It’s so easy to say, “Follow your heart” or “Follow your dreams” but when one actually tries to take that leap of liberty, the society reinforces its shackles. In myriad ways, the age-old traditions come to stop the dreams of the youth. This is more manifest in the case of girls and women. However, passion can’t be contained and restrained for long.
This is the story of Roshni Misbah. Breaking stereotypes, she aspires to be a professional racer. Her journey has been tough, to say the least. Consider this, a hijab-wearing woman riding a sports bike with panache on the Indian roads amid stares, taunts and jeers.
The parents at home know too that society will be unkind and hesitant to accept someone who is flouting the age-old norms. Perhaps, this is why the parents resort to worry and scoldings. However, if the fire of liberty has been lit inside an individual, then it’s only a matter of time before they will rise like a phoenix, gloriously new-born from the ashes.
Roshni has covered over 15,000 km riding more than 60 bikes. She shares, “The sight of a girl on a sports bike deeply dents egos of some men and the taunts start.” It’s not easy to follow one’s dream if there are self-proclaimed proprietors of ‘decency’ at every nook and corner. Yet, Roshni stands tall.
It’s not easy to stand up to your parents and then face the issues they warned you about from society. Is it not right to follow one’s dreams and one’s own heart? If people do not break stereotypes, then all the potential for achievement and innovation will die unfulfilled. If doing something does not break a law, then what gives the right to anyone to comment and object to it?
This is the 21st century. Till when we will allow ourselves to be controlled by the whims and desires of those whose opinions deserve no merit or consideration. If this is not the right time for talented and courageous women to take a stand, then when will that time come.
“When I will walk, you will stare. When I will lose, you will laugh at me, taunt me. But, at the speed of 234 km/h, I wouldn’t hear all this,” says an undaunted Roshni. It’s time we show our support to their leap of liberty and as a society, we come together and say #ChalBadhChal.
The Logical Indian commends the passion and spirit of Roshni Misbah and appreciates Leap 7X by Liberty Shoes for bringing up this story.