My Life in Rural Rajasthan

When I speak with my friends about my work here in Sawai Madhopur, I joke that I don’t mind working 6 days a week because I don’t know what I would do with a 2-day weekend.  Since relationships have always been foundational in my life, I am accustomed to spending a great deal of free time connecting with the people that I love; eating, laughing, sharing stories and learning from one another. As a young foreign woman living in rural Rajasthan, my life doesn’t always look like this. Life here is strongly family-oriented, and women tend to spend a lot of time at home with their families.  It’s not that people haven’t been warm and welcoming—colleagues and new acquaintances are eager to include me in their family life, including celebrations and tasty meals.  While I feel deeply grateful for this inclusion, especially at a time when my own motherland is so violently exclusive, constantly meeting new strangers can be emotionally draining. It requires speaking in a second language that I have not mastered yet and a bit of self-policing to ensure that I’m not doing anything that might culturally offend my hosts.

 

With the exception of my two exceptional, loving roommates, I rarely interact with people my own age. Because these roommates and I have different schedules, I spend a great deal of time alone. The nature of my project is also such that I work alone rather than in a team.   I must confess that this was an overwhelming reality for me at first.  In my life in America, I filled my life with a great deal of activity—lots of people to see, errands to run, events to attend. All of a sudden, there was radio silence.  I fumbled for a while. I felt restless and dissatisfied.  Slowly, though, I began to develop new habits. Instead of expecting to meet up with friends after work on Fridays, I come home, make myself the coffee that I love, and explore new music, take a walk to get oranges, or hand-wash my clothes. A lot of times I work more, because I have the time to really explore new possibilities for my work. After 6 months of learning to live in this aloneness, I find happiness in these small rituals—these choices that I am able to make because I have the time and the freedom to do so.

 

People often expect travel to be novel—and it is—but not always in the way we think it will be.  Sure, in many ways my life here is filled with new sights, smells, and people. But the biggest change has been in the way that I think about what I need to live successfully and successfully.  Living in a small town cuts out the excess. What’s left is minute joys and long stretches of time for thought.

 

I’ve been told countless times that one of the greatest challenges to health equity is the inability to incentivize professionals to come or stay in rural areas.[1] As a result, these areas are gravely underserved by public, private and NGO sectors alike. Knowing this, I chose to complete my Clinton Fellowship in a rural area. Having worked through the challenges, I find that in a rapidly urbanizing world, where events and activities are constantly tugging us in different directions, the simplicity of rural life has stimulated enormous growth and satisfaction in my capability to live a meaningful life by doing a few meaningful things with my days. It is my responsibility not to lie to you, my reader, so I will say that there are times when I feel restless, dissatisfied and bored. But when I feel that way I can leave town for the weekend and visit friends, coming back refreshed and focused on Monday.  I have my work, and I have the time to think. And that’s enough.

[1] Strasser, R. “Rural Health around the World: Challenges and Solutions.” Family Practice 20.4 (2003): 457-63. Web.

Annika feels that India is a country of deep intensity and rich potential which has a great deal to contribute to a globalized world. She is excited to spend an extended period of time living and working with an impactful grassroots organization in India. She values the mentorship of others and the experience of becoming invested in a community. She hopes to contribute something that the community she will be working alongside finds worthwhile and valuable. She hopes to be able to communicate with the community fully on their own terms with fluency in Hindi. Her research with refugees in both Jordan and the United States has given her valuable experience in building meaningful relationships with people from different cultures, an experience she feels would help her in this fellowship.

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