“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.” – Kahlil Gibran
I have always been fascinated by trees and their shapes. It feels as if they are extending their hands in their effort to touch the sky. Trees lush with green leaves swaying in abandon as the wind blows, trees standing bare having shed all their leaves waiting for the spring to come, trees standing tall as if in attention or trees with branches spreading in every direction as if a dancer in a pose. A line of trees next to each other or a solitary tree looking a little out of place.
Seems like every tree has a story to tell, having to spend their entire life rooted in one place. I wonder what all they would share if they could talk!
Coming together for the Midpoint Conference as one cohort five months after Orientation was an emotional experience. The joy of meeting everyone again after what seemed like ages, but felt like only yesterday when everyone got talking. Also, there was a reminder of the time we have left in the fellowship. The feeling of anxiety, nervousness, and excitement for the future was there but different from Orientation, when the journey of the Fellowship had just begun!
The Fellowship sometimes feels like a tree with all of us the Fellows its branches, spreading out in different directions trying to reach the sky, but still rooted as one. Each branch different, each branch unique, each branch no matter how far but still connected to the tree. Our roots being our passion for contributing to the society in our own ways, the love and respect for each other and the humanity as a whole.
I went to Dharamshala for the Thematic Conference, and the trees with different shapes and sizes against the backdrop of snow clad mountains were a treat for the eyes.
“A woman is a tree of life;
the heavens know her grace.
In her is found an essence that
eclipses time and space.”- by Susan Noyes Anderson
While writing about trees, it struck me how nature has always been feminized. Traditionally, the role of women has been that of a nurturer and provider. And just like nature, has borne the brunt of patriarchy for years and years. Abha Bhaiya, the founder of Jagori Rural Charitable Trust, that very nicely phrased during our interaction with her, that the relationship of society with women and land has always been extractive and exploitative.
Nestled in the hills in Sidhbari, Jagori Rural Charitable Trust, the organization we visited during our Thematic Conference aims to eradicate all forms of discrimination and build a just and equitable society. It is a feminist organization working towards achieving its goals in harmony with nature.
They are promoting youth leadership- especially among women- through their initiatives. We were able to meet and interact with their women collectives who are working relentlessly to make health, legal, social, political rights accessible to women in their area. We were able to meet the Jagori team, Health Sakhi (Friend), women’s collective and an adolescent girls group. We also met and interacted with farmers including women farmers engaged in organic farming.
To hear stories of women advocating for their own rights was awe-inspiring. We heard individual stories of women who fought to shut down the local liquor shop, confronted eve-teasers, took part in the election and were elected as the Mayor. Alongside these stories they passionately discussed their right to work along with fulfilling their household duties, and open-heartedly shared their strategies to build rapport with women in the community towards building a relationship of trust with them, and using that rapport to raise awareness on how to resolve their own family situation. The interaction with the adolescent girls was the highlight of the visit! These girls were bright and aware; these energetic girls are the sabla (empowered) women and the leaders of the future. What was truly spectacular was to see their mothers in the background encouraging them to participate!
In its truest sense, the experience at the organization was to witness change by the women and for the women.
The following lines from the song, with which we were welcomed by the Jagori team on our first day of visit, still reverberate with me. To me they signify the need to never give up, as no struggle is difficult if we are in it together.
Thus, reinforcing the importance of collective action and community, which the fellowship also believes in through its motto of Serve, Learn, Lead.
“Hamare caravan ko manzilon ka intezaar hai,
ye aandhiyon, ye bijaliyon ki peeth par sawar hai.
tu aa kadam mila ke chal, chalenge ek saath hum,
agar kahin hai swarg to utaar la zameen par, Tu zinda hai…”
Our caravan is awaiting destination
while it rides on storms and lightning.
Come, walk in the step with us, we’ll walk together
If there are heavens somewhere, bring them down to the earth.)
- Anderson, S. N. (2010, September 28). The Mother Tree. Retrieved February 26, 2018, from http://susannoyesandersonpoems.com/2010/09/28/the-mother-tree/
- Plant, J. (n.d.). Women and Nature. Retrieved March 01, 2018, from https://www.thegreenfuse.org/plant.htm
- Shailendra, S. (2012, January 28). तू जिंदा है तो ज़िन्दगी की जीत में यकीन कर | If you are alive, believe in the victory of life. Retrieved March 04, 2018.