Rohini Powar: Community Correspondent Par Excellence
Hers’ was a typical story of typical village girl. Dropped out of school after 10th, married in her teen, forced to make financial contribution to family, yet not allowed to take a decision on family affair. It could have ended being typical as well. But Rohini Power, now a community reporter with IndiaUnheard, has been re-writing the story, creating bold twists in the mundane script.
As a community correspondent of ,IndiaUnheard a program she joined because she had never got a chance to express herself, Rohini Powar is often seen talking about issues that several reporters would find too trivial: Goan, ghar, angan (vllage/home/courtyard). But she brings stories that are hidden in these trivialities. Her camera roams around a woman’s kitchen, kitchen garden, village boundaries, water well, poking, probing, judging. She talks to Devadasis(temple slaves) and instead of showing young dancing ones, talks to the old devadasis who are now jobless and homeless. When she meets a family of AIDS patients, she talks to the little boy of the family, ‘Do you play with other boys?’ And this is how she reports the ordinary, extraordinarily.
Recently Rohini did a video on Dhondke Ka Mahina (month of stone)– a ritual observed by Hindu communities in Maharashtra. The ritual started as a celebration of the relationship between a family and it’s son in law once. On the day, the family cooks a sumptuous squire meal for the son in-law. Along with the meal a thali’ plate’ full of expensive gifts – new clothes and gold rings etc – is offered to him.
However, today, most parts of Maharashtra are witnessing droughts, crop failures, hunger and poverty. Unable to deal with the problems, thousands of farmers have been killing themselves. It’s estimated that about a million farmers commit suicide every year in Maharashtra because they couldn’t replay the loan taken from moneylenders at high interest rate, to meet their expenses.
Set at the backdrop of this, Rohini’s video shows how poor farming families are also forced to take loans to keep up with social traditions like Dhonke Ka Mahina. The Family earns so little, cooking anything other than the usual lentil/bread is a luxury that can’t afford, forget buying gold. So when social customs demand them to do this, they have no other way but fall prey to the moneylender shark.
And then Rohini asks, why must these poor families follow these rules? Why indeed? Why would the woman, who doesn’t have more than a pair of cheap cotton saris, must borrow to buy silk for her daughter and son in law? And if she doesn’t, why would the society, the neighbors tease her and her daughter about it, making them ashamed of going against their culture?
Questioning the unquestioned. Raising voices against practices that are traded off as our glorious traditions. That’s what Rohini is doing. That’s what makes Rohini a true community correspondent.