Part A: Local Person’s Story
Stage 1: Framing the Narrative
Sister Rosita (tallest in center) is pictured with some of the people of Surket.
The main characters in the narration are a couple, Lalsara B.K and her husband, Chanda B.K, who live in Surkhet, a region in mid-western Nepal. They come from a poor family in Deilekh – a hilly district adjoining Surkhet. They migrated to Surkhet in search of work, not finding a place to live they pitched a hut along the Surkhet – Jumla high way. They were simple illiterate village folks. Chanda, father of 5 children, worked as a mason, whenever he could find work. His wife made stone chips to supplement the family income. Today their lives have changed. They have become more urbanized due to their life close to town. Today they are well dressed, have a house of their own, and their children study in nearby schools.
Lalsara B.K narrates her story: “I am a village woman from Deilekh, a hilly region in mid-western region. I am uneducated as there were no schools in the village. Besides, girls did not attend schools in my younger days, they had to help in the family, fetch fire wood from the forests, look after younger ones while parents went to work elsewhere. There was no electricity, running water, no newspapers, no roads, no television, nor any means of transportation. We lived on rice and pulse. Once I was of age I was married off to a man whom I never saw before. We had very little land and there was no steady work for my husband to support our family. So we left the village, came down to the valley in Surkhet in search of work. My husband, being a mason, (that too learned by working with others in the village) could build houses. After we moved to Surkhet with two small children, we could not afford to rent a house or one room. There were many brick houses in the village and nearby town. So we collected wood and grass from the forest and made a one room hut by ourselves. We had just one set of clothes, one set of cooking vessels, we used firewood collected from the forest for cooking our meals which consisted of rice and a little pulse.
Gradually Chanda B.K found work as a mason. There were many brick houses to be built in the town. They began to have better food – meat to replace pulse. But the money was not enough to buy everything- food, clothes, and medicines. They got 3 more children in the meantime. She says, “Seeing the civilized people around us we could not continue to live like in a village. Suddenly I was exposed to all sorts of gadgets, electricity, vehicles, modern clothes, ready made food and cooking utensils like a pressure cooker. We needed money to get them. In order to make money I started breaking stones. In the course of time I was tired and got rid of it. My husband and I started making local alcohol. We spent most of our money on meat, drinks and cigarettes. We cared very little about our children. They did not go to school, they were malnourished. One of the children died, one of them was about to die. At this time you stepped into my house in 2000, helped me to analyze my situation and showed me how I could improve my life. You saved my child who was dying of malnutrition by providing supplementary food, vitamins, enrolled my children in school, formed a “women’s group” in the village and motivated us to save money and to start a saving scheme. Today I am happy to say that I am a changed person. My values have changed. My husband and I have given up drinking, smoking and save up money. I got a loan from the saving scheme to run a small business and I am making enough money to buy things for me and my family.”
Today, Chanda still works as a mason. Lalsara has taken up a small business of selling honey to nearby villages. She is dressed in good clothes, wears golden ornaments, and has a brick house. She has given up drinking and has changed her religion from Hinduism to Christianity. She listens to the radio and tries to speak a few words of English in between. She attended adult literacy classes conducted by Navjyoti and rarely misses any training or awareness programs. Today she can read and write. She is part of a Savings group, deposits Rs. 20 a month, and takes a loan for her business. She acts as an animator for the village trying to convince others towards social change.
1. What has changed in their basic patterns of consumption of goods and services?
Illiterate village folks were not exposed to varieties of goods nor services. They were satisfied with what they had. Today their values, needs and attitudes have changed. These simple folks are today using varieties of foods imported from other towns and countries, especially junk food, packet foods which are easily available and easily consumed. They have easy access to transportation, communication media, entertainment –T.V, cinema halls. Due to the transportation, goods from other places and countries come to the village easily. Imported goods are cheaper than those locally made so people go in for it. Due to these developments, more family fights, more sickness, unhealthy competition, expensive living standard, need for comforts and the basic needs and values have changed.
2. How have relationships within the family and community changed? New relationships?
There is change in relationships because of the new life style. It has become more individualistic, more impersonal, less family gatherings, not much respect for authorities and more demanding. People seek comfort from outside as watching cinema in a hall or T.V and provide less care for their children who are left to tend for themselves. People have developed new relationships as in the work places, schools, women’s groups meetings, workshops, eating places. These are taking predominance over family ties.
2. How has their interaction with institutions changed?
In earlier days there was no need for institutions as the people never went out of their families or villages. They were not even aware of any institutions or facilities available to them. Today they are aware of them and are dependent on them for their well being such as hospitals, schools, etc. They need to approach other institutions to seek for services in case of migration to other countries for education, jobs and visiting relatives and so on.
4. Has the person been required to migrate? Has the person been affected by the migration of others?
Lalsara’s family migrated from one district to another, they moved from the hills to the valley. Later they migrated to India, a neighboring country in search of jobs and medical treatment. As their condition worsened there they returned to Surkhet to carry out the work they were doing. Those coming from other cultures and languages have brought about changes in the lives of the family through their practices, dealings, ideas and beliefs. Lalsara’s brother who migrated from the village had never sent his daughters to school but now he does, due to the pressure from others. In case of migration they have to become part of the culture and language of the place in order to relate with others.
5. Has their means of producing a living for themselves and their family or community changed?
There have been changes. In the villages people are dependent on agriculture. They cultivate their own food but as they move to town they have to look for work. They move from cultivation to business or menial work as porters, clerks, gardeners. Lalsara who used to break stone for a living has become a business woman which is true of many in her village today. They take up income generation activities such as raising animals, vegetable cultivation for sales in the market, as well as putting up small shops. Young girls and women are getting into the flesh trade to make easy money for their expensive clothes and ornaments. Village women make country liquor for sale in the hotels to make money.
6. How consistent or inconsistent with their spiritual values are these
changes ? Has their religious practices been effected?
The changes in the life style of the people have affected their religious practices and spiritual values. In Hindu religion rituals used to play a great role but now the present generation has begun to question the meaning of the rituals. They want to go deeper than rituals. In Hindu practices, festivals hold a great importance as it is a time of family re-union rather than the rituals. Today’s children lack much of the traditional values such as respect for older people, value for hard earned money as they seek for comforts and competition with others. This companionship has brought about drug addiction, violence among the youth. Lalsara’s family is not finding meaning in what they practiced as Hindus. They have joined a Christian group to make their life more meaningful.
Stage 3: Evaluation of the impact of these changes on local people
1. How did the main characters decide to deal with the changes?
The simple village folks decided to cope with the changes. It took a while for them to reflect and to make a decision. They consulted other like- minded people, people who represented NGOs, Savings groups, local leaders. Lalsara became part of new women’s group and started saving money, depositing it in common fund. She also started goat raising and selling honey for income generation as well. Her husband helps her with the business whenever he has no work.
2. How has the connection of the culture of this place to the rest of the world changed by media, trade, telecommunication etc?
The culture of this place changed due to the improvement in media, trade, and telecommunication. As the facilities improved, the village became more urbanized. There came to be electricity, telephone, television, shopping centers, long distance buses, plane services to other cities, schools, medical centers, hospitals. As a result, the culture changed. There is much modernization noticeable in the area. Simple village folks are going in for English medium schools to educate their children to cope with the changing world. They go to the Indian cities for advanced medical treatment.
3. What do the main characters see as signs of hope in the changes?
Awareness programs, income generation activities, skill training, market facilities, communication media, transportation, educational facilities, improved health services have played a great impact in changing the lives of the main characters. These have brought about improvements in the existing conditions in the village. Much of mechanization has not reached the villages but advanced technology has improved their life style. Moving from place to place led to better ideas, opportunities and choices. Earlier, they compromised with what was available, stating that it was fate. But today they understand that a people have a certain control over what is happening in their lives and they aim at reaching their goals.
Stage 4: Reflection of the local person’s experiences
1. How do they feel about these changes?
Lalsara says,” I am very happy and grateful to God for all that has happened in my life. Earlier I felt I was no different from an animal, not having any awareness of what the rest of the world was like. Today I feel that this exchange in growth- economically, socially, culturally and politically is good in making me and my family human beings with feelings and ambition to change and to grow.” Women who had no significance in the family or society, who were afraid to speak in public, are able to come together in society to change the society by constructive works like digging roads to the villages, constructing wells, halls for them to gather together and to educate their children. They are able to take leadership in a male dominated society. They are able to fight against injustice, male dominance and gender disparity. They are able to find time for these due to the time saving element that has come into the lives of women because of the modern gadgets and cooking utensils.
2. Are they at peace within themselves with the current situation and their role in it, or are they struggling within themselves?
They are at peace with the positive changes but are unhappy about the mechanization, the bad elements like drug addiction by youngsters, women trafficking just for making money. As a whole, they are happy about the changes and the facilities they enjoy today. It has made them better human beings. They are able to help others with the same background. They have become aware of the need for women’s empowerment in the family, society and nation. They have become a power house within themselves and in their family.
Part B: Missionary Insights and Views
Stage 1; Insights
1. Are there any insights you would like to share as a result of accompanying the persons in telling their story?
Simple village folks who knew nothing beyond their traditional chores have become a part of urbanization caused by globalization. Today they have forgotten their roots and are in a race to catch up with the rest of the world. If they don’t change they feel that they will be left out of this race. Interactions with others have created more and more needs and wants. It can affect positively and negatively. If the village folks are not guided properly they could go too quickly and make serious mistakes.
2. How have global changes affected your approach to mission?
Global changes have affected my approach to mission as expectations of others have led to various changes. I realize that I am a part of a mechanized world where T.V, computer, communications and media play a great role in my day to day functioning. Handwritten applications and records have changed into computerized ones in most offices. Traditional simple life styles cannot be followed any more. These will be looked down on in the present living situation.
3. How consistent or inconsistent with your spiritual values are these changes?
This brings about a time element in our lives. We have to be continuously learning things to go along with the global changes. We need to educate ourselves as to what is going on. And yet I feel that our spiritual values can be consistent with the changes. We can accept the changes and yet put them within the frame work of our spiritual values without which our life as missioners is baseless.
4. Are you at peace within yourself with the current mission situation and your role in it?
I am very much at peace within myself with the current mission situation and my role in it When I see myself as an agent of change in the lives of simple village folks and the changes that is taking place in them leading them to better health, better living, having better facilities I feel happy about it. Most of the villages in Surkhet valley have electricity, running water, television, phone facilities, transportation, cinema halls which were not available in the past. We deal with many migrants and their children, providing them with education which prepares them to move with the global changes.
Stage 2: Imagining the future of mission
1. Imagine how you would shape the future of missionary activities?
I would like to shape the future of missionary activities by providing the beneficiaries with training in animation, social awareness, social evils, health education, skill training, income generation, legal advocacy, agriculture, etc. to improve the life style of the people. Provide them with family counseling for reconciliation, self employment schemes, education and guidance for children and youth, leadership training for women to become agents of social change in the villages. I imagine a society where there is equality, justice, love, peace, forgiveness for men, women, young, old regardless of caste and creed and equal opportunity for men and women.
2. Imagine what kind of advice you would give to someone entering the field of mission today?
A missionary is appreciated for bringing about social re-formation as well as economic and religious reformation. So he/ she should be prepared to listen to the people regarding their needs before enforcing any activities. When you pick up people from their level by understanding their background and work along with them you will find satisfaction and success. One should be an agent of peace and justice between different castes, classes, religions and age groups. We have to witness to others through our values and attitudes and life style to become more effective with and to those we serve. We need to be torch bearers in a world of darkness, advocates of peace where there is violence.